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 July 1st 2018

​​Review by Paul Merkley FRSC

Toronto ON June 17th 2018

Revelations, Shakers, and a devil: TSO soloists play Copland, Stravinsky, and Messiaen at the Toronto Summer Music Festival

Summer music has arrived. Westben provides the idyllic backdrop; Wallis Giunta, Alexander Dobson and Brian Finley provide the music.​

Co-facilitator Ben Finley

Toronto Summer Music Festival: A musical oasis from the city’s summer noise!​

It is a musical instrument on which keys operate levers at the end of which are padded hammers that strike strings that vibrate and resound in wood. Is it a percussion instrument or a stringed instrument? The answer, which seems to elude many, is that it is a percussion instrument that is meant to sound like a stringed instrument, or, even better, like a beautiful singing voice. It is with this perspective that my friend and I set out to hear the eightieth birthday recital of Robert Silverman.


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Mahler and Mozart: A Toronto Symphony performance for the ages!

Move over Tanglewood: Westben launches composer-performer residency program​

With so many out-of-town music festivals currently under way across Southern Ontario, it’s reassuring that one doesn’t have to leave town for a July musical respite. the Toronto Summer Music Festival opened last night with a concert by the Escher Quartet at Koerner Hall. For the next three weeks, one will be able to find instrumental and vocal music including art song, chamber music, big band, gospel music and the National Youth Orchestra. Artistic Director Jonathan Crow has put together an eclectic array of pre-eminent artists from around the world and across Canada. The festival’s theme, Reflections of Wartime celebrates the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War with music that emerged from some of the darkest times of the past century. Ticketed events, pay-what -you-can, and free concerts will take place at mid-town venues such as UoT’s Walter Hall, Heliconian Hall, Church of the Redeemer and Koerner Hall


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Soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian and pianist Robert Kortgaard

Photo credits: www.bayrakdarian.com and Ian Varty

Emanuel Ax, Peter Oundjian, TSO;  Photo credit: Nick Wons

TSO and Trifonov: Russian Ark

Elora Festival: A tale of two choirs​

​​Review by Paul Merkley FRSC

Toronto ON July 14th 2018

Peter Oundjian conducts the TSO; Photo credit: Jag Gundu

​​Review by David Richards

Toronto ON June 24th 2018

Happy Eightieth: Silverman at Westben​

Gambrel Barn at The Elora Festival, Elora ON

Let there be no doubts that a day in Elora at the festival is worth the trip. Wonderful music, beautiful scenery, and a charming town are all yours for a short, picturesque drive in the country. What more does one want? I will withhold judgement until the end of the summer music season, but the Elora Festival may well be rural Ontario at its very best, and that is saying something!


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Not many people get a goodbye celebration at Roy Thomson Hall.  Such was the case last night for Peter Oundjian with the hall filled to the choir lofts with an adoring public including the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell (Lieutenant Governor of Ontario), the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. TSO Music Director Peter Oundjian ended his remarkable fourteen years at the orchestra's helm as the TSO closed out its 2017/18 season. The sustained standing ovation by the sold-out hall was just the beginning of the show of love and appreciation for the music he has given and for what he has done for the orchestra, the city and the province.


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​​Review by David Richards

Toronto ON July 7th 2018

Toronto Summer Music Festival: Joyous Lunchtime Music!

Conductor Peter Oundjian; Photo credit: Nick Wons

If you have read Dave Richards’s review this week you understand what a special venue the Westben festival is. It was my great privilege to travel there today, and I interviewed Ben Finley, an educated, intelligent, ambitious young musician who, with co-facilitator Sarah Belle Reid, is starting a composer-performer residency program.


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Opening Night with the Escher Quartet: Photo credit: James Ireland

Wow! What a joyous escape into a world of great music! Heading to Heliconian Hall at noon today, I had no idea that there would be such a musical treat. It was an Academy Lunch Concert of the Toronto Summer Music Festival. Over thirty aspiring chamber music artists on the cusp of exceptional careers are performing in concerts throughout the twenty-four-day festival already in progress. On today’s program were two chamber music groups: a violin and harp duo plus a piano quintet.


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​​Review by David Richards

Toronto ON July 13th 2018

Like the film of the Hermitage museum, conserving and displaying the cultural treasures of Russia hidden and ignored by communist regimes, tonight's concert treated the audience to musical treasures.


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Pianist Robert Silverman

This evening the Toronto Summer Music Festival continued its theme of music written in times of war with two contrasting ballets: Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring, and Igor Stravinsky's L'histoire du soldat. Chamber music of the first half of the twentieth century is not often performed, and to hear it performed so well by the soloists of the TSO is a rare opportunity.


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​​Review by Paul Merkley FRSC

Toronto ON July 20th 2018

​​Review by David Richards

Toronto ON July 19th 2018

The Meadow at Westben, Campbellford ON

This month has given Toronto a very special treat with the last concerts of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra under the leadership of Peter Oundjian as Music Director. He will be completing his fourteen-year tenure next week. He has curated programs for the month that have reflected his own love and aspirations. 


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Sonia Pise, harp and Katya Poplyansky, violin

For any music lover wanting to escape from the heat and bustle of everyday life in the city, there are music festivals happening all over southern Ontario this summer in idyllic surroundings. The Westben Festival was the first of several that we will be visiting over the next several weeks. Located on a family farm minutes from the Trent Canal and the town of Campbellford just 30 minutes north of the 401 at Picton, it provides a pastoral setting in which to enjoy an eclectic assortment of great music.


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Passion and Tears: Isabel Bayrakdarian sings Spanish songs and the Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal sings the Lamentations of Jeremiah at the Elora Festival

​​Review by David Richards

Toronto ON July 19th 2018

With the variety of music festivals dotting the Southern Ontario map, there is only one that has its roots in choral music. For the past 39 years, the Elora Festival has been bringing outstanding choral music to this picturesque village about 80 kilometres west of Toronto. Yesterday afternoon there was a double-header of choral music on the Festivals mainstage known affectionately as the Gambrel Barn. Two choirs, The Elora Singers and the Vancouver Chamber Choir performed back to back concerts. It might have been billed as a tale of two choirs. For all the similarities between the two, there were enough contrasts to make an engaging afternoon for choral music lovers.


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​​Review by Paul Merkley FRSC

Toronto ON July 8th 2018

​​Review by Paul Merkley FRSC

Toronto ON July 9th 2018

Peter Oundjian's triumphant finale to his fourteen-year tenure with Toronto Symphony!

L'histoire du soldat; Image courtesy of www.torontosummer music.com