2012 Toronto Summer Music Festival unveils impressive guest list

Tenor Colin Ainsworth joins the Nash Ensemble at Koerner Hall on Aug. 2 for a concert that includes Ralph Vaughan Williams' On Wenlock Edge and Edward Elgar's Piano Quintet.

Tickets go on sale Monday morning for the 2012 edition of the Toronto Summer Music Festival, which runs July 17 to Aug. 4. At this point in its history, it deserves to be called a chamber-music festival, but while the musical forces may be small-scaled, the talents involved are considerable.

Artistic director Douglas McNabney’s second year sees the début here of the Soul Spring Festival Ensemble, South Korea’s equivalent to the Musicians from Marlboro. There are many names coming more familiar to Torontonians, including baritone Gerald Finley, the Borodin Quartet, a return for the Nash Ensemble and Vienna Piano Trio and a festival-opening recital by pianist André Laplante, the man who opened the first Toronto Summer Music Festival.

As in past years, the visiting artists do double-duty, teaching and giving master classes to an international cohort of advanced music students who, in turn, will provide free concerts in and around home base of University of Toronto during the festival period.

Returning also this year are three late-night experimental concerts, introduced by McNabney last summer.

The 2012 festival features an opening flourish of three consecutive nights at Koerner Hall:

  • Tuesday, July 17: André Laplante in a fearsome and alluring programme of pieces by Franz Liszt, Maurice Ravel, a Busoni adaptation of J.S. Bach and two short pieces by veteran Montreal composer François Morel.
  • Wednesday, July 18: Baritone Gerald Finley and pianist Stephen Ralls walk the tightrope between highbrow and middlebrow in a programme that includes Robert Schumann’s Liederkreis as well as Sir Arthur Sullivan’s treacly Lost Chord. (In case you want to hear Finley in a more pastoral setting, he is also presenting a recital at Westben, in Cambellford, on July 22.)
  • Thursday, July 19: The Soul Spring Festival Ensemble (in piano quintet plus extra violin form) arrives with an all-French programme that includes the exquisitely intense Concert by Ernest Chausson and Gabriet Fauré’s Piano Quartet No. 1.

There’s something worth going to pretty much every day, but there are a few more highlights to point out:

  • The Gryphon Trio, augmented by Scott St. John and Steven Dann, in an all-Bohemian concert that includes Antonin Dvorák’s delicious Piano Quintet No. 2, at Koerner Hall on July 26.
  • The Cecilia Quartet will reprise the gorgeous Cypresses they’ve just released on CD in the company of Honens Piano Competition laureate Gregory Tchaidze, at Walter Hall on Aug. 1.
  • Tenor Colin Ainsworth, who did such a great job in Opera Atelier’s Armide this past week, joins the Nash Ensemble at Koerner Hall on Aug. 2 for a concert that includes two of my desert-island pieces of music: Ralph Vaughan Williams’ On Wenlock Edge and Edward Elgar’s Piano Quintet.

Tickets go on sale Monday, April 23, and all festival details should be posted then on the Toronto Summer Musical Festival website.


Here, to get us in the mood, is the full orchestral version of On Wenlock Edge, courtesy of conductor Simon Rattle, the City of Birmingham Symphony and tenor Robert Tear. Pour yourself a nice drink, find a comfortable seat, an enjoy an enchanted ride:

John Terauds


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