Toronto plays host to just a handful of touring symphony orchestras in the course of a season – so it’s surprising to see two remarkable orchestras appearing in the same month. And what makes this particularly interesting is that they couldn’t be more different. One comes from a nearby city, the other from a distant land. One is a well-established, elite ensemble with a glorious history; and the other is a young ensemble that arose in unlikely circumstances.

The first of the pair to unpack their instruments in Toronto will be the Cleveland Orchestra, who will perform at Roy Thomson Hall on October 20. They’ve been here before – I remember hearing in them in 1985, and being astounded by their nigh-on perfect precision and balance. Not for nothing have they been called the “hundred-piece string quartet.”

That was 24 years ago, so their return is long overdue. And the music they’ll be bringing with them – Debussy’s Fêtes, Haydn’s Symphony No. 85 “La Reine” and Shostakovich’s Symphony No.5 – should offer a multifaceted account of what the orchestra sounds like these days, seven years into the tenure of music director Franz Welser-Möst.

The second orchestra to come to town in October will be the Orquesta Sinfonica Simón Bolivar, from Caracas Venezuela. They’ll be playing at the Four Seasons Centre – the only hall in Toronto large enough to accommodate this huge ensemble – on October 26, led by their dynamic young conductor, Gustavo Dudamel.

Strictly speaking, the Bolivar Orchestra is an amateur youth orchestra, although they play at a professional level. The ensemble stands at the pinnacle of a burgeoning classical-music culture for young musicians, that owes its existence largely to one man. It was an economist, José Antonio Abreu, who founded the country’s graduated network of youth orchestras (“El Sistema,” as it’s known) in 1975, as a way of encouraging poor kids to take up music rather than crime.

For his efforts, Abreu has won many international awards, including Canada’s Glenn Gould Prize – and the Bolivar Orchestra’s tour to Toronto was organized by the Gould Foundation in recognition of Abreu’s achievements. In addition to the big orchestral concert, there are two other “Sistema” events scheduled, both at the Royal Conservatory’s new Koerner Hall on October 28: an all-day panel discussion on music as a social tool, beginning at 8:30 am; and a concert by the brass section of the orchestra, at 8:00 pm.

And October has more – lots more – to offer. In the pages of this magazine you’ll find about 500 listings for performances in Toronto and Southern Ontario. You’ll also find our annual Blue Pages directory: a “Who’s Who,” containing more than 170 profiles of local performing and presenting organizations. Judging by the level of musical activity this month, I can’t help wondering if there’s really a recession out there. But perhaps I should leave economic questions to Dr. Abreu.

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Colin Eatock, Managing Editor

Most calendars say that the year officially commences on January 1 – but in the musical world, September is the time for beginnings. Brochures are printed, tickets are sold, and a new season takes its first steps. With this in mind, some of The WholeNote’s regular “beat” columnists have examined what the 2009/10 season has to offer. In the following pages you’ll find their thoughts on what looks promising.


I’ve also done some perusing of the coming season, and I’ve come up with a few events that might not receive the attention they deserve. No doubt, the big events with big publicity budgets will take care of themselves – but every year there are a handful of worthy performances that could use a little help. Here are ten “bumps” for ten concerts in the next ten months.

September 14 8:00: Gallery 345. The Art of the Piano: Dan Tepfer. Tepfer is a jazz pianist who will interpret Bach’s Goldberg Variations. This sounds intriguing.

October 26 8:00: Glenn Gould Foundation. Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela. This huge event, at the Four Seasons Centre, has received astonishingly little publicity so far. Let’s hope it gets some.

November 5 7:30: University of Toronto. Il Mondo della Luna. When was the last time you saw a Haydn opera?

December 4 8:00: Art of Time Ensemble. Brasil. This programme of Brazilian music by Villa Lobos and others, could easily get lost in the Christmas rush. But Brazilian music in December sounds like a good idea to me.

January 17 2:00: Royal Conservatory of Music. Bryan Epperson, cello, with Dianne Werner, piano. With so much attention focussed on the new Koerner Hall, let’s hope that concerts like this one, in the RCM’s smaller Mazzoleni Hall, aren’t forgotten.

February 4 12:10: University of Toronto. Brahms Piano Quintet. Pianist Henri-Paul Sicsic and a quartet of string teachers from U of T will give this performance. Again, this is the sort of concert that could easily be overlooked, but shouldn’t be.

March 20 8:00: I Furiosi Baroque Ensemble. The Noiseless Foot of Time. Furiosi’s guest on this occasion is Lucas Harris, who plays the lute and theorbo. Personally, I think the theorbo is a fascinating instrument.

April 29 8:00: Soundstreams Canada. Cool Drummings: Steve Reich. Maybe this concert, at Koerner Hall, doesn’t need a bump – but I’m giving it one anyway.

May 16 8:00: Esprit Orchestra. No Reason to Panic. I don’t know much about the works by Andriessen, Schmidt and Nas on this programme. What I do know is that the final work, R. Murray Schafer’s Gitanjali, is well worth the price of admission.

