Review by David Richards

​Toronto ON February 19th 2018

Tafelmusik hits the mark with its inspirational stories of refugees in Safe Haven!​

Review by David Richards

​Toronto ON February 7th 2018

Apollon Musagète Quartet; Photo Credit: Michael Borggreve

TSO: From Russia with love...

Charles Richard-Hamelin, Maestro Peter Oundjian and TSO
​Photo credit: Jag Gundu

After forty years, the Canadian Opera Company has finally once again mounted Mozart’s early masterpiece, The Abduction from the Seraglio (Die Enttführung aus dem Serail). This is no ordinary production. It is a far cry from the “romp of a comedy, romance and suspense” that described the LA Opera production of a year ago. This new co-production with Opéra de Lyon is a serious attempt at going beyond the stereotypes and caricatures to find substance in the story to speak to important issues for today’s audience. I doubt that Mozart’s singspiel has ever taken on the serious themes found within Director Wajdi Mouawad’s interpretation. For the discerning person, this courageous opera had plenty of food for thought.​

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Tenor Ian Bostridge; ​P​hoto credit: Sim Canetty-Clarke

Daniil Trifonovreturns triumphantly to Koerner Hall for a Chopin-inspired extravaganza!

Review by David Richards

​Toronto ON January 27th 2018

Was life imitating art this past week when we read about the debauchery in the Presidents’ Club of London England? At its annual fundraising dinner many of Britain’s political and corporate leaders were exposed for their misogynistic culture. Their expectations that the scantily clad hostesses would be ready to keep them happy in whatever way they wished was exposed by a journalist posing as one of these hostesses. The current Canadian Opera Company production of Verdi’s Rigoletto by Christopher Alden at the Four Seasons Centre is set in a 19th century British men’s club reminiscent of the one in the news this week. 


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Paul Huang (violin) and Helen Huang (piano, not related) performed an excellent concert Sunday afternoon at Walter Hall in the Edward Johnson Building at the University of Toronto. When I read in the pre-concert publicity that Paul Huang has been called the next Joshua Bell, I was surprised, but when he played Prokofiev’s first sonata, with its broad and varied expressive range and its considerable technical demands on the player, I understood why. He is a promising young violinist, talented, accomplished, and sensitive.


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Apollon Musagète: the Quintessential Quartet

Review by David Richards

​Toronto ON January 20th 2018

Tafelmusik creates its own gold medal performance with Handel’s Alexander’s Feast!

Who among us does not enjoy a well-told story? A story that is born in reality and has contemporary relevance carries the promise of emotional truth. Such was the story of Safe Haven, performed last night by Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra at Jeanne Lamon Hall, Trinity St. Paul Centre. The audio-visual journey into the lives of refugees from Europe, Africa and Asia demonstrated their profound influences in the cultural lives of their new homelands. Alison Mackay has once again come up with a compelling piece of theatre that seamlessly integrates the music of seventeenth and eighteenth century Europe into broader world issues. 

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Oundjian’s fourteenth Mozart Festival concludes with a powerful performance of the Jupiter Symphony

Jane Archibald as Konstanze and Mauro Peter as Belmonte in the Canadian Opera Company’s new production of The Abduction from the Seraglio, 2018.
​P​hoto: Michael Cooper

Review by Paul Merkley, FRSC

​Toronto ON February 9th 2018

He hunched over the piano, his eyes just inches above his fingers and his straight brown hair hanging down in front of his eyes. Suddenly, with a new musical idea, he moves away, now leaning back and looking up with pensive intensity. His fingers pull the sound of each melodic note out of the German Steinway. The final note of the phrase lands tenderly in place, with emotion dripping from the sound.


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Review by David Richards

​Toronto ON February 5th 2018

Review by Paul Merkley, FRSC

​Toronto ON February 18th 2018

Alison Melville; Photo courtesy of Tafelmusik

Review by David Richards

​Toronto ON February 2nd 2018

Review by Dave Richards

​Toronto ON February 24th 2018

This is a student orchestra of very high caliber; Friday night’s performance at Koerner Hall left no doubt of that. First on the main program was Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture. Guest conductor Leon Fleisher, about to turn ninety years of age, directed the work with great nuance, including frequent, slight changes of tempo, of the kind for which he was (before he lost the full use of his right hand and turned to conducting) famous as arguably the best interpreter of Beethoven’s music on the piano, having studied with and succeeded Artur Schnabel, who studied with Leschetizky who studied with Czerny who studied with the composer himself. Fleisher once remarked of the frequent changes of metronome (measured tempo) markings in Schnabel’s edition of Beethoven that if one understands them as sometimes pushing the music forward a bit, and sometimes holding it back, the markings make sense, and indeed his nuances of pace in the overture made very good sense.​


