So far this year, artistic director Douglas McNabney has shown impeccable judgment in his choice of performers for the seventh Toronto Summer Music Festival.
This week, the focus is on great works from the chamber music canon, in various permutations of instruments. There isn’t a dodgy choice in the lot.
One of this week’s special guests is Scott St. John, who could once be regularly seen wandering our streets, violin case in hand. He has escaped from his St. Lawrence Quartet-mates for a few weeks to reacquaint himself with his old hometown.
Besides evening concerts, the festival offers free concerts at noon featuring mentors and students on Wednesday at the North York Public Library and Thursday at the Church of the Redeemer (corner of Avenue Rd and Bloor St).
Tuesday: The Zukerman Chamber Players (led by National Arts Centre Orchestra music director, violinist Pinchas Zukerman) arrive bearing two meaty piano quintets, by Robert Schumann and Dmitri Shostakovich. Their pianist is the indomitable Angela Cheng. Koerner Hall, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday: London’s Wigmore Hall loves them so much, it made the Vienna Piano Trio their ensemble in residence last season. Since 2006, they have also been residents at the Mozartsaal at the Konzerthaus in Vienna. Violinist Wolfgang Redik, cellist Matthias Gredler and pianist Stefan Mendl should do their hometown proud in a programme of trios by Joseph Haydn, Johannes Brahms and Robert Schumann. Walter Hall, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday: Scott St. John joins Toronto musical heroes, the Grypon Trio and violist Steven Dann, for a sweet, emotionally rich Bohemian programme of pieces by Antonin Dvorák and Bedrich Smetana. Koerner Hall, 7:30 p.m.
Friday: Bringing together soloists who don’t play together regularly often produces particularly intense performances. This would suit the Sextet No. 1 by Johannes Brahms and Peter Ilyitch Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence very nicely. The soloists in question are violinists St. John, Mark Fewer, violists Dann and Sharon Wei, and cellists Shauna Rolston and Mathias Gredler. Walter Hall, 7:30 p.m.
Saturday: The two “mentors and fellows” concerts include the high-powered soloists from the week’s musical candybox. Walter Hall, 4 p.m & 7:30 p.m.
For all the details on Toronto Summer Music Festival concerts as well as lectures and masterclasses, click here.
Monday at Music Niagara: Pianist Leslie Kinton leads a fascinating lecture-recital on Dvorák’s Op. 81 Piano Quintet. He is joined by the festival’s resident Gould String Quartet (headed by festival artistic director and Toronto Symphony Orchestra first violin, Atis Bankas). St Mark’s Anglican Church, 7:30 p.m. Details here.
Tuesday at Westben: Joel Quarrington continues to remind us that not all of the world’s great double-bass players gravitate to jazz. He presents a substantial and engaging programme of solo music that includes pieces by Schumann, Brahms, Sergei Rachmaninov and Erich Korngold. Festival Barn, 7 p.m. Details here.
Wednesday at Festival of the Sound: Artistic director James Campbell has a knack for programming an entire day, so that one wants to arrive for the opening concert at noon and stay right through to the end of the evening. Today’s riches include: a concert of new music that demonstrates how sound and colour work together, featuring brilliant young Canadian composer-pianist Dinuk Wijeratne, who is visiting from Halifax, at noon. At 2:30 pianist Jamie Parker presents a gorgeous, full-length recital. At 7:30, the wonderful pianist Martin Roscoe teams up with the New Zealand String Quartet in a compelling programme featuring the music of Ludwig van Beethoven, Johannes Brahms and Samuel Barber. All concerts take place at the Charles W. Stockey Centre for the Performing Arts in Parry Sound. Details here.
Thursday at Elora Festival: The hottest thing in Early Music these days is New York Polyphony, an a cappella male quartet with a love of the music of the Renaissance. Don’t take my word for it; listen to their performance of Palestrina’s setting of Sicut cervus, recorded at the Church of St Mary-the-Virgin in New York City recently. St John’s Church, 8 p.m. Details here. (The quartet also sings for Music Niagara at St Mark’s Church on Saturday at 8 p.m.)
J.S. Bach’s Art of the Fugue: Continuing its homage to the legacy of Glenn Gould in Stratford, the theatre town’s summer music festival presents three wonderful young organists over three consecutive days to take listeners through J.S. Bach’s life summary for the keyboard. 11:15 a.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, at St James’ Church. Details here.
Sunday at Elora Festival: Toronto’s Larry Beckwith, who led a gorgeous concert performance of Henry Purcell’s opera Dido & Aeneas at the Sharon Temple in June, tries it again in Elora, with a different cast of singers. It’s pretty much guaranteed to be a treat. Gambrel Barn, 2 p.m. Details here.
Driving notes: Keep in mind that there is construction on just about every road leading in and out of Toronto this summer, so check your route to make sure your driving time really is what you think it should be.