TORONTO CONCERT REVIEWS

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

Pianist Peter Regan and Violinist Orin Laursen
Photo credit: David Kennedy

​​Review byDavid Richards

Toronto ON April 27th 2018

Pianist Charissa Vandikas and Violinist Leslie Ashworth
Photo credit: David Kennedy

At the end of the day, while we missed out on what we had come for, we still heard some amazing chamber music in the three recitals. By not going to the Chamber Music Competition, we missed out on a cello/piano duo, a brass sextet, a soprano/piano combination, a string quartet, a violin/piano duo, and a clarinet/cello/piano trio. The problems of choosing from such wonderful offerings at GGS...

Pianist Christopher Au and violinist Vivian Kukel; Photo credit: David Kennedy

Following the second recital, we had a choice to make. Already late for the Chamber Music Competition that had begun moments earlier, we decided to remain in place for what would be the highlight of an already eventful day. Third year Performance Diploma pianist Charissa Vandikas gave a stunning recital. Less than a week after she and piano duo partner Linda Ruan captivated a Koerner Hall audience with Poulenc’s Concerto for wo Pianos, Charissa was back, this time on her own. She has a way of breathing life into the music with her whole body and has technique to burn. She brings an expressive maturity to her playing that is very special. Her program consisted of music by Scriabin, Beethoven, Janáčeck and Liszt. The Beethoven was powerful; the Liszt was magical. Again, as in the first two recitals, Charissa displayed her collaborative skills in Beethoven’s Violin Sonata no. 9, op. 47 with violinist Leslie Ashworth. Both performers displayed technical wizardry as well as beautiful lyrical work. 

Jan and I headed to the Royal Conservatory of Music yesterday to take in the Glenn Gould School’s annual Chamber Music Competition as we have done for the past several years. This year would be special because it was for the first time being held in Koerner Hall. We went early to sit in on student recitals that are held virtually daily through April and much of May. Little did we know that our plans would be altered by the student recitals that were scheduled.

The first of three recitals in Mazzoleni Hall was by a graduating Artist Diploma piano student Chris Ka Long Au. Chris, who is from Australia, has fallen in love with Canada in his two years at GGS and will continue his studies next year in a Masters of Music program at the University of Montreal. He played an all-Brahms program that featured some of Brahms’ most sorrowful music in Sechs Klavierstücke, Op 118 dedicated to Clara Schumann. I was particularly taken with the fourth in the set of six pieces. Even better was his work as a chamber musician in the Piano Trio in B Major, Op. 8. Here he was joined by violinist Vivian Kukel and cellist Matthew Christakos, both high school students in the Royal Conservatory’s Taylor Academy For Young Artists. The maturity of playing in this young trio was remarkable.

 The second recital was by pianist Peter Regan, a student in his final year of the Performance Diploma program. After four years at GGS, he will be returning to Ireland as early as next week. He will be competing in the Dublin International Piano Competition next month. His performance offered good variety. He began with an intriguing contemporary work by Canadian composer Alexina Louie in which sounds and rhythms included strumming the piano strings. It also included works by Edward Elgar, Robert Schumann and Franz Liszt. It was his collaborative work in Elgar’s Violin Sonata in E minor that caught my enjoyment tentacles. He and violinist Orin Laursen played as one. Peter was sensitive to the balance and constantly looking over to be sure they would react together, not easy to do in such challenging music.

Solo Recitals and Chamber Music: Take your pick at Royal Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School

Christopher Au; Photo credit: David Kennedy