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Review by Paul Merkley, FRSC

​Toronto ON February 17th 2018

One of the best things that January brings each year is a respite from the cold and snow with two weeks of some of the most sublime music ever written. This year’s edition of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s annual buffet of Mozartian offerings is entitled the Mozart@262 Festival, celebrating the upcoming 262nd  birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus. Last night’s concert at Roy Thomson Hall was the third of nine concerts celebrating the composer. Co-curators of the Festival, Bernard Labadie and TSO Music Director Peter Oundjian have put together a superb sampling of Mozart’s instrumental music. ​

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Violinist Paul ​Huang; P​hoto credit: Marco Borggrove

Oakville Symphony and pianist Mehdi Ghazi delight the audience in the inaugural concert for a new Steinway Grand

Review by Dave Richards

​Toronto ON February 15th 2018

Review by David Richards

​Toronto ON January 21st 2018

The Toronto Symphony’s The Wizard of OZ… a hit for both young and old!

“So everything here beckons me with longing, calling to me with the sounds of love.” So went the final stanza of Schubert’s lyrical lied Im Freien, D.880 (In the Open) last night. The concert by English tenor Ian Bostridge and collaborative pianist Julius Drake provided a sublime Valentine’s Day gift of Schubert Lieder, more than twenty examples in all. The romantic spirit was at the heart of the program. Bostridge and Blake together amplified Schubert’s words and music to present a treatise on German romanticism.​

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Tafelmusik Chamber Choir with Director Ivars Taurins; Photo Credit: Sian Richards

Musicians of TSO and Guest Conductor Bernard Labadie
Photo credit: Jag Gundu/TSO

Royal Conservatory Orchestra: The Big Night!

Review by Paul Merkley, FRSC

​Toronto ON February 23rd 2018

But soft! What notes through yonder viols sound? Shakespeare did not write his prologue that way, but he could have. Romeo and Juliet has been translated into many languages: Russian certainly, Klingon probably (unless that was the language it was originally written in), and into Russian music absolutely, specifically the ballet of that title composed by Prokofiev in 1935, from which Sir Andrew Davis arranged an orchestral suite performed by the TSO. Prokofiev did not arrange this ballet music into a suite, but he could have; indeed he did this for another of his ballets.


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Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir showed once again last night at Koerner Hall why they are Canada’s gold medal deserving ensemble in their performance of Handel’s ode to St. Cecilia, Alexander’s FeastorThe Power of Musick. This was a monumental work spanning well over two hours of virtuosity. The work began with rich, warm sounds of the gut stringed violins, the sweet sounding baroque oboe, the energy of the dotted rhythmic figures, and playfully energetic melodies. From the overture onward, the choir, soloists and orchestra each contributed to a brilliant performance.


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Review by David Richards

​Toronto ON January 14th 2018

With just five months left in his tenure as Music Director of the Toronto Symphony, Peter Oundjian will have plenty of opportunities to bid farewell to the many accomplishments of his tenure. One of those has been the annual Mozart birthday festival. With today’s concluding concert at the George Weston Recital Hall of Mozart @262 Festival, he will have put together fourteen such festivals, warming the hearts of listeners during the coldest month of the year. Yesterday, at Koerner Hall, the reduced in size ‘Mozartian’ orchestra made the most of the wonderful acoustics of Toronto’s finest concert venue in the penultimate concert of the festival. 


