As I sit here, on the coldest January day in Toronto on record since 2009, it’s almost comforting to have to turn my thoughts to the romantic, warmth-inducing, Valentine’s Day-inspired concerts that February brings. And, indeed, there is much to tempt us, an array of delightful performances to warm the “cockles of your heart” — metaphorical or otherwise, whatever they are — and, hopefully, the rest of your body, too.

classical-feb2013Chopin, obviously: Think fast. Most romantic composer? Answer: Chopin. Yes, there are others, and he may not be your first choice (or not your choice at all), but, let’s face it: it’s not really possible to get through a column about concerts in the “season of romance” without mentioning those featuring the works of Chopin. Besides, who would want to? For so many, myself included, it’s gorgeous, seductive, romantic music.

Chopin’s oeuvre consists mostly of solo piano works — nocturnes, waltzes, préludes, études, ballades, impromptus, polonaises and mazurkas, to name some of the most familiar and beloved. In addition, he also wrote two piano concertos, some songs set to Polish texts and a few chamber pieces. This month, we are treated to at least one ballade, waltz and polonaise, two sets of études (12 in each), his set of 24 préludes, a sonata, two scherzos, a chamber work and a concerto. So much Chopin, so little time ... or space.

So let’s get right to it; and don’t forget to check the Quick Picks at the end.

Chopin, not so obviously: Chopin is not the first composer to spring to mind when considering repertoire for a chamber choir known for its historically accurate performances of music from the Baroque and Classical periods. Then again, the Georgetown Bach Chorale is not your average chamber choir. In addition to its innovative choral programming, as part of its season it also offers concerts of orchestral, chamber and solo performances, often involving creative collaborations with guest artists, in unique venues.

Its February 10 and March 3 concerts are a case in point: the first is a 4pm house concert titled “Winter Moods,” and features guest cellist Mary-Katherine Finch and the Chorale’s artistic director/conductor, Ron Greidanus, at the piano, in chamber works by Debussy, Chopin and Prokofiev. Regarding the Chopin “mystery music” (“works by” is all we were told), it’s a safe bet to expect either — or possibly both (there are only two Chopin works for cello and piano) — the Cello Sonata in G Minor, Op.65 and/or the Grand Duo concertant in E Major B70, (written, jointly, with Chopin’s friend, cellist Auguste Franchomme). If that isn’t filling enough, for the $45 in-advance-only ticket, you also get a choice of hot stews, cheeses and homemade bread after the concert. If music — and stews — be the food of love, indeed!

“Relics of the Romantic Era,” on March 3, 8pm, in the quaint Norval United Church, will feature solo works by Chopin performed by guest pianist Matthew Pope, in addition to choral works by Reger, Brahms and Tavener. As stated in its brochure, it has always been a mission of the Chorale “to expand the musical experiences of its listeners.” Judging by these two concerts, clearly it’s “mission accomplished.”

And with that interesting detour out of the way, on to the solo piano music!

Formidable Fialkowska: Celebrated Canadian pianist Janina Fialkowska is a musical force to be reckoned with and a distinguished interpreter of Chopin’s piano works. Along the way, she received some excellent mentoring: after her prize-winning performance at the inaugural Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition, held in Tel Aviv in 1974. Rubinstein, himself, took her under his wing and helped launch her international career. The rest, as they say ... 

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. In 2002, Fialkowska’s hugely successful career was sidetracked by the discovery of a cancerous tumour in her left arm. However, her heroic recovery and successful “two-handed” return to the stage in 2004 — for 18 months, prior, she performed the “left hand” concertos of Ravel and Prokofiev which she adapted for the right hand — is, by now, the stuff of legend and widely documented, so I won’t go on. Besides, as she told the Financial Times’ Andrew Clark in a January 11, 2013 interview, she “hates“ talking about that hiatus in her career, though she recognizes that it “makes a good story” and that it inspires others. Clark adds: “That sense of life regained has transformed her music-making: her playing now has a spirit-of-the-moment freshness and spontaneity that many musicians strive for but few attain.”

That freshness and spontaneity will be on display when Fialkowska graces the stage at two concerts in February: one on Chopin’s birthday, February 22 (yes, March 1 is also often cited), at London’s Aeolian Hall, and the second a day later, on the 23rd, in Waterloo, for the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society. Both concerts offer works by Chopin, Grieg and Schubert; the Aeolian concert, however, is another “works by” situation; the “fleshed-out” repertoire provided by the KWCMS suggests what Fialkowska might also play in London (but no guarantees): Schubert’s Four Impromptus D935, Op.posth.142, four Lyric Pieces by Grieg, and the following works by Chopin: Polonaise in E-Flat Minor, Op.26 No.2, Scherzo No.4 in E Major Op.54, Scherzo No.1 in B Minor Op.20, Waltz in A-Flat Major, Op.64 No.3, Mazurka in C Major, Op.56 No.2 and Mazurka in C Minor, Op.56 No.3. If I had my druthers, I’d go to both concerts!

