TORONTO CONCERT REVIEWS

Music reviews of the finest concerts in Toronto and beyond!
- ​symphonic, choral, opera, chamber, jazz and period music​ -

(l-r) Emily Fons as Hansel and Simone Osborne as Gretel in the Canadian Opera Company’s new production of Hansel & Gretel
​Photo credit: Michael Cooper

Cellist Cameron Crozman; Photo credit: www.cameroncrozman.com

Santiago Ballerini as Count Almaviva (right) in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of The Barber of Seville, 2020; Photo credit: Michael Cooper 

It has become commonplace for the Royal Conservatory Orchestra to impress with virtuosic, committed performances. Last Friday night's concert at Koerner Hall was no exception. Under the baton of Johannes Debus, the orchestra displayed an ideal combination of mature artistry and youthful energy in works that would challenge the finest professional orchestras. 


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Review by David Richards
Toronto ON May 18th 2020

It is always special for an orchestra to have an extraordinary artist perform a concerto, but when a member of the orchestra steps out front, there can be an extra sense of anticipation. Such was the case last night when Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Principal Cellist Joseph Johnson performed the most beloved cello concerto of the entire symphonic repertoire at Roy Thomson Hall


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Review by David Richards
Toronto ON January 27th 2020

Two great albums by Cameron Crozman

Review by David Richards
Toronto ON March 7th 2020

Canadian Opera Company’s Hansel & Gretel opens with plenty of surprises!​

Review by David Richards
Toronto ON March 30th 2020

Review by David Richards
Toronto ON March 9th 2020

As the world tries to cope with the coronavirus and all of the implications, I have been thinking about the freelance musicians whose lives have been turned upside down by the necessary curtailment of public gatherings and the consequent cancellation of their performance dates and their livelihood. Duo Kalysta, comprising flautist Lara Deutsch and harpist Emily Belvedere was promoting their first album, Origins, when the pandemic crossed off any upcoming dates on their calendars. 


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Now into the second week of social distancing and the cancellation of concerts across the country, we have been on the lookout for artists who have been affected directly in order to bring attention to their music available digitally. The acclaimed cello duo, VC2, comprising Canadian cellists Amahl Arulanandam and Bryan Holt has been on tour this winter. We caught up with them after a Prairie Debut livestream last week in Canmore, AB. Their recording entitled Beethoven’s Cellists features works by cellist composers who were friends of Beethoven as well as by Canadian composers, friends and colleagues of the duo. Each of the contemporary works is based on one of the five Beethoven Cello Sonatas.


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Director Elisa Citterio (who did not play in yesterday’s performance) made a judicious choice in programming “Dreaming Jupiter,” a production directed and “curated” by Vittorio Ghielmi and played by him and the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra. Ghielmi is a talented, young musician with a passion for his instrument and its repertoire. He has the enthusiasm and competence to realize important projects.


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The Indigo Project: Yet another multimedia triumph for Alison Mackay and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra

Cellist Joseph Johnson, conductor Aziz Shokhakimov and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra; Photo credit: Jag Gundu

Review by David Richards
Toronto ON February 18th 2020

The Barber of Seville: entertainment that has it all!​

Royal Conservatory Orchestra with Johannes Debus leaves a lasting impression!

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s free concert brings out the crowds!

This Sunday marks International Women’s Day with its theme, “An Equal World Is an Enabled World”. It may or may not have been coincidental that on this weekend, two of the world’s outstanding female musicians are performing to full houses at the Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall. Last night, the incomparable violinist, Kyung Wha Chung, returned to Toronto after many years to make her Koerner Hall debut. Her supreme artistry and soulful approach to the core violin repertoire was apparent from the first notes she played. 


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The remarkable French pianist, Hélène Grimaud, came to Toronto on the International Day for Women to present a solo recital at Koerner Hall. It was her third appearance since the Hall opened eleven years ago, this time to perform a collection of small-scale pieces found on her 2018 album, Memory, as well as the contrasting music of Robert Schumann’s Kreisleriana. The sell-out audience speaks to her international reputation as one of the leading pianists of her generation.


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Cameron Crozman is without doubt a generational talent, but he is more than that: he is an artist with a unique perspective on music and performance. It isn’t surprising that the brilliant young Canadian cellist would produce two unusual and distinctive albums as his first forays into recording.


