Imagine how cohesive an orchestra that has had one stellar principal conductor for a couple of decades must become. Compare that in your mind to one that has been without a principal conductor for the same amount of time. You can speculate that the orchestras in question would evolve in very different ways with very different strengths and weaknesses.

Now, imagine if you can an orchestra that as a matter of fundamental policy has had no principal conductor for almost eighty years ... but can call regularly on Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Gustavo Dudamel, Andris Nelsons, Franz-Welser-Möst, Georges Prêtre, Christian Thielemann, Mariss Jansons, Esa-Pekka Salonen...  You can imagine that such an orchestra might evolve into something remarkable. As indeed it has, and they’re coming to town.

18_semyon_bychkov_1_credit_sheila_rockThe Toronto stop of the Vienna Philharmonic, March 6, is their only Canadian stop, and the last of an eight-concert, nine-day North American tour under the baton of Semeon Bychkov. The orchestra will rotate three different programs over the course of the nine days – one all Mahler, one Schumann and Brahms, and the third (the one we will hear) Schubert, Wagner and Bartók (see listings for details).

Bychkov’s most important Great Lake so far has been Erie, not Ontario. “My first five American years were in New York City” he says, “and I learned pretty quickly that it is not typical America.” The five years he spent after that in Michigan as music director of the Grand Rapids Symphony would doubtless have strengthened that impresssion. Around that time, he stumbled into a one-time engagement with the Buffalo Philharmonic – Il trovatore at the ArtPark Festival in Lewiston. It led to a ten year relationship. “My career in America was entirely fulfilling,” he says on his website. “I always look at that time as my second birth.”

For those who lost track of Bychkov after he left the Buffalo Philharmonic in the mid-nineties: he returned to Europe in 1989 to become music director of the Orchestre de Paris. From Paris he went to WDR Symphony Cologne, a post he still holds. Again from his website: “After ten years this must mean that we are not bored with each other, and that we all feel we are progressing and fulfilled in what we are doing. Anything other than that is a horrible life for a musician.”

Around the same time as the appointment with “very forward-looking” Cologne he was also appointed chief conductor of the very traditional Dresden Semperoper, “the house of Wagner and Strauss. It was fantastic for me [having both appointments] as if I was able to live in the 19th century and the end of the 20th as well.”

His equal delight in both the operatic and orchestral bodes well for the tour. Certainly the Vienna Philharmonic is no stranger to doing similar double duty; they are the pit band (if you pardon the expression) for the Vienna State Opera – a tradition going back further even than the idea that a great orchestra does not need a principal conductor. With “guests” like theirs on ready call, it’s hard to disagree.

One sometimes observes that orchestras on the road play it safe, going for a “trademark” sound so as not to disappoint the buyers of their records. With repertoire on tour that Bychkov is exploring for upcoming projects he’s passionate about, that ain’t going to happen.

THERE’S A HUGE ORCHESTRAL BUZZ right through the concert listings this month. Nowhere is that more evident than in the Beyond the GTA listings (page 43 on) where the Kingston, Hamilton, Huronia, Georgian Bay, Guelph, and Kitchener Waterloo Symphony Orchestras account for almost a concert a day between them. An overall search for orchestral music in our online listings would doubtless yield a harvest several times that many.

20_edwin_outwater_2_-_sean_puckett_credit_-_6Particularly interesting to observe so far this season is the cracking pace being maintained by the Kitcher-Waterloo Symphony under Edwin Outwater’s aegis. Now in his fourth season with the KWS, Santa Monica born Outwater seems to stirring up a mix of music sure to appeal to every taste – from rock-solid mainstage productions of masterworks to family and child-centred fare with tantalizing titles like “Dan Deacon’s Electronic Bus” and “Symphony in Space.” From reading about him, Outwater is passionate about the educational aspect of his job, and he has the track record to prove it. As former music director of the San Francisco Symphony, he championed programs for school, community performances and outreach.

Oddly enough, the most eclectic programming of all for the KWS in the next little while is happening not in the K-W area but of all places, at Toronto’s Sony Centre. And what a contrast!

March 1-6 the orchestra takes on the responsibility of playing for the Mariinsky (aka Kirov) Ballet performances of Swan Lake. (Watch out for that Black Swan, though, Edwin. From what I saw in the trailer for the movie, she’s likely to rip your face off if she doesn’t like your tempi!)

