TORONTO CONCERT REVIEWS

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

Review by David Richards

​Toronto ON October 15th 2017

Jan Lisiecki, TSO Music Director Peter Oundjian and TSO

Photo Credit: Jag Gundu

UofT Opera hits the mark with a timely and appropriately dark Don Giovanni​

Yesterday’s concert by Tafelmusik at Jeanne Lamon Hall at the Trinity St. Paul Centre pushed forward by a few days the annual arrival of Christmas oriented programs. It was also mainly music that has never been heard on the Tafelmusik stage.


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Toronto Symphony celebrates the music of Ralph Vaughan Williams and showcases its own principal players!​

Review by David Richards

​Toronto ON October 1st 2017

Toronto Symphony finds the drama in Mahler’s Symphony No. 6​

Review by David Richards

​Toronto ON December 4th 2017

Review by David Richards

​Toronto ON December 9th 2017

The Toronto Consort turned their Christmas concert into a Latin American fiesta last night at the Jeanne Lamon Hall in the Trinity-St. Paul Centre. This was the first of three performances of their program entitled Navidad, the Spanish word for Christmas. For this concert, Toronto’s early music specialists set aside the music of the royal courts of Renaissance and Baroque Europe for an evening of the up-tempo music of the people of the Spanish colonies in Central and South America. The music had the audience clapping along with the rhythmic singing and playing.


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Philip Chiu,;Photo credit: Music Toronto

Opening Scene from Mozart’s Don Giovanni;  Photo credit: Richard Lu

Review by David Richards

​Toronto ON November 27th 2017

Yesterday afternoon, I attended the final performance of University of Toronto Opera’s  Don Giovanni at the MacMillan Theatre. Instead of an eighteenth century setting, I found myself looking at white paper drapes with nondescript grey markings and a number of boxes scattered around the stage. In a minimalist way, the production took on a 1940's ‘Cassablanca’ aura of black and white film. As such, it went beneath the surface comedy about an out-of control sexual miscreant and into a probing look at the effect of sexual abuse in society. That this could be accomplished with a Mozart opera was fascinating. That it could be done within a University’s budget and with student performers was even more so.


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Before last night’s concert at St. Lawrence Centre’s Jane Mallett Theatre, I had only heard Philip Chiu perform as a collaborative pianist on CBC radio broadcasts. Nevertheless, his recent accolades have made his name very familiar. In 2015, he was the first recipient of the Prix Goyer, Canada’s largest prize for an emerging artist in classical music valued at $125,000. Despite becoming one of the most sought-after chamber musicians in Canada, and having been a student at the Glenn Gould School ten years ago, last night’s performance was billed as his Toronto solo debut.


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Toronto Symphony Orchestra pays tribute to Glenn Gould

Toronto  Consort 's and Guest Musicians

Review by Jeff Mitchell

​Toronto ON November 12th 2017

TSO with Music Director Peter Oundjian and Life of Pi soloists

Photo Credit: Jag Gundu

Tafelmusik's New Music Director Elisa Citterio

Photo Credit: Monica Cordiviola 

Ralph Vaughan Williams died almost sixty years ago, but his music was very much alive yesterday at Roy Thomson Hall. The Toronto Symphony, in a matinee performance (there should be more of these), devoted an entire program to his music. Music Director Peter Oundjian, in his final season at the orchestra’s helm, decided to put together a concert of one of his favourite composers. He came by his love of Vaughan Williams honestly, having studied in the very halls haunted by the composer’s twenty years there as a professor. Indeed, while Oundjian was studying at the Royal College of Music in London, Vaughan Williams 100th birthday was celebrated with classes cancelled and replaced by a marathon of Vaughan Williams’ music. 


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Toronto Mendelssohn Choir marks the beginning of the holiday season with glorious sounds!

When I first looked at the calendar of concerts for the year, I highlighted last night’s as one near the top of my priority list. It had been a number of years since hearing a live performance of Brahms’ Ein Deutsche Requiem Op. 45 but it is a work that I can always listen to and count on a feeling of euphoria. Heading out to Roy Thomson Hall last evening to hear the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, I anticipated a thrilling concert. It did not disappoint.

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Review by David Richards
Toronto ON September 20 2017

Review by David Richards

​Toronto ON November 17th 2017

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra opened its 2017-18 concert season last night with a performance celebrating Canadian creativity and artistry. This is to be Peter Oundjian’s final season as Music Director and he has curated a year of spectacular programs. Last night’s concert was the first. It included Oscar-winning composer Mychael Danna, and two of the world’s leading performing artists, violinist James Ehnes and pianist Jan Lisiecki, ​the latter being added to the program as a surprise for both the maestro and the audience. ​


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Last night, we attended the third of seven performances of Richard Strauss’ opera Arabella at the Four Seasons Centre. The production is a first for the Canadian Opera Company, and in fact, it is the first production of the work in Canada, 84 years after its opening in Dresden in 1933. Arabella has been called a lyric comedy, and there are certainly many comedic moments. It’s a melodramatic story of an aristocratic family fallen on hard times because of a gambling father who tries to marry off the eldest daughter to someone of wealth to restore some much needed cash. The opera hangs together because of Strauss’s lush orchestration and wonderful sense of soaring melodic line for voice and especially the soprano. 