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Beethoven’s Cellists: Two cellos with music that sparks the imagination

Vittorio Ghielmi, guest director and soloist with Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra; ​Photo credit: Dahlia Katz

Review by Paul Merkley F.R.S.C.
Toronto ON May 14th 2020

Pianist Sae Yoon Chon, Maestro Roberto De Clara
and Oakville Symphony Orchestra

Yesterday, the Royal Conservatory’s Koerner Hall kick-started its own celebratory year with an all-Beethoven program by the remarkable Canadian pianist, Louis Lortie. One only turns 250 once, so why not take the whole year. And when it’s Beethoven, no one is complaining about hearing too much of his music. Koerner Hall began its Beethoven deluge with the Invesco Piano Concerts last fall when András Schiff included Beethoven and Yefim Bronfman gave an all-Beethoven concert.  There will be much more to come as we approach Beethoven’s birthday of December 16 or 17.


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Review by David Richards
Toronto ON February 7th 2020

Opera Atelier Launches its New Season with a sparkling preview​

Opera Atelier: Together/Apart
​Live streaming event: 8pm May 20 2020

For this Valentine’s Day weekend, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra fittingly featured two enduringly popular works by renowned late Romantic Russian composers: the powerfully emotive Piano Concerto #2 in C-, Op. 18 by Sergei Rachmaninoff (1873-1943), and the fantastical Scheherazade, Op. 35 by Nikolai Rimsky-Kosakov (1844-1908).  


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What a performance of The Barber of Seville: great singing, a tight orchestra, imaginative, funny, colourful and even a little thought-provoking in its satire! The Canadian Opera Company production currently on a run of eight performances through February 7th has it all. It’s no wonder that it remains one of the world’s most popular operas over two hundred years after its first performance. 


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Louis Lortie kicks off Beethoven’s 250th birthday party at Koerner Hall ​

The Oakville Symphony hit all the right buttons for this past weekend’s concerts that Artistic Director Roberto De Clara coined as Romantic Fantasy! The program ranged from late Beethoven to Mahler and spanned Russian, German, French and Italian music. It included art song, opera, ballet and a stunning piano concerto with virtuosic soloists sharing the stage. What could be more Romantic than the story of Romeo and Juliet? Three of the selections referenced the famous Shakespearian love story.


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The TSO Creates a Romance of Melody on Valentines Weekend 

Daniil Trifonov gave an electric performance this past Friday night at Koerner Hall. His program featured a selection of Russian works by Scriabin, Borodin and Prokofiev, as well as one of Beethoven’s most beloved late sonatas. Throughout the recital, Trifonov displayed his control of counterpoint and textures (aided by his masterful pedaling), an extensive palate of sounds and colors, beautiful lyricism and his ability to immediately shift from intimate atmospheres to rabid outbursts of passion and despair.  


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A Romantic Fantasy at the Oakville Symphony!

Hélène Grimaud weaves a musical tapestry of piano textures!

Review by Paul Merkley F.R.S.C.
Toronto ON January 28th 2020

Pianist Daniil Trifonov; ​​Photo credit: www.daniiltrifonov.com

Pianist Stephen Hough, guest conductor Elim Chan and TSO
​​Photo credit: Jag Gundu

Feet of Blue; Photo credit: Tim McLaughlan, MAIWA

If you were ever to wonder about the blue in denim, or how “jeans” got to be called “jeans”, the answers are in Alison Mackay and Tafelmusik’s latest creation entitled The Indigo Project playing at the Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity-St. Paul Centre this weekend and at the George Weston Recital Hall on Tuesday March 3rd 2020.  Mackay, Suba Sankaran, a world/fusion vocalist, and Trichy Sankaran, a virtuoso percussionist, have teamed up to present an immensely engaging and enlightening multi-media look at the world of indigo dye, its origins, its effects on European culture in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and its lasting legacy in today’s world. 


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Opera Atelier is one of Toronto’s artistic treasures, and last night it previewed its 35th anniversary season at St. Lawrence Hall. The company is rare if not unique in undertaking period performances of Baroque operas and in approaching them with meticulous choreographic expression by dancers and singers; artistic co-directors Marshall Pynkoski and Jeannette Lajeunesse Zingg (both recently awarded the Order of Canada) are dancing masters. They are already fully engaged (the co-directors and the company take the time needed to make these representations spectacular and of high quality in every way) in preparing for the Eastertide performance of Handel’s Resurrection. Dancers Juri Hiraoka and Kevin Law, both armed with swords, danced a pas de deux from the opera, angels storming the gates of Hell. Pynkoski and Lajeunesse Zingg drew the attention of the audience to the lightness of the Baroque choreography, to the upward motion of the dancers on the musical “downbeats.” 