And then April 9 (two shows only) they are back to provide live orchestral backing for a cartoon-fest titled “Warner Brothers present Bugs Bunny at the Symphony,” featuring the original Looney Tunes cartoons set to Carl Stalling’s original scores. Stalling is a ferociously interesting miniaturist – a bit like an orchestral Satie on speed. You can imagine why the project might have caught Outwater’s interested eye.

David Perlman is deputizing for Allan Pulker, the usual patroller of this beat.

p14As well as bringing some of the best pianists and string quartets to Toronto, Music Toronto also supports young talent with its three-concert Discovery Series. The second Discovery concert of the season will be a recital on January 20 by soprano Laura Klassen, with collaborative pianist Megan Chang.

I asked Jennifer Taylor, the artistic and administrative director of Music Toronto, how she selects young artists for the three annual Discovery Series concerts. She told me it’s not by a formal process, but rather by getting out and hearing performances and sometimes even by reading about young musicians who sound interesting. She first heard Laura Klassen in a student opera at the University of Toronto a few years ago. Klassen made an impression, not only on her but also on some of her subscribers, and a year or so ago, when programming the 2010-11 season, Taylor invited her to participate.

There are various bits of biographical information about Klassen on the Music Toronto website: she has ARCT diplomas in both piano and voice, has a Master’s degree from the U of T Opera School, received the Canadian Opera Volunteers Committee Borowska Distinguished Graduate Award, and sings with the Canadian Opera Company Chorus and with the Orpheus Choir. But who is the person behind all this good news? What kind of person earns the opportunity to give a solo recital presented by Music Toronto’s prestigious Discovery Series?

In corresponding with Klassen, I was astonished to learn that it wasn’t until her second-last year of high school that she started to sing. “I went to an arts high school to play the flute and we all had to sing solos as a ‘music project,’” she said. “In grade 12 I got the lead role in our school musical, Once Upon a Mattress. I was terrified, but my love of acting helped get me over my fright pretty quickly!” With that under her belt she started taking private voice lessons from her high-school teacher just in time to be ready for university auditions.

What she had been doing musically since the age of two was playing the piano, which undoubtedly helped her to progress quickly with singing. “My mom was my first and only piano teacher. When we were kids, it was made clear that all three of us would become proficient pianists. I thank my mom so much for it all now! I sing often with my mom at the piano, and she has really encouraged me with all of my performing.”

Asked why the voice rather than the piano is her instrument of choice, she said that she has found it much easier to perform as a singer than as a pianist, and that singing just came naturally. “I’m really thankful that I started out on the piano, though, because I feel that I have a solid musical background. Also, it’s handy to be able to play my own accompaniments when practising!”

I asked Klassen how her years of music have shaped her character. Not only has work in music fostered her creativity but it has also helped her to channel her competitive nature. “University was very competitive, and I learned to be more focused on competing with myself rather than with others.” What led to this was the realization that there will always be someone out there who’s better than her, which put things into perspective.

Now, with university studies behind her, she is fortunate that all her work is music-related: “I enjoy it so much, and I think that makes me a really happy person. I’ve started singing in the Canadian Opera Company Chorus this year, and though it probably won’t enhance my solo career, it’s a great job. It’s a lot of fun, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot just being able to sing on the same stage as the amazing singers who have the lead roles. It’s also very interesting to be able to view all that goes on behind the scenes of such a large company.”

As for the future, her plan is to do her best and sing for as many people as she can. “So far, all of my big opportunities haven’t come from auditions, they’ve come from other performances that I’ve done. Of course I’ll keep on auditioning and see where it takes me! Every performance is an audition, and you need to be fully prepared. I just make sure that I’m as prepared as I can be for every performance and then just try to do my best. You never know who’s going to be in the audience.”

I was intrigued by her programme for January 20: it’s varied, covering four centuries and a variety of genres. “I wanted a very diverse programme,” she commented, “different languages, different periods, different styles. I wanted it to be interesting. I mostly chose songs that I absolutely love, and I hope that comes through in my performance.”

I’m sure it will – along with an energetic and practical personality with more than a tinge of idealism. I think it is true to say that behind every great singer there is a great person, a person who has risen to the challenges both of music and of life. Brava Laura!

