TORONTO CONCERT REVIEWS

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

Kerem Hasan conducts Beethoven Eroica Symphony; Photo credit: @Jag Gundu

If there was ever a concert I would love to go back to for a second listen, it would be last night’s concert  by Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir at Koerner Hall. As exciting and rewarding as it was to hear once, it was clear that there was such great music embodied in it that a return visit would be equally rewarding. It repeats tonight and tomorrow (May 11 and 12). It goes without saying that both choir and orchestra were superb. Led by Chamber Choir Director Ivars Taurins, the music had a celebratory and dramatic fervor. Taurens’s energy was palpable.


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A Heroic Evening: the TSO performs Debussy, Szymanowski, and Beethoven​

The TSO hosted the talented 26-year old conductor Kerem Hasan last night, standing in at the last minute for Louis Langrée who was ill. Hasan will direct the Innsbruck Symphony Orchestra beginning this fall. If I may judge from this performance—and that is a bit difficult given the short rehearsal time he had with the orchestra—he hears much of the repertoire in a structural way, rather than emphasizing expressive harmonic details. At times he reminded me a bit of Boulez. 


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The jazz concert of the year so far occurred last night at Koerner Hall, showcasing the great Robi Botos on piano with an all-star quintet consisting of Mike Downes, bass, Larnell Lewis, drums, Tim Ries, saxophone and Randy Brecker, trumpet.  This magnificent performance was an awesome conclusion to this season’s TD Jazz series, part of Koerner Hall’s 10th Anniversary season, sponsored by BMO Financial and the Toronto Star. The concert, which had been sold out for months, was live-streamed worldwide, allowing those who could not get a ticket to share in this experience of an artist whose 2018 album,Old Soul, won a Juno award for best jazz album of the year.


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You will want a hand to hold in the gripping final moments of Canadian Opera Company’s La Bohème..

The Eybler Quartet; Photo credit: David Kennedy

Eybler Quartet releases its latest CD and gives glimpses of new projects in an intimate concert!

Hungarian conductor András Keller set to lead the Royal Conservatory Orchestra in a program of Russian music

TSO, Amadeus Choir, Elmer Iseler Singers, conductor Matthew Halls in Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony​Photo credit: Jag Gundu

Robi Botos; Photo credit: Tracy Nolan Studios

​​by Paul Merkley F.R.S.C.
T
oronto ON April 28th 2019

​​by Paul Merkley F.R.S.C.
T
oronto ON May 4th 2019

​​by David Richards
T
oronto ON May 5th 2019

Louis Lortie, Sir Andrew Davis and TSO; Photo credit: Jag Gundu

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir inspired by new venue for Sacred Music in a Sacred Space

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir: Photo credit: Tafelmusik

Jeanne Lamon directed Tafelmusik from 1981 to 2014; yesterday she led the ensemble in a performance of classical-period music. Tafelmusik is specialized in the Baroque period, but this repertoire is well within its purview.

The afternoon began with Mozart’s Symphony in G minor K 183, composed in 1773. The orchestra had 9 violins, 3 violas, 3 cellos, a bass, a flute, two oboes, two bassoons, and four horns (the right size), and therefore producing the right sound for this repertoire, especially the elegant qualities in Mozart’s phrasing and balance. A harpsichord could have been included—the keyboard continuo would have been the composer’s position—instead, Lamon played her violin from the podium as the ‘leader,’ a practice well documented in the period.


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TSO & Sir Andrew Davis exude exquisite balance

​​by David Richards
T
oronto ON May 11th 2019

What has made Giacomo Puccini’sLa Bohèmeone of the most popular operas of our time? According toOpera Sense, it is number four on the list of those most performed by major opera companies in the 2017-18 season right behind Verdi’sLa Traviata, Bizet’sCarmen, and Mozart’sMagic Flute. Yesterday’s gripping performance by theCanadian Opera Company at the Four Season’s Centre for the Performing Arts provided many of the answers.


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Yuja Wang and Gautier Capuҫon: A masterful performance to be long-remembered!​

Yuja Wang and Gautier Capuҫon accept the standing ovation
​Photo credit: David Kennedy

Robi Botos and Friends​

​​by Jeff Mitchell
T
oronto ON May 5th 2019

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Sacred Music for a Sacred Space
​at St. Anne’s Anglican Church

​​Review by David Richards
T
oronto ON April 20th 2019

​​Review by Paul Merkley FRSC
T
oronto ON April 14th 2019

Last night at the intimate performance space in the Burdock Brewery, the Eybler Quartet released its latest CD, Beethoven String Quartets Op.18, Nos. 4,5 and 6. In the  informal performance space that resembled a sound studio usually associated with amplified groups, the quartet performed music from its latest album and provided a bonus of some unexpected music from two current projects. 


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Royal Conservatory Orchestra 

Russell Thomas (centre) as Otello in the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Otello, 2019; Photo credit: Michael Cooper

The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir found a new venue for its annual concerts for Holy Week, Sacred Music for a Sacred Space. The new location, St. Anne’s Anglican Church, has a beautiful Byzantine style structure that dates to 1907 with interior decoration and paintings completed by J.E.H MacDonald and other members of the Group of Seven. Before the concert began many of the early birds in the audience were out of their seats getting closer looks and photos of the iconography on the walls and ceilings The symmetrical shape and the domed ceilings gave a warm acoustic without the excessive decay of Gothic styled churches. The setting was clearly one of Interim Conductor and Artistic Advisor David Fallis’s inspirations for the program.