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Listening to a string quartet is unlike other musical experiences, perhaps because in a good quartet, the players are paying such close attention to each other that they hardly seem to notice the audience at all; one has the impression of being permitted to observe scenes from the private musical life of four musicians who know each other so well that they could be related. Pawel Zalejski (violin), Bartosz Zachlod (violin), Piotr Szumiel (viola), and Piotr Skweres (cello) perform together so perfectly that they seem to be one big, sophisticated brain playing four instruments. Different dynamics, tempi, and articulations were precisely synchronized and beautifully excuted.​


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COC's 2018 Rigoletto Act I; ​Photo credit: Michael Cooper

Daniil Trifonov; ​Photo credit: Lisa Sakulensky Photography
​Courtesy of  The Royal Conservatory/Koerner Hall

Pianist Alexei Lubimov

Is there any music that the Russian pianist Alexei Lubinov can’t play exceedingly well? He can boast recordings and performances of twentieth century composers such as John Cage, Stockhausen, Boulez and Ligeti and Schӧnberg and at the same time is equally versed in the music of the classical and romantic periods. He has specialized in period instrument performances of early music and performed Debussy on early twentieth century Beckstein and Steinway pianos for their different colours. He has devoted much of his time in recent years to the fortepiano and the music of Mozart. 

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Andrew McCandless, Guest Conductor John Storgårds and TSO
​Photo credit: Jag Gundu

Pianist Mehdi Ghazi, Maestro Roberto De Clara and Oakville Symphony

Guest Conductor Leon Fleisher ​P​hoto credit: Chris Hartlove

COC brings sexual abuse issues of today into their production of Rigoletto!

Russian pianist Alexei Lubimov provides an eclectic musical treat for Music Toronto's audience

The Wizard of Oz with Live Orchestra

Canadian Opera Company’s Abduction from the Seraglio sends provocative messages in a stunningly original new production! ​

Toronto Symphony Orchestra trumpets both new and familiar music with an emphasis on big!​

It was the age of instruments: new manufacturing, greater demand, music written for specific instruments, new combinations of instruments, the basso continuo, the start of functional bass harmony and tonality, virtuoso players, and new instrumental genres and forms, and it all came alive vividly and beautifully in the remarkable concert produced by Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Feb. 9-11, a must-hear event. Recorder virtuoso Alison Melville began the evening with an instrumental song by Jacob van Eyck, early Baroque carilloner, bell tuner, and composer of recorder music in Utrecht, and ended the night with a masterful performance of a concerto for recorder by Vivaldi. She used four different recorders, two with nearly cylindrical bores, two with conical bores that were the hallmark of the baroque period in sound and shape, one of the instruments a replica of a recorder made in the environs of the Telemann quartet that she performed with the ensemble.

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Review by Paul Merkley, FRSC

​Toronto ON February 15th 2018

Film showings with live orchestra are new to me. When I saw that this year’s calendar for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra offered four box-office smash hits, I had to try out the idea and see for myself the cause of all the excitement. It was an easy decision to choose The Wizard of Oz for my first foray into this medium that has been growing in popularity over the past decade. I have always loved this film, and on Family Day weekend, I could bring my granddaughter and discover first-hand the reaction of an eight year old.


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Schubert’s romantic songs: The perfect Valentine’s Day treat at Koerner Hall

Review by Dave Richards

​Toronto ON February 11th 2018

TSO’s Mozart@262 Festival a welcome respite from January’s cold and snow!​

I had been looking forward to yesterday’s concert at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts for some time. Not only has the Oakville Symphony been in the midst of its 50th Anniversary Season in 2017-18, but Mehdi Ghazi, a young Canadian artist with a very special and unique background would be on the program performing on the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts' brand new Steinway D piano. 


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Violin and Piano Virtuosi in the Mooredale Series

Tafelmusik's Recorder Romp excels! 

Harpist Heidi Van Hoesen Gorton ​P​hoto credit: Jag Gundu/TSO

It has been a week of contrasts at the Toronto Symphony from last week’s Mozart Festival to  last night’s concert featuring Holst’s The Planets. Last week it was a small orchestra performing in the classically intimate Koerner Hall. This week, it was a hundred-piece orchestra filling Roy Thomson Hall with majestic sounds. Last week, it was Mozart’s classical ‘absolute’ music; this week each work was programmatic having extra-musical ideas imbedded therein. Within this week’s concert there was the contrast of two works, written only a few years apart, one of which had one performance in the first hundred years after its creation in 1908 while the other instantly became the signature work of the composer with countless performances over the same time span. 


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TORONTO CONCERT REVIEWS

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

Alison Mackay’s Safe Haven: Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra with guests Diely Mori Tounkara (kora) and Maryem Tollar (narrator); Photo credit: Jeff Higgins

Review by David Richards

​Toronto ON January 28th 2018