June 20 3:00: Hannaford Street Silver Band. Brass Belles. This concert is the grand finale of the International Women’s Brass Conference, and features an all-female cast of soloists and composers. Despite the silly title, this is an idea whose time has come.

Finally, I should note that The WholeNote’s publisher, David Perlman, got into the spirit of things as well. You’ll find his two cents worth on this topic in “Counterpoint – the Publisher’s Perch,” on page 29.

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Colin Eatock, Managing Editor


We measure time in decades and centuries, and we like to take special note of the round numbers. In the musical world, these are often celebrated as "anniversary years." It's an arbitrary system (why not multiples of four or eleven?), but it can be used to bring focus to a particular composer.


I'll say more about the composers celebrating anniversaries a bit further on. But first, I'd like to point out that anniversary years can also apply to musical institutions. This summer, there are two Ontario music presenters - the Elora Festival and the Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound - that are both tooting their horns to celebrate 30 years. And why not?


Both grew from humble beginnings, and have come a long way. Elora was founded by conductor Noel Edison, who has run it for three decades. (He was just awarded the Order of Ontario for this feat.) Advantageously, the festival was located in a pretty village just a few hours drive from Toronto and other cities. There's no real concert hall in Elora - so the festival has made imaginative use of some unlikely venues: the Gambrel Barn, pictured on our cover, and an abandoned quarry.


The Festival of the Sound is a little farther from Toronto, but in the midst of cottage country - and some of Ontario's most spectacular scenery. Founded by pianist Anton Kuerti but run for many years by clarinetist James Campbell, this festival took a different approach to its concert facilities. After years of lobbying, the Charles W. Stockey Centre - containing a state-of-the-art concert hall - opened in 2003.


The two festivals also took different approaches to programming. Elora, with its professional choir (also on our cover) has emphasized vocal music; whereas Parry Sound's strong suit is chamber music. Both are leading off with festive events: Berlioz's Requiem in Elora and the Canadian Brass at the Festival of the Sound. (See The WholeNote's Summer Festival listings, beginning on page 34, for more information.)


Now about those composers. Handel has an anniversary in 2009 - he died 250 years ago - but he doesn't seem to be getting much special attention at the summer festivals. On the other hand, the year 1809 looms large this summer, as it was the year of Haydn's death and Mendelssohn's birth. You can find lots of piano trios and string quartets from both of them.


However, anniversary celebrations are most useful when they bring attention to lesser-known composers or works. So this summer's Purcell performances - he was born 350 years ago - are especially welcome. Montreal Baroque focussed on him in a big way in June. In July Toronto Masque Theatre is taking their production of The Fairy Queen to Elora, and organist Andrew Grant is playing an all-Purcell recital for Stratford Summer Music. As well, Toronto Summer Music has taken an interest in the Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů, who died in Switzerland in 1959.


Next year, look for celebrations of Chopin and Schumann. They were both born in 1810.


Colin Eatock, Managing Editor

We at The WholeNote are big fans of summer festivals – and we’re proud to welcome you to our fifth annual Green Pages guide to summer festivals.

This is the time of year when musicians play in parks, churches and even the streets. Summer festivals – whether taking place in the countryside or in a big city – often provide experiences that can’t be had at any other time of the year. They allow performers to experiment with repertoire and ideas that might not be suitable in the “regular” season. And, for audience members, hearing music in new and different venues somehow makes it easier to listen with fresh ears. Perhaps this is why summer festival concerts are can be so memorable.

The following pages contain a rich and varied assortment of forty music festivals. You’ll find classical music festivals, large and small – some offering a wide range of programming, others specializing in orchestral music, chamber repertoire, early music, or opera. As well, there are festivals for jazz, blues, folk musics of all kinds. Some are right here in the Toronto area, others are located in Ontario and Quebec, and there are also a few festivals from the Maritimes. Some are new, some are old – and some are celebrating anniversaries.

Read more: June is Busting Out All Over


When is a ploy not a ploy?

A word of reassurance or condolence, depending on your musical proclivities. Calling April “opera month”, as Chris Hoile does this month doesn’t mean every other musical genre vanishes from the scene. But it’s an interesting intellectual exercise, applying a particular thematic lens to our monthly snapshot of the musical landscape. If April were an opera festival in Southern Ontario, look at all the stuff that would qualify for the brochure!

Another example of this: I remember going to a very early meeting of an informal group that was to evolve into the Coalition of New Music Presenters of Toronto. It was around the time the TSO was abandoning its stewardship of the annual November Massey Hall New Music Festival. “Well, just take what’s going on in new music in November and call it a festival” was my cheerful suggestion (not particularly well received at the time). A marketing ploy, someone called it. Ploys can be good, if they get you seeing things afresh. So, opera month it is. WholeNote says so.

Speaking of festivals …

Read more: A bit of this … a bit of that
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