Laura Klassen's Music Toronto recital, January 20th CANCELLED!

For health reasons: Ms Klassen recently had emergency surgery and  has been advised she will need 4-6 mnths for complete recovery. To inquire about a ticket exchange or refund tickeholders should contact the box office 416-366-7723

Elsewhere in the News

Superstar soprano Renée Fleming will sing with the Toronto Symphony on December 8 as will the Canadian mezzo Marie-Nicole Lemieux on January 22 and 23, in performances conducted by Bernard Labadie.

p15bOn December 10, Sinfonia Toronto will be joined by Spanish trumpet player Vicente Campos, who will perform the Hummel Trumpet Concerto. On January 21, violinist Judy Kang will perform Affairs of the Heart by Canadian composer Marjan Mozetich.

The Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall is making an enormous contribution to the musical life of the city. In December, along with a number of other performers in genres covered elsewhere in The WholeNote, it is bringing us the Canadian-born violin superstar Leila Josefowicz to do a solo recital on December 10, and on December 12 the highly individual American pianist Simone Dinnerstein. January is particularly busy, with the RCM Orchestra conducted by Peter Oundjian on the 21st, pianist Hélène Grimaud on the 23rd, the RCM Piano Competition Finals on the 26th, the Banff String Quartet Competition winners, the Cecilia String Quartet, on the 27th, and flutist Kathleen Rudolphe and collaborators on the 30th.

Mooredale Concerts will bring us trombonist extraordinaire Alain Trudel, and organist also extraordinaire Patrick Wedd, at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church on January 16. And two days later, on January 18, the co-founders of the CCC Toronto International Piano Competition, Lu Wang and Lang-Ning Liu, will perform as the Juilliard Duo at the Glenn Gould Studio.

All this is, of course, just scratching the surface. Read the listings to get the whole story!

Allan Pulker is a flautist and a founder of The WholeNote who currently serves as Chairman of The WholeNote’s board of directors. He can be contacted at classicalbeyond@thewholenote.com.

My focus last month was Toronto as a cultural tourism destination, looking at the potential of several weekends for offering what I termed a festival experience – that is to say, more or less wall-to-wall concert going. Extraordinarily, November will begin with a whole week of just that, in the form of the new Chinese Cultural Centre’s Toronto International Piano Competition. This is a major development in the musical life of Toronto.

 

Lu Wang and Lang-Ning Liu

p14aThe minds behind the CCC International Piano Competition, November 1 to 8, are two young adopted (like so many of us) Torontonians, Lang-Ning Liu and Lu Wang. Concert pianists themselves, they perform all over the world as solo recitalists, concerto soloists and together as the Juilliard Duo.

p14bWhen they sat down with me to talk about their lives in music and the festival it was only two days before Lang-Ning was leaving for France to give two recitals and about a week before Lu was leaving for China, where (among other things) he was going to be meeting the conductor of the orchestra with which he’ll perform a concerto next year.

I asked why they had decided to make Toronto home, and what had motivated them to undertake such a major project as an international piano competition. For Lang-Ning, who had come here at the age of 17 to study at the Glenn Gould School, and then went to Juilliard, Toronto is an ideal place for an artist. “You can find quiet places here where you can work,” she told me. “In New York, no place is quiet.” Lu told me he had lived in New York most of his life, and would not have thought of settling in Toronto except that his parents told him they want to come here to retire. That was a good enough reason for him, and within seven months of applying for landed immigrant status he was here. His parents, however, haven’t yet arrived. “His mother runs a big music school in China,” explained Lang-Ning; “She’s not ready to give that up!”

Their reasons for putting their energy into a piano competition are related to their personal aspirations and goals. Lang-Ning feels strongly that music can be a force for good and for peace in the world. Lu, a child prodigy, has been immersed in music his whole life, and wishes to continue learning and to share his musical gift both as a performer and as a teacher. What motivated them was a wish to do something for the musical tradition.

“Each generation,” said Lu, “needs to find its own reasons for embracing, mastering and continuing the art music tradition; it’s as if each generation needs to re-invent it for themselves.” They see this competition as a way of doing this, by encouraging and supporting the next generation of pianists and giving audiences an opportunity to hear the great pianists of the future before they are considered stars. “Think how many people there must be who would love to have heard Marta Argerich when she was 17!” commented Lu.