Chopin at noon: While Chopin’s sublime, sensuous music may be tailor-made for late-night listening, who says you can’t enjoy it during daylight hours? This month, as part of its popular free, noon hour Piano Virtuoso Series, the Canadian Opera Company offers two concerts featuring piano works by Chopin. For the first one, “Reflections,” on February 26, pianist Connie Kim-Sheng, a 2010/11 Glenn Gould School Concerto Competition winner, performs Ballade No.3 in A-Flat Major, Op.47; the program also includes the first movement of Beethoven’s Sonata No.31 in A-Flat Major, Op.110, Miroirs by Ravel and Rachmaninoff’s Études-Tableaux Op.39 No.5. “Shades of Chopin,” the second concert on February 28, features a young Saskatoon-born pianist, Justin Min, in an all-Chopin program, including the Sonata No.3 in B Minor, Op.58, his final piano sonata. Perfect lunchtime fare!

Études vs. Préludes: One might call it an embarrassment of riches, when two extraordinary pianists are scheduled to perform in recital, on the same day, at basically the same time, with Chopin on both programs, no less. Here’s what’s happening on March 3: at 3pm, Jan Lisiecki, the prodigiously gifted, 17-year-old pianist is performing Chopin’s two sets of 12 Études, Op. 10 and Op. 25, at the Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall. And over at Walter Hall, at 3:15pm, the brilliant (and clearly more seasoned) Hung-Kuan Chen is making his Toronto debut in a performance of the 24 Préludes Op.28, for Mooredale Concerts; Chen’s program also includes Mozart’s A Little Gigue in G Major KV574, a fragment from his Suite in C Major KV399, and Schubert’s Sonata in C Minor D958.

Jan Lisiecki is known to, and has dazzled, Toronto audiences; he’s also been featured in the pages of The WholeNote and in video interview at Conversations@TheWholeNote. Hung-Kuan Chen, on the other hand, is new to The WholeNote, so a few more words are warranted.

Taipei-born and raised in Germany, Chen shares more than one thing in common with Janina Fialkowska: both were prize winners of the Rubinstein Piano Master Competition (he in 1983) and both, curiously, experienced serious damage to the tools of their trade and a remarkable recovery from the damage. Chen suffered an injury to his right hand in 1992, that caused neurological damage, resulting, eventually, in focal dystonia, a disorder consisting of confused motor commands. In an article Chen penned, he describes the disorder: “When the brain is sending overly complex and conflicting messages, the commands are conflicting and the fingers become stiff in the process. A fitting visual analogy would be the old style telephone switchboard with tangled-up wires.” Read more about Chen’s journey at focaldystonia.co.uk/#/piano/4563030880.

Like Fialkowska’s, Chen’s return to the stage, in 1998, was met with rave reviews and he has gone on to a celebrated career. A reviewer for the Boston Globe had this to say in 2006: “Hung-Kuan Chen is back in prime technical form ... This man plays music with uncommon understanding and the instrument with uncommon imagination.”

And it is our uncommon good fortune to have the choice between Lisiecki and Chen. Perhaps it will all come down toétudes vs. préludes.

A Little More Love and Romance:
Some Heart-Warming Quick Picks

Feb 01 8:00: Aurora Culture Centre. Great Artist Piano Series:
Chu-Fang Huang, piano
. Haydn, Chopin, Wanghua Chu and others.

Feb 07 8:00: Toronto Masque Theatre. Les Roses de la Vie: A Parisian Soirée. Music by Marais, Couperin, Chopin, Fauré, Debussy, Poulenc, Aznavour and others. Also Feb 8 and 9.

Feb 12 8:00: Music Toronto. Piano Series: Gabriela Montero, piano. Brahms: Three Intermezzos Op.117; Schumann: Fantasie in C Op.17; Montero: improvisations.

Feb 14 8:00: Hart House Orchestra. Violins and Valentine’s Day: A Perfect Match. Schumann: Second Symphony; Beethoven: King Stephen Overture; Copland: Clarinet Concerto.

Feb 14 8:00: LUSH Cello Quartet. An Evening with LUSH Cello Quartet. Love-themed songs and classical works.

Feb 14 8:00: Toronto Concert Orchestra. Love Notes. Tchaikovsky: Violin Concerto; Saint Saëns: Suite in D; Gray: Introduction and Autumn Prelude. Christoph Seybold, violin; Kerry Stratton, conductor.

Feb 16 8:00: Kindred Spirits Orchestra. Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn. Beethoven: Overture to Fidelio Op.72c; Schumann: Piano Concerto Op.54; Mendelssohn: Symphony No.3 Op.56 “Scottish.”

Feb 16 8:00: York Symphony Orchestra. Romantic Legends. Tchaikovsky: Polonaise from Eugene Onegin; Romeo and Juliet Overture; Capriccio Italien; Chopin: Piano Concerto No.1; also Feb 17.

Feb 19 8:00: Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Love Will Keep Us Together. Songs by Porter, Berlin, Mancini and others. Betsy Wolfe, soprano; Mike Eldred, tenor; Steven Reineke, conductor. Also Feb 20 (mat and eve).