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Toronto Consort brings 16th and 17th century Christmas music from Latin America and Spain to life and then some!​

Review by David Richards

​Toronto ON November 26th 2017

Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation;  Photo credit: Jag Gundu

Four Weddings and a Funeral…add a coronation and the result is a great concert​!

Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Toronto Mendelssohn Choir team up for Brahms’ Ein Deutsche Requiem

Russell Braun(baritone), Erin Wall (soprano), Maestro Peter Oundjian and TSO

Photo Credit: Jag Gundu

Canadian Opera Company opens its season with a beautiful production of Richard Strauss' Arabella

The Toronto Symphony remembers​...

From the pulsing down-bows of the double basses and cellos, one could imagine the turn-of-the-century German army preparing for the inevitable. Was Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 a prophetically autobiographical tragedy or did it have a more universal meaning? In the end, it is up to the listener to draw one’s own conclusions about this massive work. Last night’s TSO performance under the direction of guest conductor Donald Runnicles had to have left any thoughtful listener emotionally drained. The stage of Roy Thomson Hall held over one hundred musicians including sixty-some string players; the orchestra filled the hall with almost ninety minutes of unrelentingly music that was at once both powerful and emotional. 


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Canadian superstars open Toronto Symphony Orchestra's 2017/2018 season!

Erin Wall as Arabella (foreground) and Jane Archibald as Zdenka in the Canadian Opera Company’s new production of Arabella, 2017;  Photo credit: Michael Cooper

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir's 'A Festival of Carols'; ​Photo credit: Anne Longmore

Review by David Richards

​Toronto ON November 29th 2017

Review by David Richards
Toronto ON September 25 2017

​​​In the mid-1960's, a lecture at University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music criticized the effectiveness of music education in Canada. The work of the conservatories, universities, elementary and high schools all came under attack. Nevertheless, there was one positive note in the lecture.  The point was made that if Canada could produce a Glenn Gould, it must have been doing something right. 


Gould was indeed a graduate of the Royal Conservatory and had become Canada’s iconic legend on the world stage. At the time of that lecture, Gould was in the midst of a career that would earn him more classical album sales than any artist the world has known before or since. And he was Canadian through and through. Sadly his life ended at age fifty. It was only fitting that in Canada’s 150th year, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra would pay tribute to Canada’s most celebrated artist.


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For the eighteenth consecutive year, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir has begun its hectic December schedule of performances with its Festival of Carols. The cathedral-like Yorkminster Park Baptist Church was festooned with twenty-five foot high Christmas trees at either side of the chancel, lit with thousands of sparkling lights. The sounds of the TMC, organist David Briggs, the Canadian Staff Band of the Salvation Army, and the Canadian Children’s Opera Company was glorious. This was indeed the beginning of a month of great music, celebration and festivities.


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Oboist Sarah Jeffrey and TSO;  Photo credit: Jag Gundu

Review by David Richards
Toronto ON September 23 2017

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, supported by season sponsor BMO Financial group, performed a memorable Remembrance Day concert on November 11th, entitled Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation, featuring new works commissioned from Canadian composers intended to both honour Canada’s 150th birthday and all those women and men who have served our country in the wars of the past century up to the current day.  Under the baton of outstanding Canadian conductor Tania Miller – in turns imaginative, sensitive and intense - the TSO beautifully captured the reverence and peace of remembrance as well as the anguish, turmoil and horrors of war.  


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Guest Conductor Donald Runnicles and TSO;  Photo credit: Jag Gundu

This weekend, the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and its audiences embraced the arrival of its new Music Director, Elisa Citterio in four concerts at Koerner Hall. The long-awaited new leader has finally arrived. The Toronto music scene had been anticipating this moment for five years since Jeanne Lamon first announced her intention to retire. The search was exhaustive. During the intervening years, a long list of guests appeared with the orchestra, each auditioning for the role.


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Music Director Elisa Citterio and Choir Director Ivars Taurins
​Photo credit: Jeff Higgins

Philip Chiu shows his poetic and his razzle-dazzle in music of Ravel, Rachmaninoff, Burge, Schubert and Liszt!​

Review by David Richards

​Toronto ON December 6th 2017

A Joyful Welcome…Tafelmusik’s weekend of concerts starts a new and exciting page in its history!