CD review: A magical 500-year leap backwards into the wonders of the Eton Choirbook

A page from the Eton Choirbook representing a motet by composer John Browne, whose reationship with the fabled school started as a choirboy in the 1460s.

There was an in-joke among English choristers in the late 15th century: “The French sing, Italians shake, Germans wail and the Enlish rejoice” (Galli cantant, Italiae capriant, Germani ululant, Anglici jublilant, in the original Latin).

The national slurs are silly, of course, but it’s pretty much impossible not to reach a state of bliss after listening to a new album featuring seven pieces chosen by English a capella choir Tonus Peregrinus from the Eton Choirbook, one of the rare sources of English sacred music from the closing decades of the 1400s. Continue reading


Listening: The ghosts of Wagners future and past hover over Gluck, Elgar and Schoenberg

Susan Graham starred in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Iphigénie en Tauride, desolately staged by expat Torontonian Robert Carsen.

Grabbing the heart with text and music takes many forms. This weekend, we have a chance to sample opera reduced to its essence, and two very operatic ways of crafting oratorio and cantata.

The first comes via CBC Radio 2’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, which broadcasts the Canadian Opera Company’s critically praised production of Christoph Willibald Gluck’s 1779 masterpiece, Iphigénie en Tauride, featuring American mezzo Susan Graham in the title role. Continue reading

Bach’s eternal challenge: There are two forests for every set of trees

Once in a while, stating the obvious can turn on a little lightbulb.

The Pacific Standard (formerly Miller-McCune) reported yesterday that a Dutch psychologist and a team of researchers have concluded that people who see the big picture (specifically in visual art and poetry) make better critics. Continue reading

Summer music festivals: Highlights for the week of July 30

The Cecilia String Quartet presents a Toronto Summer Music recital on Wednesday.

The final week of this year’s Toronto Summer Music Festival continues its pan-European chamber music journey. Three concerts in particular promise some exceptional musicmaking. Continue reading

CD Reviews: Bostonians’ Haydn Creation impresses; viola stands out in hands of Sarah-Jane Bradley

Joseph Haydn, The Creation (Linn)

Boston Baroque and its founding artistic director Martin Pearlman have done Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) proud in a sparkling new recording of The Creation, one of the masterworks of the oratorio repertoire.

The Viennese composer was so impressed by the oratorios of George Frideric Handel, that he had to write one of his own. The 1798 result, based on the Book of Genesis and John Milton’s Paradise Lost, was an instant hit, its popularity quickly spreading to other parts of Europe. Continue reading

Summer music festivals: Highlights for the week of July 16

André Laplante opens the Toronto Summer Music Festival at Koerner Hall on Tuesday (Samira Bouaou photo).

Toronto Summer Music Festival artistic director Douglas McNabney has come up with such a strong list of performers for this year’s edition that there isn’t a single concert that isn’t worth attending.

There is something worthwhile every day, including events related to the academy side of the three-week event, such as a masterclass on Thursday morning by baritone Gerald Finley. Continue reading

Concert review: A powerful, satisfying Elijah kicks off Elora Festival’s 33rd season

Brett Polegato sings during the Elora Festival performance of Elijah on Friday night (Bill Longshaw photo).

In a world where conductors flit about from podium to podium, the Elora Festival’s Noel Edison is proof of the power of connecting one person to a community, allowing everything and everyone — including the audience — to grow in the process.

At the opening of the 33rd season of the annual Festival, Edison led a remarkable performance of Elijah, the 1846 oratorio by Felix Mendelssohn that tells the story of the Biblical prophet in two-and-a-half hours of powerful, moving, beautifully layered choruses and airs. Continue reading