Their original idea was a music festival that would feature the best young pianists in the world. The difficulty of bringing many artists together at the same time persuaded them that a competition would be more feasible. To make the event more like a festival for both audiences and competitors, in the first two rounds each of the 24 competitors will give a short recital, and the jury will select the six semi-finalists. For those of us fortunate enough to attend much or all of the first round, it will be a wonderful opportunity to develop a more discerning ear, by hearing a wide range of approaches to
the piano.

 

p17Christina Petrowska Quilico

To put this event into context I asked a few questions of Christina Petrowska Quilico, an international concert pianist who lives in Toronto.

 

Is there a hierarchy of piano competitions in the world? Where does the new Toronto competition fit in this hierarchy? In Canada the most prominent piano competitions are the extremely high profile Montreal International Piano Competition; the Honens, which is also becoming a Mecca for international pianists; and the Eckhardt-Grammate International Competition, which in addition to requiring classical and romantic repertoire has a contemporary music component. The competitions currently at the very top of the international hierarchy, however, are the Tchaikovsky, the Van Cliburn, the Queen Elisabeth and the Leeds.

The Toronto competition has an excellent jury, one of the factors that have enabled it to attract a good range of competitors from all over the world. I believe it will grow and develop into a major international event.

On what does the prestige of a competition depend? The winners and juries are what give these competitions prestige. Winners who make successful CDs and tours bring them notice. Pianists also feel that it is important to be judged by the top artist/performer/teachers from major schools. More important than prize money are the subsequent connections to the professional concert world: tours, bookings and media attention.

 

How does an aspiring concert pianist decide which of the many competitions available to enter? Aspiring concert pianists should have realistic expectations about their ability to perform under extreme pressure. They should select those competitions that require a repertoire that is comfortable and dependable under stress and suits their unique talents. You should have enough confidence in your ability to believe that you can win. Teachers are important in guiding the young pianists in repertoire selection and training. There are a lot of intermediate level competitions that would be a good training ground before attempting the big international ones.

 

What are the benefits to the competitors besides the prize money and the professional connections? The discussions about performances are invigorating, inspiring and educational for the performers. Feedback is crucial for competitors. That is how they learn to improve their performances. Competitions are about performing to your highest expectations. The satisfaction is not in the prize money but in being able to accept the challenge. For me the satisfaction in performing to the best of my ability is what I remember. I also loved bonding with the other pianists. We were extremely supportive of each other because we knew how difficult it is to be a concert pianist.

 

The first two rounds of the Toronto competition will be recitals by each competitor, which is somewhat unusual. What are your thoughts on that? I believe that the solo format is the way of the future. This gives the jury an opportunity to hear how the pianists construct a recital program and how they shape it musically.

 

What’s in it for the audience? Forget “reality TV” – get the real deal! At piano competitions you get the entire gamut of human emotions: fear, obsession, desire, triumph, happiness, living on the edge, love and hate. They bring out the best and worst in people – but what a ride! There is always excitement, debate and occasional controversy in the selection of the winners.  So everyone should definitely go and cheer on the pianists for Toronto’s new international competition.

 

Other Piano Events in November

Looking at other events featuring the piano in November I see that the month is particularly rich in piano concertos: Toronto pianist Peter Longworth performs Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 with the Oakville Symphony Orchestra on November 6 and 7. Longworth appears again in the listings on November 27 playing Saint-Saëns’ Piano Concerto No. 2 with the Mississauga Symphony Orchestra. On November 13 and 14 Natasha Paremski will be the soloist with the Toronto Symphony in Dvořák’s Piano Concerto in G Minor; and on November 17 Andreas Haeflinger will perform Chopin’s Concerto No. 2 with the Toronto Symphony. The Unionville Symphonia’s Remembrance Day Concert (actually on November 14) will include Mozart concertos performed by three youngsters: Frederick Kwan, Jerrick Lo and Bjon Li.

However, there seem to be fewer solo piano recitals than usual. Among them are Todd Yaniw performing Schumann’s Carnival at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre on November 2, Olena Klyucharova and Andriy Tykhonov at the KWCMS Music Room on November 7, and at noon the same day at the Royal Ontario Museum a recital by Leonard Gilbert.

