CD Reviews: Two dashes of passion and finesse from Argentina

New York pianist Mirian Conti (Nan Melville photo).

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

Weekend listening: Canadian Opera Company’s Nixon in China, Les Violons du Roy in London, great pianists in Switzerland

Robert Orth and Maria Kanyova as Richard and Pat Nixon in the Canadian Opera Company’s 2010 production of John Adams’s Nixon in China (Michael Cooper photo).

CBC Radio 2’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera today broadcasts the Canadian Opera Company’s 2010-11 season production of John Adams’ Nixon in China, starting at 1 p.m. Eastern. Continue reading

Concert review: Toronto Reunion glows by way of Brahms and Tchaikovsky at Walter Hall

There was chemistry in the ad hoc string ensemble at Toronto Summer Music Festival’s concert on Friday night (Margaret Lam iPhone photo).

Toronto Summer Music Festival audience members who experienced Friday night’s performance of Brahms’ Sextet No. 2 and Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence by some of Canada’s leading musicians were no doubt left in awe. 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).


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

CD Review: Phantasm viol consort brightens up broken musical rules of William Lawes

William Lawes, Consorts to the Organ (Linn)

English viol consort Phantasm has released a new album that celebrates the weird-and-wonderful musical world of William Lawes (1602-1645) with a collection of “consorts to the organ” that were performed at court, in the company of the composer’s friend and patron, King Charles I.

This chamber music, written in a polyphonic style where the viols pass the main musical lines to each other casually, as if playing a game of pitch-and-catch, is so unusual that Phantasm founder, director and viol master Laurence Dreyfus has written an accompanying essay, “Consorts to the Organ — A Guide to the Perplexed.” Continue reading

Competitions: If you can’t beat ’em, blow ’em away, says Toronto Summer Music guest Dong-Suk Kang

Violinist Dong-Suk Kang performs an all-French chamber concert with the Seoul Spring Festival Ensemble at Koerner Hall tonight.

Violinist Dong-Suk Kang is, like so many people in the classical music world, caught in a Catch-22.

When the South Korean was trying to establish a career in the West in the 1970s, he competed as much as he was able, winning enough prestigious prizes to get noticed by orchestras and concert presenters. Now, as a veteran of the concert stage and recording studio, he is frequently invited to adjudicate.

But that doesn’t mean Kang likes what he sees and hears. Continue reading

CD Reviews: Pure pianistic sunshine from Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco vs the dark moods of Guillaume Lekeu

Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Piano Concertos Nos 1 & 2 (Naxos)

Pure sunshine and boundless energy come to mind in listening to two neglected piano concertos by Italian composer Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco (1895-1968).

Fellow countryman Alessando Marangoni, who has been rollicking his way through the pianistic bonbons Gioachino Rossini scattered in his wake after retiring from the opera world, attacks these three-movement showpieces with the relish of a child who has just landed in the world’s finest sandbox with a shiny new shovel and bucket. Continue reading