Feb 24 5:00: Nocturnes in the City. Anna Betka, Piano. Works by Beethoven, Bach, Schumann, Prokofiev and Smetana.

May your hearts be warmed and your senses seduced. Enjoy! 

Sharna Searle trained as a musician and lawyer, practised a lot more piano than law and is listings editor at The WholeNote. She can be contacted at classicalbeyond@thewholenote.com.

In December, if inclined, one has the option of attending a concert of seasonal music just about every day; and twice on some days. What’s more, each concert offers its own twist on a title (there are no repeats among them), from “Home for the Holidays” and “Joy to the World” to “Yuletide Spectacular” and “Glissandi Christmas,” with several variations on the theme in between. While I’ve chosen to focus on a few, you’ll find a longer list of them in this month’s Quick Picks at the end of the column (not including Messiah; that’s for my Early Music and Choral Scene compadres).

And once we’ve covered December’s festive fare, we’ll have a look at some wonderful concerts with which to begin 2013 in style!

beyondclassical glissandi  left to right  douglas miller  flute  deborah braun  harp  david braun  violin.Home for the Holidays: Its motto, “Music for Life!” says it all. For 14 years, La Jeunesse Youth Orchestra (LJYO) has provided an enriching and stimulating environment for young musicians to be exposed to and perform symphonic repertoire, instilling in these young people an enduring appreciation for music. This careful nurturing — through regular full and sectional rehearsals, a three-concert season, workshops, benefit concerts and educational field trips — will be readily apparent when LJYO presents its 14th annual “Home for the Holidays” concert on Sunday December 2 at 3pm in Port Hope. And, judging by the program, the group has given any number of reasons to “come home” for the holidays: one in particular is special guest, Canadian mezzo extraordinaire, Jean Stilwell, who, in a first for the orchestra, will perform “Ging heut Morgen übers Feld,” from Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer). Stilwell will also sing Carol of the Drum and narrate ’Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Working with world-class musicians like Stilwell is another aspect of the LJYO experience. And having just seen Stilwell’s dazzling performance at this year’s Global Cabaret Festival (with pianist Patti Loach), I’ve no doubt these young orchestra members will remember Stilwell’s Mahler long after the last of the Christmas pudding’s been eaten.

They will also, no doubt, enjoy performing the rest of their holiday program for you, which will include, among several carols, “Carol of the Bells,” Warlock’s Capriol Suite, “Nocturne” from Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and “two musical evocations of sleigh rides, by Mozart and Leroy Anderson,” as it was so nicely put in LJYO’s press release. LJYO music director, Michael Lyons, will conduct the orchestra for the evening as it brings it all home.

Joy and a Yuletide Spectacular: Aside from being a favourite Christmas carol, “Joy to the World” is also the title of the Greater Toronto Philharmonic Orchestra’s December 8 concert at Calvin Presbyterian Church. The evening’s program is an interesting one: curiously, the eponymous carol is not listed (though it might turn up in Canadian composer Andrew Ager’s Merry-making: an English Carol-medley —which is). Also featured are Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy Op.80, for piano, chorus and orchestra, with pianist Brett Kingsbury, Harlan’s Christmas Canticles and “Winter” from Glazunov’s music for the ballet The Seasons Op.67. Into its sixth year of innovative programming, the GTPO has invited two guest choirs to join in the joy: Ensemble TrypTych Chamber Choir and the UTSC Concert Choir, both conducted by Lenard Whiting. This eclectic evening of piano, choral and orchestral music gets underway at 8pm.

The Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony is presenting its “Yuletide Spectacular” for the fourth year in a row, becoming a newish tradition — a variation on the holiday concerts the KWS featured for many years on its Pops series. And speaking of the Pops, leading the evening is multi-talented Pops conductor Matt Catingub. Saxophonist, pianist, vocalist, arranger, conductor and composer, Catingub has also arranged all the music that will be performed at the three KWS Yuletide concerts. There’s one on December 14 at 8pm and a matinee and an evening show on the 15th; all three concerts are held at Kitchener’s Centre in the Square.

And it looks like things will indeed “pop” given the line-up of guests the KWS has assembled: drummer Steve Moretti (who toured with Catingub and the legendary Rosemary Clooney for six years and recorded two Grammy-nominated CDs with them); the Grand Philharmonic Choir and its Children’s Choir; the Classical Dance Conservatory, dancing to two Christmas medleys; the KWS Youth Orchestra, playing three piecesalongside its parent KWS; and — this just in — A.J. Bridel, the talented Kitchener-born singer who placed third in CBC TV’s recent Over the Rainbow “Dorothy” search. Here’s a mere sampling of what is on the program: selections from A Charlie Brown Christmas, All I Want for Christmas is You, Angelicus and Jingle Bell Rock. And there’s also a sing-along component which will include Joy to the World!

Snowmen: The animated film, The Snowman,which turns 30 on December 26, is a holiday classic beloved by families around the world. Howard Blake’s score, including the film’s one and only song, Walking in the Air, will be performed in two very different settings in December.