 

Allan Pulker is a flautist and a founder of The WholeNote who currently serves as Chairman of The WholeNote’s board of directors. He can be contacted at classicalbeyond@thewholenote.com.

It’s that time of year when memories of the summer linger – of two or three days at a stretch when life can revolve around listening to music, when one makes a transition from the usual mode of things to a way of being in which music becomes the language of life.

In some sense, Toronto’s musical life could be seen as offering the opportunity for festival-like immersion all the time. Pretty well every night, and even every day of the week, there are concerts, frequently several at the same time. The WholeNote, of course, is like the festival programme, giving musical tourists all the information they need to plan their music festival experience in advance.

So this month’s column starts with a look at festival-like musical weekends, carved from WholeNote listings, in and near Toronto, beginning with a Friday evening event and ending on Sunday afternoon. (You could, of course, do the same thing with consecutive weekdays, but this gives you the idea.)

The first weekend of October offers build-your-own festival opportunities in Toronto and an actual festival, Colours of Music, in Barrie, about 100 km north. If you can get to Barrie on Friday morning so much the better – there are concerts at noon, 2:30 and 7:30, so you can immerse yourself right away in the festival experience. Saturday also offers three contrasting concerts: jazz at noon, violin and piano at 2:30 and, in the evening, Sinfonia Toronto with pianist Anya Alexeyev in an all-Chopin programme. Sunday offers one more concert at 2:30 in the afternoon: London’s Primus Men’s Choir with Brassroots brass ensemble. It sounds like a really glorious grand finale for the festival.

Were I a “musical tourist” in Toronto, that weekend offers an enticing opening to October; Friday, October 1, offers ten concerts in a dizzying range of genres: the Royal Canadian College of Organists’ “Organ Spectacular,” the Toronto Symphony, Sinfonia Toronto, chamber music, Cuban salsa, Somali hip-hop and the boundary-crossing Montreal musician Gabe Levine – something for everyone. (And having chosen one, you can keep going till last call by consulting our jazz listings on page 48 for after-concert fare.)

p21aYour Saturday could begin with the Canadian Opera Company’s Aida at 4:30 in the afternoon, followed by dinner at one of Toronto’s many fine restaurants and then a choice of 15 concerts, or indeed a whole night’s worth, as that evening is the annual Nuit Blanche night of music and art installations. Among the Nuit Blanche performers will be the Cecilia String Quartet, the first-prize winners of the 2010 Banff International String Quartet Competition and the first recipient of the Glenn Gould School Quartet Residency Fellowship for 2010-11. They’ll perform R. Murray Schafer’s Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra with the Royal Conservatory Orchestra in Koerner Hall that evening.

Digressing briefly, there will be two other opportunities, to hear the Cecilia Quartet: October 7 at noon at the Canadian Opera Company’s Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre (co-presented by the COC and Jeunesses Musicales) and on October 13, performing quartets by Haydn and Mozart for the Mozart Society. Digressing even further, on p21bFriday, October 29, Mooredale Concerts has on offer the Afiara String Quartet, which won the second prize in this year’s Banff String Quartet Competition, as well as the Székely Prize for best performance of Beethoven or Schubert. The Afiara, which incidentally is composed entirely of Canadians, is currently the Graduate Resident String Quartet of the prestigious Juilliard School of Music in New York. And there will be an opportunity to hear the Afiara Quartet this month at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre as well, at noon on Thursday October 14, exactly a week after the Cecilia String Quartet. I should also point out that the Banff Competition, at which these two Canadian quartets won the top two prizes, is an elite international competition – an extraordinary tribute to the level of music education in Canada.

But returning to our “weekend-as-festival” theme, on Sunday October 8 there are 15 further concerts to choose from in our GTA listings alone, and a further eight in “Beyond the GTA” (starting on page 46). Pick your predilection, and chart your course!

The Thanksgiving Weekend (October 8 to 11) is a bit of an exception to the “every weekend is a festival” rule. Nevertheless Tafelmusik, The Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Canadian Opera Company all have events. But the October 15 to 17 weekend is back up to speed again. As is the next, and indeed every weekend (bar three) from now till June and, yes, the start of the official festival season once again. So to summarize, if, as the days get shorter and colder, you’re looking to compensate with consecutive days of summer-like musical immersion, there’s no better “festival guide” than the WholeNote listings.