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Rolston String Quartet Album Cover; Photo credit: Alexander Popelier

Joseph Johnson moves to the front of the TSO for Anton Dvořák’s Cello Concerto​

Royal Conservatory Orchestra with Guest Conductor Johannes Debus and Marimba Soloist Zuri Wells 
​Photo credit: The Royal Conservatory/Koerner Hall; Lisa Sakulensky 

On the afternoon of February 2, 2020, in the Royal Conservatory’s venerable Mazzoleni Concert Hall, the respected Hungarian-born trumpeter, Gábor Tarkövi, made his Toronto debut, joined by the distinguished Canadian pianist Benjamin Smith. This recital was presented by The Royal Conservatory as part of its Glenn Gould School Mazzoleni Masters Series and was sponsored by season sponsor BMO Financial and season media sponsor The Toronto Star.


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Gábor Tarkövi​; Photo credit:www.tarkoevigabor.com

Review by David Richards
Toronto ON February 24th 2020

Amahl Arulanandam and Bryan Holt, VC2 Cello Duo
Photo credit: Bo Huang Photography

Review by Jeff Mitchell
Toronto ON February 3rd 2020

Vittorio Ghielmi and Tafelmusik dream Jupiter under the Super Moon​

Review by Tristan Savella
Toronto ON February 21st 2020

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and conductor John William Trotter
Photo credit: TMC

They lined up outside Yorkminster Park Baptist church and down the street waiting for the doors to open for a mid-winter gift to the city by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir.  On a bright, sunny and almost warm Saturday afternoon, choral music lovers came in droves and filled the mammoth church to hear the choir in a free concert.


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Roots: An album worth the time to listen!

Review by David Richards
Toronto ON January 23rd 2020

Artist of Atelier Ballet Tyler Gledhill and composer/violinist Edwin Huizinga in Opera Atelier’s production of The Angel Speaks at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Chicago; Photo credit: Bruce Zinger

Review by David Richards
Toronto ON March 22nd 2020

Pianist Hélène Grimaud; photo credit: helenegrimaud.com

Daniil Trifonov brings a program of mostly Russian piano music to Koerner Hall

Like many of us, you have probably been almost overwhelmed by the number and variety of performances made available to stream. Never have we so sorely needed the art that Shakespeare called “the food of love,” and not in recent experience has the production, performance, and economy of music been so grievously disrupted. Particularly painful are the cancellation of large, music-theatrical productions that were about to open; performers and directors having gone through the labours of Hercules to prepare, and having spent on personnel, props, costumes, and rehearsal space in expectation of making their money back at the gate. It is easy for us in the audience, charmed and absorbed by what we hear and see, to forget the colossal investment of time and resources that goes into an opera.


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In his fifty-three years on this earth (1840-1893), Pyotr Illych Tchaikovsky became the most popular of all Russian composers. The public has always loved his music: full of melodious, honest themes, rich harmonies, and full of orchestral colours, all of which stir the listener’s emotions.  It is no wonder that the Rolston String Quartet chose his music for their debut album. But Souvenirs is more than just another anthology of his chamber music. By including two of their mentors, Miguel da Silva and Gary Hoffman, in the album it is also a memoir of their seven years of developing into the world-class ensemble they have become.


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Pianist Meagan Milatz and violinist Amy Hillis, Meagan&Amy
Photo credit: Brent Calis Photography

Kyung Wha Chung and Kevin Kenner reach to the core of violin repertoire!

With the cancellation of concerts around the country, Jan and I considered how we could support some of the rising stars of classical music. It seemed to us that given the need for social distance and isolation, it would be a great time for people to get their music digitally. Could there be a better time to discover new musical voices?


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Kyung Wha Chung; Photo credit: kyungwhachung.com

Review by David Richards
Toronto ON February 3rd 2020

Review by David Richards
Toronto ON March 15th 2020

I first saw Engelbert Humperdinck’s only hit opera Hansel & Gretel during my first year of university in the UofT Opera School’s production. I found an unlocked door to the upper wings of the MacMillan Theatre and watched from there. It opened my eyes and ears to the world of opera that I had previously avoided. I was mesmerized by the magic of it all. The production created a straightforward visual of a rural 18th century German setting that portrayed the Brothers Grimm fairytale much as in my childhood books, complete with a gingerbread house and a fearsome witch. The current run at the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts by the Canadian Opera Company couldn’t be more of a contrast to my early memory.


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Review by Jeff Mitchell
Toronto ON February 18th 2020

Review by David Richards
Toronto ON February 28th 2020

Review by David Richards
Toronto ON January 31st 2020

Pianist Louis Lortie; Photo credit: www.elias-b.com

Origins (album cover); Photo credit: Brent Calis

Flute, harp and two award-winning artists…Duo Kalysta’s album of heavenly music!

Rolston String Quartet shows its world-class artistry in its debut album: Pyotr Illych Tchaikovsky: Souvenirs

Toronto Welcomes Gábor Tarkövi​

Review by Paul Merkley F.R.S.C.
Toronto ON February 10th 2020

Review by David Richards
Toronto ON May 11th 2020