On December 9, 3pm, at Roy Thomson Hall, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra will accompany the film (which runs about 25 minutes) live, with Stuart Chafetz conducting. In addition to The Snowman, there’s a full program of seasonal music planned: Herman’s “We Need a Little Christmas,” (from Mame), Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Dance of the Tumblers” from Snegurochka (The Snow Maiden), A Charleston Christmas and Santa’s Smashing Medley are only some of the selections. The guests for the evening bringing it all to life, along with the TSO, are Joseph Pongonthara, treble, Gabriel Gilhula, treble, Michele Ragusa, soprano, Cawthra Park Chamber Choir and the Holiday Dancers. For even more family fun, there will be free art activities with the Avenue Road Arts School at intermission.

I did want to mention, briefly, that two days later, the TSO continues its seasonal celebrations with “A Merry TSO Christmas" (December 11 and 12) and “Barenaked Ladies: Hits & Holiday Songs” (December 14). Both programs include a nod to that other seasonal holiday, Chanukah. Will the “Ladies” sing If I Had A Million Latkes? Oy. See the Quick Picks for dates and times.

Moving from orchestra and concert hall to the intimacy of a chamber trio and a church, The Snowman will reappear on December 21 and 22 (details below), when the Gallery Players of Niagara presents “Glissandi Christmas,” with the trio of Douglas Miller, flute, Deborah Braun, harp, and David Braun, violin, otherwise known as Glissandi! Miller told me that the Niagara-based trio has been performing together for over 18 years and that its “popular Christmas concerts on the Gallery Players series have become an annual event.” Indeed, the Gallery Players and Glissandi have been collaborating at Christmastime since 2007.

Employing the theme “angels and snowmen,” “Glissandi Christmas” 2012 offers a “delightful evening of poems and short stories intertwined with seasonal music for flute, violin and harp.” Regular Glissandi/Gallery Players guest, actor Guy Bannerman, will, once again, be participating. Harpist Braun sketches out how the evening will unfold: “We will be performing traditional carols — Angels We Have Heard On High, Angelus ad Virginem ... Hark the Herald Angels Sing, with a reading or two by Guy Bannerman, then The Snowman score, narrated by Guy, and a few more traditional carols, including a final Frosty the Snowman sing-a-long!” Braun adds that St. Catharines’ Ian Middleton, a member of Chorus Niagara Children’s Choir, will sing Walking in the Air.

Both concerts begin at 7:30pm; on December 21, at Grace United Church, Niagara-on-the-Lake; on the 22nd, at the Fonthill United Church, Fonthill.

A peek at 2013: Some common threads run through a few of the late January and early February listings. So I’ve paired them up as an interesting (and economical) way to introduce them. But first, a quick mention of the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society. The sheer number of concerts this indefatigable group produces each month is astonishing, and January is no exception, with five concerts. On January 12th it’s trios by Mozart, Brahms and Tchaikovsky, and on the 14th, sextets by the latter two, in a concert titled “Ménage à 6”; on the 16th it’s solo piano musicfeaturing four Haydn sonatas and three of the Etudes-Tableaux by Rachmaninoff. The Madawaska String Quartet performs works by Dvořák, Harley and Britten on the 27th, and the Bergmann Piano Duo celebrates Schubert’s birthday on the 31st. Phew! You’ll find the details in the Beyond the GTA concert listings.

Common threads: Brilliant Canadian pianist, Louis Lortie, and a work by Liszt, are what the concerts being presented by the Perimeter Institute and the Royal Conservatory have in common. On January 29, 7:30pm, at the Institute’s Mike Lazaridis Theatre of Ideas in Waterloo, Lortie appears in solo recital. Five days later, on February 3, the Royal Conservatory (in association with Alliance Française de Toronto and Bureau du Québec) presents Lortie with fellow French Canadian pianist, Hélène Mercier, in a program of music for one piano/four hands, and for two pianos. Here’s where it gets interesting: Lortie performs works by Wagner, and Liszt’s Réminiscences de Don Juan in Waterloo; for the RCM et al, (in addition to works by Mozart, Schubert — the sublime Fantasy in F Minor — Ravel and Rachmaninoff), Lortie and Mercier perform Liszt’s later, two-piano version of Réminiscences. Neat, eh? The duo pianists are at Koerner Hall, 8pm.

beyondclassical dali quartet  left to right  carlos rubio  second violin  adriana linares  viola  jesus morales  cello  simon gollo  first violin. photocredit vanessa briceno-scherzerMooredale Concerts and the aforementioned Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society (KWCMS) have a very special common thread running through their consecutive early February concerts: the Dali String Quartet. The members of this captivating quartet – violinists Simón Gollo and Carlos Rubio, violist Adriana Linares and cellist Jesús Morales — are all graduates of Venezuela’s renowned and highly respected El Sistema (referred to in past WholeNote issues), a revolutionary music education program founded in 1975 by economist and musician José Antonio Abreu; Abreu recognized music’s transformative powers and its use as an effective agent of social change. From its humble inception, with 11 students, the volunteer program has since delivered (and continues to deliver) free musical training (instruments included) to hundreds of thousands of impoverished children throughout Venezuela, and now overseas 125 youth orchestras and 31 symphony orchestras. El Sistema has inspired myriad programs around the world, including Sistema-Toronto.