On another, and more personal, note, looking ahead to the first weekend of November, a former harmony teacher of mine, John Kruspe, his wife, Cathie, and two children, Jamie and Emily, will be performing together on Friday November 5, 7:30pm, at Walter Hall. John, an accomplished pianist, frequently performs as a solo recitalist – most recently in an all Chopin programme on September 23 in Walter Hall. Cathie, a violinist, maintains  a thriving private teaching studio, and performs as an orchestral and chamber musician. Jamie, who is 21 and also a violinist, is entering his last year of the undergraduate performance programme at U of T, studying with Jacques Israelievitch. His chamber group (a trio) won the Galimir award for the top ensemble at U of T this past academic year; and for the past two years was chosen for the Banff spring chamber music programme. Emily, who is 19 and also a violinist, is entering her second year of the same programme, studying with Erika Raum. This past winter she won the President’s Trophy at the Toronto Kiwanis festival, and like Jamie was a Banff resident this year.

This may be the last opportunity to hear the Kruspe Family ensemble, as it’s likely that soon both Jamie and Emily will be off to graduate schools and careers that might well take them far from home.

Also in early November, a very exciting new event to be aware of is the first Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Toronto International Piano Competition, which begins on November 1 with the opening reception and a draw for performance order.  The first two rounds, November 2 to 3 and 4 to 5, and round three (six semi-finalists) November 7, all take place from 1 to 8pm at the CCCGT’s extraordinary P.C. Ho Theatre, 5183 Sheppard Ave. E. For the final, Monday, November 8, 7:30pm, three finalists will perform with the new Toronto Concert Orchestra conducted by Kerry Stratton, at the Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall.

The competition offers a total of $28,000 U.S. in prizes. Twenty-four young pianists from ten countries have been selected to participate.

I’ll finish with a little story. Quite a few years ago I met Laurel Fay, a New Yorker who was the author of a new biography of Shostakovich. I was introduced to her as the (then) publisher of The WholeNote magazine (which she had evidently already discovered in her short time in Toronto). In that typical not-beating-about-the-bushes New Yorker way she said to me, “Come to New York. We need your magazine there!” I rather suspect there’s more music in New York, but thanks to The WholeNote, Toronto very likely has more music for “musical tourists” to discover.

 

Allan Pulker is a flautist and a founder of The WholeNote who currently serves as Chairman of The WholeNote’s board of directors. He can be contacted at classicalbeyond@thewholenote.com.

In the May issue I quoted Simon Wynberg, artistic director of the Royal Conservatory’s ARC Ensemble: “The more intriguing question is whether we are gradually moving away from the concept of a ‘core repertory,’” he said. What he saw emerging was “a new, broader and younger audience who do not have an inbuilt allegiance to the pillars of repertory, but are curious to explore the vast range of music that is now so readily and instantly available.” As I study the websites of the many Toronto and area music presenters I notice evidence of many different kinds of interesting and imaginative programming.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra

While the “core repertoire” is still – as one would expect and probably as it should be – the principal focus of artistic director, Peter Oundjian’s programming, there are interesting forays into unusual programming. On November 10, for example, using Tchaikovsky’s short and appealing Marche Slave and Prokofiev’s Lieutenant Kijé Suite as points of departure from the core repertoire, he makes Janácek’s infrequently performed Glagolitic Mass and a contemporary work, Krystof Maratka’s Astrophonia for Viola and Orchestra the centre of the programme.

P12One of Oundjian’s most successful innovations with the TSO has been the New Creations Festival, which opens this season on March 2 with the iconoclastic Evelyn Glennie as the soloist, in what the TSO’s website describes as a “spectacular new percussion concerto” by Canadian composer Vincent Ho. The programme will also include John Adams’ popular Short Ride in a Fast Machine and his “vast, exhilarating Harmonielehre.”

 

Sinfonia Toronto

Almost as forgotten as the composers whose music the Royal Conservatory’s ARC Ensemble has been performing and recording, the Czech composer Vita Kapralova has been brought to the attention of the world by the Toronto-based Kapralova Society. On March 11, Sinfonia Toronto with pianist Sara Buechner will perform the Canadian premiere of her Partita for Piano and Strings. The rest of the programme is also unusual: Turina’s Rapsodia Sinfonica, Brahms’ Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Handel, and Marjan Mozetich’s lovely Fantasia in its orchestral version. Interestingly, works by Mozetich will be performed on two other Sinfonia Toronto programmes this season.

