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

Opera review: A clever blend of Baroque and modern in A Synonym for Love at the Gladstone Hotel

Emily Atkinson as Teresa in Volcano Theatre and Classical Music Consort production of A Synonym for Love at the Gladstone Hotel (John Lauener photo).

Take something like an opera, give it something like a staging across four floors of a Victorian hotel, and you either have a treat or a disaster on your hands.

Fortunately for the clever troupe of singers, actors and orchestra musicians having the dramatic time of their lives at the Gladstone Hotel until Aug. 31, their modern English adaptation of George Frideric Handel’s 1707 cantata Clori, Trisi e Fileno, renamed A Synonym for Love, is an unqualified success. Continue reading

Two CD releases show off the art of composer Camille Saint-Saëns

Camille Saint-Saëns in his element — on a steamship.

Repeat something enough times with conviction, and people start to believe it, whether it has to do with politics, economics or art.

French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, who bridged the Romantic and Modern eras thanks to an 86-year lifespan, was treated as a relic of a bygone age by his obituarists and university lecturers.

It’s a status that does not square with a legacy of rich craft he left behind, and which deserves a fresh look and listen now that we can have some perspective on the aesthetic steamroller of Modernism. Continue reading

A newspaper critic, not a blogger, is Canada’s potshot king

(Caroline de Léry photo.)

It’s best not to speak ill of other people, but…

On Sunday morning, Claude Gingras, Montreal’s last full-time classical music crtitic, on staff at French-language daily La Presse practically since the days of the Quiet Revolution, published a chronicle of his concert adventures during a one-day musical marathon organised by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra the day before. Continue reading

DVD review: Renée Fleming and Christian Thielemann a great Richard Strauss match

Renée Fleming sang Strauss Lieder in Salzburg a year ago, accompanied by conductor Christian Thielemann and the Vienna Philharmonic.

Exactly one year ago, Renée Fleming sang an all-Strauss programme at the Grosses Festspielhaus in Salzburg and, wrapped in a half-hectare of black tulle, brought the house down. Continue reading

CD Reviews: Two dashes of passion and finesse from Argentina

New York pianist Mirian Conti (Nan Melville photo).

MIRIAN CONTI
Nostalgias Argentinas (Steinway & Sons)

Here is music made for the dog days of summer — meditative and melancholy pieces for a shady hammock in the afternoon, tangos for twilight pleasure — from New York City-based pianist Mirian Conti. A native of Argentina, Conti has spent many years championing young pianists as well as the rich store of tuneful music written for her instrument in that country. Continue reading

Concert review: Nash Ensemble and Colin Ainsworth ace all-English Toronto Summer Music programme

Tenor Colin Ainsworth joined the Nash Ensemble at Koerner Hall on Thursday night (Liz Parker photo).

There are great performances and then there are magnificent ones like the first of two recitals the Nash Ensemble presented for Toronto Summer Music on Thursday night. Continue reading