Shining proof of the program’s unparalleled success, members of the Dali Quartet have been trained by world-renowned artists, studied at such esteemed institutions as Indiana University Bloomington, recorded for the likes of Dorian and Naxos and appeared at Carnegie Hall. The Quartet combines the best of both El Sistema and American classical conservatory traditions, offering an enchanting range of traditional string quartet and Latin American repertoire. Like the press release says, its performances “embrace the imagination, excellence and panache of the Quartet’s namesake, the Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dali.”

It’s the Dali Quartet’s first time performing in Canada. Both Mooredale and KWCMS are to be commended for delivering them to Toronto and Waterloo audiences. Not surprisingly, both programs will include works by Latin American composers — Amaya, Gardel, Almarán, Villa-Lobos, Valdes — and standard quartet repertoire by Mendelssohn (Mooredale), Mozart and Haydn (KWCMS). Mooredale’s February 3 concert (for the adults) begins at 3:15pm at Walter Hall; earlier at 1:15pm, same venue, the Dali will also perform in Mooredale’s one-hour interactive program for young people ages 6 to 15, “Music & Truffles” (adults welcome). Next day, 8pm, the Dali Quartet performs in the KWCMS Music Room in Waterloo.

That should get you off to a healthy musical start in 2013!

The holiday season is here. The Quick Picks are below. The riches of the listings await you. Raise a glass to good health, to the new year, and enjoy!

CHRISTMAS QUICK PICKS

December 01 3:00: University of Toronto Scarborough. Sounds of the Season. Meeting Place, 1265 Military Trail, Scarborough.

December 08 3:00: Onstage Productions. Sounds of Christmas. Flato Markham Theatre, 171 Town Centre Blvd., Markham. Also at 8:00; also Dec 9(2:30).

December 09 3:00: Guelph Symphony Orchestra. Holiday Classics. River Run Centre, 35 Woolwich St., Guelph.

December 11 8:00: Toronto Symphony Orchestra. A Merry TSO Christmas. Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St. Also Dec 12
(mat and eve).

December 14 7:00: Passport Duo. ’Twas the Night Before Christmas. Array Music Studio, 155 Walnut Ave.

December 14 7:30: Toronto Symphony Orchestra. Barenaked Ladies: Hits & Holiday Songs. Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St.

December 15 3:30: York Symphony Orchestra. YSO Holiday Spectacular. Trinity Anglican Church, 79 Victoria St., Aurora. Also at 8:00.

December 16 1:30: Oakville Symphony Orchestra. Family Christmas Concert. Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts,
130 Navy St. Oakville. Also at 4:00.

December 16 7:00: Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony. Barenaked Ladies: Greatest Hits and Holiday Songs. Centre in the Square,
101 Queen St. N., Kitchener.

December 18 7:30: Kingston Symphony. Candlelight Christmas. St. George’s Cathedral, 270 King St. E., Kingston.
Also Dec 19.

December 23 3:00: Royal Conservatory. Canadian Brass Christmas. Koerner Hall,
273 Bloor St. W. 

Sharna Searle trained as a musician and lawyer, practised a lot more piano than law and is listings editor at The WholeNote. She can be contacted at classicalbeyond@thewholenote.com.

 

Last year, in October, flush with the excitement of the new season in full swing, I wrote about some recent artistic appointments, focussing particularly on conductor Uri Mayer’s new role as artistic director and principal conductor of the Toronto Philharmonia Orchestra. Mayer had exciting and ambitious plans for the ensemble. Fast forward to this past October and its future appears significantly different than the one Mayer had envisioned. Like so many arts organizations (both large and small) plagued with money worries in these economically difficult times, the Toronto Philharmonia’s very survival is now in jeopardy due, in great part, to its ongoing financial problems.

In an interview with John Terauds (see musicaltoronto.org) October 16, the TPO’s president, Milos Krajny, said: “We are not opening the season because we couldn’t raise enough money.” According to Terauds, Krajny sent out an urgent plea to the orchestra’s patrons and friends on September 10 but the appeal came up short of the $150,000 required to open the season.

Read more: Calling All Concert-Goers

classical and beyond rachel cheungThese days, with so much to bring us down — the lousy economy, rampant shootings, political turmoil, crushing poverty, grave threats to the environment, the possibility (even the remotest one) that Mitt Romney might win the upcoming U.S. presidential race or, closer to home, that certain mayors might get re-elected for a second term — who isn’t looking for a reason to lift the spirits and celebrate something ... anything. Any excuse for a party, right?

Fortunately for us, in October and early November there’s some serious (and eclectic) celebrating going on by several orchestras: from the CAST (Chinese Artist Society of Toronto) Philomusica Orchestra’s commemoration of the 15th anniversary of Hong Kong’s accession to China, and the Korean Canadian Symphony Orchestra’s celebration of its 25th anniversary, to the Ontario Philharmonic’s recognition of violinist Shlomo Mintz’s 50 years on stage, and the curiously-named Medical Musical Group Chorale and Symphony Orchestra’s acknowledgment of “200 years of peace and friendship” with an “American-Canadian Friendship Concert.” I did say eclectic.

