Jan 30: Toronto classical concert highlights for the next seven days


These concert highlights are just the tip of this week’s musical iceberg in Toronto:

MONDAY

The Five Small Concerts presented by the Associates of the TSO are one of the city’s best-kept secrets. For $20 ($17 for students and seniors), ticket buyers get to hear members of the Toronto Symphony and their friends perform fine chamber music.

Joseph Johnson

Every TSO participant I’ve spoken to about this concert series has told me how much they enjoy the combination of freedom and focus that an occasional chamber music outing gives them. You can hear that enthusiasm in the performances.

Tonight’s first concert in the 2012 series promises to be particularly rich and satisfying. It could, with any luck, turn out to be one of the great chamber concerts of the season.

The performers are TSO violinists Peter Seminovs and Arkady Yanivker, violist Eric Nowlin, TSO principal cello Joseph Johnson, and cellist Emmanuelle Beaulieu Bergeron.

The program contains two substantial pieces: Franz Schubert’s final chamber work, the C Major String Quintet, D. 956 and the String Quintet in G Major, Op. 14, by Russian composer Sergei Taneyev (1856-1915).

Tickets and more info here.

Teneyev isn’t performed in this part of the world nearly often enough.

To give you an idea of his aesthetic, here is the first movement of his Op. 20 Piano Quartet, performed in St. Petersburg’s Small Philharmonic Hall in early December by violin Stanislav Izmailov, Oleg Larionov, viol, Viktor Koustov, cello, and pianist Maria Kamchilina-Larionova:

TUESDAY

  • Talisker Players, with tenor Rufus Müller and baritone Alexander Dobson, at Trinity-St. Paul’s Church, 8 p.m. (pre-concert chat at 7:15 p.m.). Repeats Wednesday at same time and place.

Rufus Müller

The music of the night is this concert’s theme for the Talisker Player’s typical blend of old and new music. Two excellent singers tackle two gorgeous pieces: Müller, who has done such exceptional work with Tafelmusik and the Toronto Symphony in recent seasons, sings Benjamin Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, while Dobson sings in Les violons dans le soir, by Camille Saint-Saëns.

Alexander Dobson

The newer works on the programme are: Laura Kaminsky’s Nightpiece for tenor, flute, clarinet, cello, piano; Larysa Kuzmenko’s Nocturne and Dance for soprano, flute, piano; John Plant’s La notte bella for baritone, violin, cello, piano; and Othmar Schoeck’s Notturno for baritone and string quartet. Text by Nikolaus Lenau and Gottfried Keller.

Tickets and more info here.

Here is a (not ideal) taste of the Saint-Saëns work, as performed at the Valencia Conservatory in Spain last spring by baritone Vicente Antequera, violinist Sandra Alfonso and pianist Francisco Pérez Perelló:

Canadian Opera Company free concert series

Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho

It’s Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho week in Toronto, as the Canadian Opera Company prepares to open her opera L’amour de loin at the Four Seasons Centre on Thursday evening.

  • Tuesday at noon, at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, the Elmer Iseler Singers, conductor Lydia Adams and soprano Carla Huhtanen perform the music of Saariaho. Free.
  • Thursday at noon, members of the COC’s Ensemble Studio perform the vocal music of Saariaho, with the composer providing the introductions. Free.

For more details, click here.

THURSDAY

  • Soundstreams presents The Sealed Angel at Koerner Hall, 8 p.m. Repeats Friday, same time and place.

Ever-inventive local concert producer Soundstreams has pulled together a combination of choral music and modern dance in a programme entitled The Sealed Angel, centred around a work of that title by veteran Russian composer Rodion Shchedrin. Also on the programme is Tag des Jahrs, by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho.

The first thing to know is that the music itself is rich, easily accessible stuff. Shchedrin’s Sealed Angel comes straight out of the Russian Orthodox choral tradition of tight, dark, parallel harmonies. This is liturgical music, lightly disguised to prevent religion-hating Soviet authorities from meddling with its 1988 premiere.

The second thing to know is that the Elmer Iseler Singers and Amadeus Choir, under music director Lydia Adams, are likely to give the choral pieces a fine reading. The same holds true for the five dancers from Robert Glumbek’s ProArteDanza company, who have been choreographed by Russian-German Lars Scheibner.

Scheibner was originally approached by the Berlin Radio Choir to add a dance component to a performance of The Sealed Angel. The Soundstreams presentation is Scheibner’s fifth time cordinating this music (which includes a recurring flute obbligato) with movement.

I sat through the first general rehearsal of all the performers together. The mass effect on stage is impressive. The music is gorgeous. And the five female dancers are very expressive.

I’m not sure the movement makes sense without knowing the full background of The Sealed Angel (a story by Nikolai Leskov, the same 19th century author who wrote Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk). But Shchedrin has admitted that the story really has nothing to do with the music anyway.

In some of its promotional material, Soundstreams has billed The Sealed Angel as a “choral opera,” which is definitely is not.

Confused? I was. So the secret is to merely enjoy the interplay of sound and movement, and leave questions of faith and meaning at the Telus Centre’s glass entrance doors.

For tickets and more information, click here.

To help provide a very small idea of what to expect, here is the State Choir of Latvia singing the opening moments of The Sealed Angel at Riga’s Dome Cathedral in 2009, followed by an iPhone video I made during rehearsal at the Winchester Street Theatre yesterday:

FRIDAY

Patricia O'Callaghan

  • Toronto Masque Theatre’s Masques of Love at the Enoch Turner Schoolhouse (106 Trinity St), 8 p.m. (with pre-show chat at 7:15 p.m.)

Toronto Masque Theatre is having some fun in anticipating Valentine’s Day with an evening of love-themed songs spanning more than five centuries. The programme includes an early commission, Omar Daniel’s Neruda Canciones, from 2006.

The excellent cast of performers is soprano Patricia O’Callaghan, singer/guitarist Ken Whiteley, soprano Teri Dunn, alto Vicki St. Pierre, tenor Michiel Schrey, baritone Giles Tomkins, lutenist Terry McKenna and actor Martin Julien.

For tickets and more information, click here.

SATURDAY

  • BachFest II at Metropolitan United Church, 7:30 p.m.

Theorbo player Benjain Stein and collaborators Sara-Anne Churchill, on keyboards, and sax player Daniel Rubinoff are at the core of a free-flowing exploration of the endless possibilities offered by the music of J.S. Bach.

The vast interior of Metropolitan United adds a lot of atmosphere, and admission is only $20.

SUNDAY

Maurice Steger

Les Violons du Roy and recorder player Maurice Steger at Koerner Hall, 3 p.m.

There probably aren’t too many people in the world who think of recorders as sexy. Yet, through sheer charisma, German vituoso Maurice Steger manages to achieve that rare feat.

He joins the well-loved Violons du Roy in a programme of Baroque favourites by Handel, Telemann, Sammartini and Geminiani that should provide winter-warming smiles and fireworks.

For tickets and info, click here.

Here is Steger playing some Corelli in Switzerland not too long ago (the credits are on the video):

John Terauds

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