TORONTO CONCERT REVIEWS

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

In my experience, detailed, multi-faceted, reconstructions of specific musical events are the performances that are the most exciting to witness. The focus on an accumulation of music-historical details gets the attention of all participants and brings the best out in all performers. In the end it also brings out the best in the audience. 


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​​Review by  David Richards
T
oronto ON  February 4th 2019

Emily D’Angelo at the Met: A debut for a rising star!

Students of the Glenn Gould School give remarkable performances previewing the 2019/20 season of the Royal Conservatory Orchestra

Koerner Hall’s 10th Anniversary season, sponsored by BMO Financial and the Toronto Star, continued on Saturday, February 9th with the first TD Jazz series concert, co-sponsored by JazzFM 91, featuring Cuban-Canadian pianist, composer and arranger Hilario Durán and his Latin Jazz Big Band. Durán, who has performed many times at Koerner Hall, referred to this as his “dream concert”, given that his 18-piece band was made up of the crème-de-la-crème of the Canadian jazz scene, including many born and bred in Canada and others born in Cuba but, like Durán, having established...


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The Harlequin Salon: Tafelmusik reconstructs a Roman “accademia” of 1723

With love in the air on Valentine’s Day, Koerner Hall paid homage to the unforgettable Nat “King” Cole on the occasion of his 100th birthday by featuring his youngest brother, pianist Freddy Cole, and the supremely talented guitarist/vocalist John Pizzarelli.  It was an evening of beautiful jazz music and a celebration of song that stands out as a highlight of Koerner Hall’s 10th Anniversary season, sponsored by BMO Financial and the Toronto Star, as well as series sponsors TD Jazz and JazzFM 91.  The fact that Cole and Pizzarelli could perform 23 songs over two and a half hours without playing such immortal standards as “Unforgettable”, “Mona Lisa”, “When I Fall in Love” or “Smile” is a testament to the breadth and timeless quality of the Nat “King” Cole” songbook and the enduring popularity of a man who did more in his short life to bridge the divide between jazz and popular music than any other musician of the 20th century.


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Barbara Hannigan and the Toronto Symphony turn Valentines Day upside down!

​​Review by  David Richards
T
oronto ON  February 6th 2019

A scene from the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Così fan tutti (2019)
Photo credit: Michael Cooper

The Harlequin Salon; Left to right (in costume): program creator and oboist Marco Cera as Pier Leone Ghezzi; soprano Roberta Invernizzi as Faustina Bordoni;
violinist & music director Elisa Citterio as Vivaldi; actor Dino
​Gonçalves as Harlequin; and Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra
Photo credit: Jeff Higgsin

Jazz pianist Hilario Durán; Photo credit: Ines Kaiser

Last night at Roy Thomson Hall, Barbara Hannigan, the singing maestro, performed as only she can. She led the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in a concert displaying her adeptness as both a coloratura soprano and conductor. While one might expect the Tafelmusik Orchestra to perform with the first violinist directing the group, it felt strange in last night’s eclectic program for a singer/conductor to appear as one person. Nevertheless, Hannigan took control of the orchestra and injected her magnetism to create an evening that much of the audience found spectacular. The Gershwin medley that ended the program sent the audience home singing.


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The winter season of the Canadian Opera Company continued last night with a revival of Atom Egoyan’s production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte at the Four Seasons Centre. After a run of annual Mozart operas, this will be the last for a bit anyway. Next season’s schedule won’t be including anything by the 18th century master. It will feature operas by Puccini, Dvořák, Rossini, Humperdinck, Verdi and Wagner. 


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Pinchas Zukerman plays Mozart; Photo credit: @ Jag Gundu

One idea of history is that only one important thing happened in any given period, one musical style, one central composer and so on. Tonight’s performance by the TSO showed how much richer the history of music is than that limited idea.


The evening began with seventeen musicians, winds plus piano, percussion, banjo, and accordion (the accomplished Joseph Macerollo, who has been called ‘an icon of classical accordion in Canada’) playing the suite (1929) to The Threepenny Opera (1928) by Bertold Brecht (two years before his Marxist period) and Kurt Weill. The music is meant to challenge the operatic status quo ...


