TORONTO CONCERT REVIEWS

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

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

It can be an interesting exercise to find the logic in a concert program. Last night’s concert by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall (to be repeated on Saturday June 8) gave me occasion to ponder what might have gone into the making of such an outstanding evening of music. It wasn’t just a cookie-cutter recipe with a concert overture, superstar soloist and a large-scale symphony. There had to be more that went into the process to create such a very special evening of music.


Read more...

Robi Botos and Friends​

Carmina Burana: Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s springtime secular ​(and raucous) Messiah?​

Maestro Roberto Declara and Oakville Symphony

Royal Conservatory Orchestra 

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

Guest Conductor Karl-Heinz Steffens and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra
Photo credit: Nick Wons

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

The Eybler Quartet; Photo credit: David Kennedy

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

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.


Read more...

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. 


Read more...

Mozart and Jeremy Denk at the TSO

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.


Read more...

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

​​by David Richards
T
oronto ON June 7 2019

​​by Paul Merkley F.R.S.C.
T
oronto ON May 31st 2019

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.


Read more...

Yesterday afternoon the Toronto Bach Festival, ably organized and directed by John Abberger, concluded with a program of the composer’s protestant masses, and a free-standing Sanctus movement. Luther’s church observed the liturgy in German, but there were occasions on which it used the older, hence more authoritative languages Greek and Latin. The protestant mass, sometimes called missa brevis, consisted of the Kyrie and the Gloria, the only two mass ordinary movements that are sung back to back, with no intervening text or music.  


Read more...

TSO & Sir Andrew Davis exude exquisite balance

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

The Toronto Bach Festival singers and instrumentalists
Photo credit: Emily Ding

​​by Paul Merkley F.R.S.C.
T
oronto ON May 27th 2019

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

The program began with the overture to Don Giovanni, the opera that Mozart called a ‘comical drama.’ The opening chords (which later begin the chilling speech of the ghostly statue) tell us that we must take this seriously, the emphatic trombones assuring us that someone will die on stage. Simon Rivard, the young RBC Resident conductor of the orchestra, took the baton. His tempo was suitably solemn, the chords bold and dramatic. He appears to be the kind of conductor who makes the most of every note. It was an enjoyable performance of work that is heard often.


Read more...

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

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

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

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

​​by Chris Au
T
oronto ON May 23rd 2019

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.


Read more...

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

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.


Read more...

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

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

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

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

​​by David Richards
T
oronto ON June 20th 2019

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

Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Chamber Choir: Photo credit: Tafelmusik

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

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

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

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

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

Tafelmusik’s Close Encounters: A Fantastic(us) Feast

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.


Read more...

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

Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, soloists and
Guest Conductor Donald Runnicles in Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana
Photo credit: Nick Wons

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. 


Read more...

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.


Read more...

Robi Botos; Photo credit: Tracy Nolan Studios

Tafelmusik’s extensive musical range, depth of insight in historical performance, diversity in repertoire, and skill in execution knows no bounds. They can do what other Canadian ensembles do not and dare not. Having amassed a devoted and fascinated following, they enjoy the freedom of performing whatever they wish. For example, the upcoming 2019-2020 season features the Baroque Orchestra, directed by Elisa Citterio, performing Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn. They’re premiering new Canadian works, rearranging the Bach’s Goldberg Variations for orchestra, and dedicating entire concerts to relatively unknown composers like Antonio Lotti. Their Close Encounters Chamber Music Series is no different; from composers like Antonio Bertali to Johann Rosenmüller, their creative programming and sensitive approach to music making made for a truly unforgettable afternoon. 


Read more...

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

Toronto Bach Festival closes with Protestant Masses

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.


Read more...

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

It has just been two years since the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Toronto Mendelssohn Choir joined forces along with the Toronto Children’s Choir  and the Toronto Youth Choir to perform Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, the most celebrated secular choral-orchestral work of the twentieth century With four performances this week, there is no doubting its popularity. Could it become the perennial springtime favourite that Messiah is for the Christmas season? Last night at Roy Thomson Hall, a stellar group of soloists joined the orchestra and choirs to produce a stunningly mammoth production with over 300 performers on stage and in the lofts. 


Read more...

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

Schumann, Mendelssohn and Brahms: What could be more romantic?​

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.


Read more...

Charlotte Nediger (harpsichord), Christopher Verrette(violin), Patricia Ahern (violin), Lucas Harris(theorbo), Dominic Teresi(dulcian); Photo credit: Chris Au

Denk Plays Mozart; Photo credit: TSO