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

Summer music festivals: Highlights for the week of July 23

Violinist Scott St. John is is a busy guest at this week’s instalment of the Toronto Summer Music Festival (Peter Checchia photo).

IN TORONTO

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. 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

Three concerts featuring the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge help open summer festival season

The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge performs at the Elora and Music Niagara festivals this weekend.

The Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge helps launch the southern Ontario summer music festival season this weekend with three concerts, including a performance of Felix Mendelssohn’s grand oratorio, Elijah, at the Elora Festival tonight. Continue reading

Friday night: Three small but significant concerts for different sensibilities

New Yorker Dan Tepfer riffs on the Goldberg Variations tonight.

There are three very different concerts tonight that come from three deep traditions that play to three very different sorts of sensibilities: Continue reading

CD Review: Jean Mouton’s Renaissance polyphony in its full glory

THE BRABANT ENSEMBLE
Missa tu es Petrus (Hyperion)

There’s an alchemical reaction that takes place when Renaissance polyphony is sung well: the layers of voices (Thomas Tallis made it up to 40 in 1570) set up rhythmic vibrations — some sympathetic, some not — that open up trap doors to mystical depths. Continue reading