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​​Review by  Paul Merkley F.R.S.C.
T
oronto ON  January 11th 2019

Have you ever felt uncontrollable fury? Have you ever felt so deceived by a family member such that it was seemingly impossible to let go of the bitterness? Before letting the betrayal eat you up until you are obsessed with revenge, perhaps you should go quickly to the opera currently playing at the Four Season’s Centre, the Canadian Opera Company’s production of Elektra


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Finalists of Glenn Gould School’s Concerto Competition: Jean-Luc Therrien, Yu Kai Sun, Mansur Kadirov, Hillary Simms, Zuri Wells, Benjamin Albertson and Godwin Friesen

​​Review by  Paul Merkley F.R.S.C.
T
oronto ON  January 17th 2019

Yesterday’s Invesco Piano Series concert at the Royal Conservatory of Music’s Koerner Hall featured the award-winning pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin. The program notes described him as “one of the most important pianists of his generation”. There weren’t many in the audience who would disagree following the solo program of Schumann and Chopin. The well-chosen music by the 29-year-old pianist from Montréal was performed with supreme artistry and brilliant virtuosity.


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It was a very special night last night at the home of Marko Duic and Gabriel Lau in their Music @100 concert. The ambiance of a beautiful room lined in bookshelves, stunning art, a working fireplace with the crackling sounds of burning wood, and the plush seating on comfortable sofas contributed to the intimate atmosphere for the twenty or so in the audience, but it was the superb playing by student musicians that created the singular experience. I wouldn’t ordinarily write about a house concert with a small audience. However, this concert was so moving that I can’t let it pass without expressing how deeply heart-rending it was..


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Weill, Stravinsky, and Sibelius: TSO presents a study in contrasts

Hilario Durán​

The pianistic artistry of Charles Richard-Hamelin shines in Schumann and Chopin!​

Pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin, ready to sign copies of his new CD following his Koerner Hall performance

COC brings a sparkling Canadian flair to Così fan tutte​

​​Review by  Jeff Mitchell
T
oronto ON  February 9th 2019

Mezzo-soprano Emily D'Angelo; Photo credit: www.emilydangelo.com

​​Review by  David Richards
T
oronto ON  January 31st 2019

Pinchas Zukerman leads the Toronto Symphony in a brilliant all-Mozart performance!

​​Review by  David Richards
T
oronto ON  February 15th 2019

A scene in the Canadian Opera Company’s Production of Elektra (2019)
​Photo credit: Michael Cooper

​​Review by  Jeff Mitchell
T
oronto ON  February 15th 2019

We travelled to New York City this week to witness a debut for a rising young Canadian mezzo-soprano, Emily D’Angelo at the Metorpolitan Opera Company’s main stage in Lincoln Centre. Her role as 2nd Lady in Mozart’s The Magic Flute was the first of three roles for her this season as she begins her new tenure at the Met


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

Barbara Hannigan and TSO; Photo credit: Jag Gundu

​​Review by  David Richards
T
oronto ON  February 10th 2019

Celebrating Nat “King” Cole’s 100th

Leila Josefowicz, Guest Conductor Ludovic Morlot and TSO;
Photo credit: @Nick Wons

House concert provides a special musical treat with outstanding student performers!

I spent the day yesterday at Koerner Hall listening to the finals of the Glenn Gould School’s Concerto Competition. Each year about this time, the Royal Conservatory of Music’s professional training school offers its students an opportunity to perform a concerto with the Royal Conservatory Orchestra by holding this competition. Yesterday, seven finalists performed throughout the day. Only four of these seven will have an opportunity to perform with the orchestra during Koerner Hall’s 2019/20 concert season.


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Canadian Opera Company’s Elektra: a triumph of dramatic intensity! 

John Pizzarelli and Freddy Cole at Koerner Hall
Photo credit: Lisa Sakulensky, courtesy of The Royal Conservatory/Koerner Hall 

​​Review by  David Richards
T
oronto ON  January 24th 2019

​​Review by  David Richards
Toronto ON  December 21st 2018

It seemed very fitting last night to be attending an all-Mozart concert of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. For fourteen years, under former Music Director Peter Oundjian, the TSO held a Mozart Festival in honour of the composer’s January birthday. This year would have been Mozart 263 (263 years since Mozart’s birth in 1756) Alas, along with Oundjian’s departure in June of last year, the Festival also came to an end. And so it was with more than a little nostalgia that last night’s concert brought back fond memories. Just last year, Bernard Labadie conducted riveting performances with violinist Adrian Anantawan and pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin. The year before it was pianist Emmanuel Ax performing two Mozart piano concertos. This year’s concert proved no less compelling.


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Matthew Christakos, Charissa Vandikas, Royce Rich and Leslie Ashworth