At the other end of the musical spectrum, the art of the solo piano is being celebrated by a number of presenters, covering the gamut from Bach to John Cage (who’s also being celebrated in honour of the 100th anniversary of his birth, well-noted in last month’s issue). You’ll find those listed below in the Quick Picks.

All in all, there’s some pretty compelling and unusual music making this month to take your mind off the woes of the world, if only for the length of a concert. Let the celebrations begin!

A Banner Month for Anniversaries

15 years: 1997 marked the year of Hong Kong’s accession to China (after 156 years under British rule) and its establishment as a “Special Administrative Region.” The Chinese Artist Society of Toronto (CAST) and the Multi-Culture & Folk Arts Association of Canada are honouring the 15th anniversary of this historic juncture with a concert on October 28 at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts. On the varied program: Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor; Mozart’s (unfinished) Concerto for Violin and Piano in D Major K.anh.56 (315f); Chinese music for violin and piano; narration with music arranged from songs that evoke images of Hong Kong; and a violin ensemble of 100 children performing popular Hong Kong songs.

The concert features 20-year-old Hong Kong pianist Rachel Cheung, making her Canadian debut. Also performing are well-known local soloists (with Hong Kong connections) Conrad Chow, violin, and Ka Kit Tam, piano, and the CAST Philomusica Orchestra. Erhei Liang, who wears many hats including one as president of CAST, another as composer-in-residence of the Hong Kong City Choir and yet another as an associate composer of the Canadian Music Centre, conducts. The evening gets underway at 7:30pm.

classical and beyond shlomomintzyoungperformeroption125 years: On its website, the Korean Canadian Symphony Orchestra states that its mission is “to present the highest quality classical music to our audience, many of whom are not regular concertgoers, to present Korean-Canadian soloists and composers and provide work and experience to young musicians from the GTA.” On October 20, regular and “non-regular” concertgoers can see that mission executed as KCSO presents its “25th Anniversary Gala Concert” at the Toronto Centre for the Arts’ George Weston Recital Hall, beginning at 7:30pm. While the program does not contain any Korean works, it does offer Mozart’s Andante in C K315 and Rondo in D K184, the first movement of both Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Minor and Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, as well as Symphony No.7 by Beethoven (in full). Korean-Canadian musicians Sylvia Kim, flute, and pianists Jason Lee and Donna Lee will perform under the baton of Richard Lee who, in addition to being the KCSO’s music director, is also an assistant music director of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra.

50 years: The Ontario Philharmonic (OP) must be getting pretty pumped about their upcoming set of concerts titled “Shlomo Mintz, Violin Legend: Celebrating 50 Years on Stage.” I don’t know when it was that Mintz last performed in Ontario (or with the OP), but his early November engagement with the Oshawa-based orchestra is being billed as a “long-awaited return.”

Interestingly, both the OP and Mintz were born in 1957 (which means Mintz must have had his first stage appearance at age five). Mintz, considered one of the greatest violinists of our time (and who, at age 18, added the role of conductor to his long list of achievements), has had a celebrated career, beginning with his Carnegie Hall debut at age 16 with the Pittsburgh Symphony. We are lucky to have him in the GTA for two performances: the first, November 3, is at Oshawa’s Regent Theatre; the second, on the 6th, is at Koerner Hall and is part of the OP’s special Great Soloists Series which showcases some of the world’s most distinguished artists.

It’s an all-Tchaikovsky program for each concert with Mintz performing the Violin Concerto in D Op. 35 and Marco Parisotto, OP music director, conducting the orchestra in the Symphony No. 5 in E Minor Op.64. Both concerts begin at 8pm.

200 years: I simply could not resist including the Medical Musical Group Chorale and Symphony Orchestra’s “Canadian-American Friendship Concert: 200 Years of Peace and Friendship!” in this collection of celebratory concerts. Based out of Washington, DC, the 200 members of MMG are “healers: doctors, nurses and others from medical centers and schools all over the USA.” Their mission? “To perform ‘Music with a Message’ — of healing, hope, inspiration, patriotism and peace at home; and peace and international friendship overseas.” MMG is the largest musical medical group in America — there are many such groups, as I discovered at www.doctorshobbies.com; who knew? — and performances have taken the group to Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, the United Nations and the White House, as well as to overseas destinations such as Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, New Zealand and Russia.

The repertoire for MMG’s November 7 concert will include everything from Foster’s The Prayer and Haydn’s The Heavens Are Telling to von Suppé’s Light Cavalry Overture, McCrae’s In Flanders Fields and Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture Finale; plus another eight or so pieces as well as a “Beautiful Tunes Collage” of theme melodies. And as an extra special treat, Dean Martin’s daughter, Deana Martin, will be on hand to sing some of her father’s songs. In addition, there will be the narration of verse intertwined with music.