 

Mooredale Concerts

Turina’s Rapsodia Sinfonica will be played earlier in the year by I Musici de Montréal, with Canadian piano soloist Katherine Chi, at the opening concert of Mooredale Concerts’ season on October 3. She will also perform the solo tour-de-force Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes from Johann Strauss’ “Die Fledermaus” by Leopold Godowsky. The core repertoire part of the programme will be the beautiful string serenades by Elgar and Tchaikovsky.

 

Royal Conservatory

Another fine pianist to look out for this season is Pierre-Laurent Aimard, who will perform in Koerner Hall on May 1. The New York Times described him as “astounding” and “an elegant and exciting performer.” Perhaps the repertoire of the concert says it all: Wagner’s Albumblatt in E-flat Major, Berg’s Piano Sonata in B Minor, Scriabin’s “Black Mass” Sonata No. 9 in F Major, and Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B Minor.

Music Toronto

This summer the Pacifica Quartet played with the legendary pianist Menahem Pressler, for Toronto Summer Music. They’ll be back on December 9 to play three string quartets in a Music Toronto concert. While the quartets by Schumann and Shostakovich are probably “core repertoire,” the quartet Voices, by the American composer Jennifer Higdon, was written in 1993, so it’s likely to be new to most people.

On February 17 Music Toronto will present Trio Voce, three expatriate Canadians who now live and work in the Chicago area. The cellist in the trio is Marina Hoover, the founding cellist of the St. Lawrence String Quartet (which, incidentally, will open the Music Toronto 2010-11 season on October 14). Again the programme will combine core repertoire (piano trios by Beethoven and Shostakovich) with contemporary: the Toronto premiere of Jonathan Berger’s Memory Slips. Berger will be part of the performance as a commentator, combining a review of current research on music, memory and aging with personal and historical anecdotes and examples.

 

Amici Ensemble

If there were an annual prize for creative programming, I’d give it this season to Amici. Each of their four concerts has a theme to which each piece on the programme is related. Just to give an example, the theme of their fourth concert on April 3 is “In the Shadow.” (Is the shadow Beethoven’s or is it Mozart’s?) The programme will begin with Beethoven’s Twelve Variations for cello and piano on the popular “Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen” from Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute – certainly not Beethoven’s best known work, but probably core repertoire for cellists.

The rest of the programme consists of compositions by Spohr, Webern and the recently rediscovered late romantic Austrian composer, Carl Frühling (1868-1937). While the Amici Ensemble is a clarinet, cello, piano trio, they frequently invite guest artists to join them, which, of course, introduces a lot of variety to their programmes as well as extending their repertoire almost indefinitely. The guest artist at the April 3 concert will be the young mezzo-soprano Wallis Giunta, who will perform Spohr’s Six German Songs Op. 103, for voice, clarinet and piano.

Talisker Players

It’s easy to forget that there’s more to the United States than red-neck yahoos and Neanderthal foreign policy. It is a highly polarized society, which has produced scores of artists in all disciplines. Kudos to the Talisker Players for celebrating the cultural depth of our southern neighbour with a concert called “The Revolutionary Rhythms and Imagery of American Poets,” on October 27 and 28. The programme consists of settings by seven contemporary composers, including Toronto’s Alexander Rapoport, of poetry by American poets.

Roy Thomson Hall

Last but not least, Roy Thomson Hall has a terrific season planned, which will open on October 26 with yet another chamber orchestra, the Venice Baroque Orchestra, in a programme entitled “The Seasons Project.” It’s an artful blend of old and new, combining Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and Philip Glass’s Concerto No. 2 for Violin and Orchestra: “The American Four Seasons,” with soloist Robert McDuffie, who premiered the work just last December with the TSO. If you missed it then, you now have a second chance!

This gives some idea of the programming breadth and depth of the coming season. At best, it’s an incomplete overview of what is coming. The profiles in the Blue Pages of the October WholeNote will, of course, fill out the picture somewhat – as I will also be trying to do in my columns.

Allan Pulker is a flautist and a founder of The WholeNote who currently serves as Chairman of The WholeNote’s board of directors. He can be contacted at classicalbeyond@thewholenote.com.

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