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

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An all-Bach weekend in Stratford for Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra

Canada’s Daniel Taylor sings with Tafelmusik in Stratford on Sunday afternoon.

This year’s expanded Stratford Summer Music festival includes the local début of Toronto’s Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra on Saturday and Sunday at St Andrew’s Church. Continue reading

An operatic synonym for bittersweet at the Gladstone Hotel

Scott Belluz and Tracy Smith Bessette in Ross Manson and Ashiq Aziz’s A Synonym for Love, adapted from an opera by George Frideric Handel, at the Gladstone Hotel (John Terauds iPhone photo).

The performing arts are an ecosystem where birth and death are forever locked in a passionate tango. The year’s most fascinating operatic gambit — coming to life at the Gladstone Hotel Sunday through Aug. 31 — is a case in point. Continue reading

Classical music clings to youthful saviours as Roy Thomson Hall announces 2012-13 season

Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Martinez makes her solo Toronto début at the Glenn Gould Studio on Feb. 22 (Monica Trejo photo).

There isn’t much classical programming any more from Roy Thomson Hall with the demise of its mainstage concert series. But what may be missing in quantity is still there in youthful quality, according to today’s announcement of the 2012-13 season.

The best news is that Roy Thomson Hall continues its advocacy of rising vocal talents with a series of four recitals with piano at the Glenn Gould Studio collectively billed as Canadian Voices. 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

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