Joining the MMG for the evening will be tenor Mark Masri and soprano Lacey Purchase, while our very own Kerry Stratton will be among the seven narrators; that’s right, the busy conductor will not be the one with the baton this time. That honour will go to MMG founder and music director, Victor Wahby, MD, Ph.D., otherwise known as the “medical maestro.” Church on the Queensway is the “operating” theatre; “scrub in” is at 7:30pm. (sorry)

Quick Picks: Art of the Piano – Soloists in Recital

October 7 3:00: Hart House Music Committee. Sunday Concert: 653rd Concert. Works by Beethoven, Brahms, Shostakovich and Gershwin. Mauro Bertoli, piano. Great Hall, Hart House.

October 13 8:00: Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society. Eric Himy, piano. Debussy: Ondine; Ravel: Ondine; Schubert: 3 Impromptus Op.90; Gershwin: American in Paris; Rhapsody in Blue; and other works. KWCMS Music Room, Waterloo.

October 18 1:30: Women’s Musical Club of Toronto. Music in the Afternoon. Schubert: Sonata in c D958; Sonata in A D959; Sonata in B-flat D960. Paul Lewis, piano. Walter Hall, Edward Johnson Bldg.

October 28 3:00: Campbellville Chamber Concerts. The Art of the Concert Pianist. Works by Chopin, Liszt, Ravel and Rachmaninoff. Alexei Gulenco, piano. St. David’s Presbyterian Church, Campbellville.

October 30 8:00: Music Toronto. Piano Series: John O’Conor. Beethoven: Six Bagatelles Op.126; Sonata in D Op.10 No.3; Schubert: Sonata in c D958. Jane Mallett Theatre, St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts.

October 30 8:00: Les Amis Concerts. The Art of the Piano:
Nada Kolundzija, piano.
Cage: Sonatas and Interludes (1946–1948). Gallery 345, 345 Sorauren Ave.

November 4 3:00: Gallery 345. The Art of the Piano: Darret Zusko. Works by Bach, Beethoven, Debussy, Chopin, Liszt, Buczynski and Kapustin. Gallery 345.

So, whatever your reason to celebrate, take yourself out to a concert for the occasion, and may your spirits be lifted! 

Sharna Searle trained as a musician and lawyer, practised a lot more piano than law and is listings editor at The WholeNote. She can be contacted at classicalbeyond@thewholenote.com.

September is kind of an oddball month around here: the summer festivals have wound down, for the most part, and the season of regular concert series doesn’t really get under way until October. So, what’s a classical music columnist to write about this month? Plenty, actually: there are those exception-to-the-rule summer series and festivals to take us into the end of September (look for Colours of Music and SweetWater in our Beyond the GTA listings), and the gutsy presenters who are first out of the starting gate each year with season launches in September. See, nothing to worry about!

17 classicalandbeyond brentano string quartet  1 photo credit christian steinerSeptember’s septet of quartets:You can’t talk about quartets in Toronto without talking about Music Toronto. For 40 years, this venerable organization has consistently presented some of the most sublime, memorable and musically satisfying evenings of chamber music, many of which have involved one major, or up-and-coming, string quartet or another (in addition to outstanding trios, duos and soloists). Here’s a non-exhaustive list: Juilliard, Guarneri, Orford, St. Lawrence, Jerusalem, Kronos, Tokyo, Lafayette, Cecilia, Molinari, Bozzini, Brentano and Amadeus.

The person who, with little fanfare, has been shepherding Music Toronto since 1990 — first as general manager and since 2006 as both GM and artistic producer — is Jennifer Taylor. Roman Borys, artistic director of Ottawa Chamberfest, and cellist with the Gryphon Trio (Music Toronto’s ensemble-in-residence from 1988 to 2008), sings her praises during a June 12, 2012, video interview he did for The WholeNote’s Conversations@TheWholeNote YouTube video series: “Jennifer Taylor, Music Toronto, there’s an organization and a particular individual ... one of the great foundations in chamber music in this country ... who understands the genre, who understands the business of presenting music, presenting concerts, and who, luckily, also has great stamina!” Borys adds that Taylor gave the Gryphon “wonderful opportunties to continue to develop our own skills as chamber musicians and learn from one another.”

For Music Toronto’s 41st season, Taylor has assembled yet another superb lineup of quartets, trios, pianists and other soloists, with concerts at the Jane Mallett Theatre — its regular venue since its inception. First up of the quartets, on September 13, is the Brentano, with a fascinating 20th anniversary program called “Fragments: Connecting Past and Present.” They have taken six fragments by great composers from the past, and invited six living composers to respond to them. In their Music Toronto concert you’ll hear “fragments” of Schubert, Bach, Haydn, Shostakovich and Mozart juxtaposed with “completions” by Bruce Adolphe, Sofia Gubaidulina, John Harbison, Stephen Hartke and Vijay Iyer, respectively. Also on the program is a work by Charles Wuorinen, based on the music of Josquin and Dufay, the earliest music in the “Fragments” project.

(You can also hear — but only hear, not see — the Brentano Quartet in a film titled A Late Quartet. It’s one of several featured films on offer at this year’s TIFF to “use music in interesting ways,” according to Paul Ennis, whose TIFF-focussed article is here.)