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The final pair of concerts in the season series of the Oakville Symphony was billed as Musical Paris. And although it felt like a stretch to include the music of the Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov in such a program, it was as uplifting a season finale as one might imagine. To clarify the connection between Rachmaninov and Paris, Maestro Roberto De Clara explained that Paris was one of Rachmaninov’s favourite cities in which to perform and that indeed his name is still attached to the Conservatoire Russe Rachmaninov founded in 1923 in Paris by Russian émigré musicians. His Piano Concerto No. 2 performed this weekend was no doubt one that Rachmaninov performed while in Paris.


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It was a masterful performance to be long-remembered! No, I don’t mean Tiger Woods’ victory at the Masters Golf Tournament. I am referring to the brilliant performance of cellist Gautier Capuҫon and pianist Yuja Wang at Koerner Hall last night. But there is much that could be compared with the two events. The finest cellist and pianist of their generation came together and performed to perfection; wild standing ovation and cheers followed their stunning encore (Astor Piazzolla’s Le Grand Tango for Cello and Piano); the concert was played on the stage of the country’s finest concert hall; and, if you missed the performance (just as if you missed the Masters final holes) you will be able to replay it over and over again when the recording is released by Warner Classics this fall. 


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Jeanne Lamon Leads in Jeanne Lamon Hall: Tafelmusik performs Mozart, Kraus, and Haydn

Last night’s concert by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall was one that was designed to attract a large audience. It was no surprise that there were very few empty seats scattered around the hall. Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor, Op. 67 is perhaps the most well-known work in the entire orchestral repertoire – at least the first four notes are ubiquitously familiar. Add to it a sparkling piano concerto by Mozart and Elgar’s tuneful Serenade and the result was a full house. The main event was the Beethoven. The monumental classic builds from the fateful four notes to a triumphant finale.


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Programmatically, the evening with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra was definitely bottom heavy. Chan Ka-Nin’s 2 minute Sesquie for Canada’s 150th Celebration and Cesar Franck’s 15 minute Symphonic Variations for Piano and Orchestra comprised barely the length of a movement of Mahler’s much longer 75 minute Seventh Symphony. And yet under the masterful hands (sans baton) of Sir Andrew Davis, there was a terrific sense of balance between instruments and between the variety of characters and moods that proliferate within Franck and Mahler’s symphonic works. 


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​​Review by David Richards
T
oronto ON April 14th 2019

​​by David Richards
T
oronto ON May 19th 2019

Last night’s performance of Otello was a moving experience. The opera is the second-last of Verdi’s output (he finished the music in 1887; Arrigo Boito who, years earlier, had criticized Verdi for sticking too closely to formal traditions, drafted the libretto in 1879) and, while it still features some traditional aria forms and elements, it is an artistic world away from his early operas. As an artistic endeavour, it was designed as the Italian equivalent of Richard Wagner’s immersive, total-art-work music dramas.


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​​Review by David Richards
T
oronto ON April 18th 2019

Angel Blue as Mimi and Atalla Ayan as Rodolpho in the Canadian Opera Company’s 2019 production of La Bohème; Photo credit: Michael Cooper

​​by Chris Au
T
oronto ON May 17th 2019

Jeanne Lamon, Music Director Emerita, Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra:
​Photo credit: Sian Richards

Guest Conductor Nicholas Collon and TSO; Photo credit: Jag Gundu

​​by David Richards
T
oronto ON May 11th 2019

Verdi’s Otello at the Canadian Opera Company: murder, misleading, and beautiful ​music

The Royal Conservatory Orchestra is set to perform its final concert of the season on Friday, April 26th at 8:00pm at ​Koerner Hall As is its custom, the orchestra will be led by a renowned visiting conductor who spends a week with the students of the Glenn Gould School, the pre-professional arm of the Royal Conservatory. For this concert, the Hungarian conductor, violinist and renowned pedagogue, András Keller will lead the orchestra in a challenging program of Russian music. Keller arrived at the school on Monday for daily rehearsals leading to Friday evening’s concert. The program will include Tchaikovsky’s seldom heard Francesca da Rimini, Op. 32, Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F Major, Op. 102, and Stravinsky’s masterpiece The Rite of Spring.


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​​by David Richards
T
oronto ON April 29th 2019

Tafelmusik’s Orchestra and Chamber Choir combine to give a stunning performance of Bach and Zelenka​!

Toronto Symphony delivers an exceptional Beethoven’s 5th!​

Oakville Symphony takes its audience back in time to Paris in the early twentieth-century ​

Maestro Roberto Declara and Oakville Symphony

Toronto Symphony and Mahler team up to explore the depths of life and death!

Gustav Mahler once said that in his first two symphonies, “there is nothing except the complete substance of my whole life”. Indeed, his music delves the depths of life itself. In the ninety minutes of Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 in C Minor “Resurrection”, last night’s concert by the Toronto Symphony invited the audience to explore the emotional journey of life and death in a way few composers’ music could do.


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​​by David Richards
T
oronto ON April 24th 2019