The Attacca Quartet was formed at the Juilliard School in 2003, (as was the Brentano in 1992 and the Tokyo in 1969), and they’re the second quartet presented by Music Toronto this month. Making their Toronto debut, the Attacca will perform quartets by Haydn (Op.77 No.2), Prokofiev (No.1) and Mendelssohn (No.2 Op.13). This group also has an interesting project on the go, a multi-year performance series titled “The 68,” referring to the number of string quartets Haydn wrote over the course of his life. And while the series itself takes place in New York City, we will have the pleasure of hearing the Attacca perform one of the “68” here in Toronto on September 27.

I mention the Tokyo Quartet this early in the season for a couple of reasons. First, they will perform their 45th and 46th concerts for Music Toronto on January 10 and April 4, 2013, respectively, to conclude their three-concert series of all six Bartók quartets. Second — and this may or may not come as a shock to some of you — the Tokyo will be retiring from the concert stage in June, 2013, after 43 years, and will be giving an extra special “Farewell Performance” in Toronto, in support of Music Toronto, on April 5, 2013. I wanted to give you plenty of time to arrange your schedules, accordingly — it’s going to be one heck of a farewell. For the rest of Music Toronto’s stellar season, please go to www.music-toronto.com

As for the rest of the the issue’s “septet” of quartets, they, along with several other noteworthy concerts, are included in the Quick Picks at the end of this column.

17 classicalandbeyond musicmondays 1 photo by blacksMonday Monday: Music Mondays began its 21st season on June 4, and has been treating us to an astonishing array of music and musicians, every Monday throughout the summer, at 12:15pm, at the “exquisitely tuned” Church of the Holy Trinity. And for the second year in a row, they’ve extended their season into the fourth week of September. Talk about gutsy!

I asked Eitan Cornfield, Music Mondays’ new artistic director, to say a few things about his first year at the helm of the series, what he calls a “sanctuary in the heart of the city’s commercial, financial and administrative core, a musical respite from the workaday world.” (As a long-time CBC music producer, Cornfield is well aware of Holy Trinity’s “rich, acoustic environment,” as he puts it, having produced CBC Radio Two’s Music Around Us there.)

The challenge, now, according to Cornfield, is to “develop a sharpened focus for Music Mondays ... [to] remain relevant and distinctive while maintaining the core values of Holy Trinity’s inner-city mission, ... to build on Music Mondays’ historic strengths ... by featuring an eclectic fusion of western classical music and traditional art music of various cultures, all the while providing a contemplative, inclusive and accessible sanctuary ... ” The goal, as he looks forward to new alliances and “new programming initiatives” with his keen core team is “to be able to say you first heard it here!”

Next “first” could be as early as September 3, when Music Mondays presents Triceratonin, a young “made in Toronto” piano, oboe and bassoon trio fresh from their NYC debut at the Juilliard School, as participants in the Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival. I came upon this expression of sheer glee in someone’s daily blog on the IWCMF: “Wait til you see the Triceratonin Trio perform synchronized swimming with their oboe and bassoon!” Curious? Check them out on YouTube. And don’t forget to get to the church on time, September 3, for some jazz-inflected works by Poulenc, Previn and others, performed by the good-humoured, talented and very synchronized Jialiang Zhu on piano, bassoonist Sheba Thibideau, and Aleh Remezau on the oboe ... and snorkel?

The remaining Music Mondays concerts take place September 10, 17 and 24, with music ranging from Porter to Purcell to pop!

QUICK PICKS: FESTIVAL FARE AND ELSEWHERE

QUARTETS

New Orford String Quartet: September 15 and 16:
Prince Edward County Music Festival; September 12: Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Music Society; September 11: Gallery 345.

Penderecki String Quartet: September 21 and 22:
Prince Edward County Music Festival; September 23, 26, 27, 28: Colours of Music.

Ton Beau String Quartet: September 9: Summer Music in
the Garden; September 14: Gallery 345.

Silver Birch String Quartet: September 23: Colours of Music (with the Penderecki).

TRIOS

Gryphon Trio: October 1: U of T Faculty of Music.

Amity Trio: September 22: Colours of Music.

Junction Trio: September 26: Post-Industrial Wednesdays
at St. Anne’s Anglican Church.

Trio Kokopelli: October 4: Nine Sparrows Arts Foundation/
Christ Church Deer Park.

ORCHESTRAS

Toronto Symphony Orchestra: September 20 and 22:
Opening weekend with James Ehnes; September 27 and 29: Pictures at an Exhibition; October 3 and 4: Anne-Sophie Mutter.

Royal Conservatory Orchestra: October 5: with Uri Mayer
at Koerner Hall.

Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony: September 28 and 29:
Last Night of the Proms at Centre in the Square.

So, slip gently into September as you take advantage of the last vestiges of summer. And while September may be an oddish month for music, there’s no real shortage of those musical threesomes and foursomes — and moresomes — ready to dazzle you. Enjoy!

Sharna Searle trained as a musician and lawyer, practised a lot more piano than law and is listings editor at The WholeNote. She can be contacted at classicalbeyond@thewholenote.com.

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