Pianist Jon Kimura Parker; Photo credit: jonkimuraparker.com
Toronto Summer Music Festival opens in spectacular fashion!
Music reviews of the finest concerts in Toronto and beyond!
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Soprano Adrianne Pieczonka, pianist Steven Philcox and New Orford String Quartet photo credit:Sean Howard
The Toronto Summer Music Festival opened in spectacular fashion with last night’s concert at Koerner Hall. The Festival’s theme of “Beyond Borders” was evident in the outstanding performances by some of Canada’s finest artists. Host Tom Allen in his opening remarks said that although borders seem to be at the centre of international tensions in today’s world, nevertheless there are no borders in music. Western music has been influenced by cultures from every part of the world and last night gave us plenty of examples. The tradition of musical geniuses travelling the world to pursue their ambitions goes back hundreds of years.
Last night’s program was an international smorgasbord of musical dishes. And what a buffet it was! From Mozart to Fritz Kreisler, Richard Strauss, and Sarasate, there was an assortment of music with influences from Turkey, Greece, China, India, Hungary, France, Poland and Germany. It was performed by Canadian artists each of whom has performed throughout the world, borders be damned. Pianist Jon Kimura Parker and soprano Adrianne Pieczonka are two of the most travelled and acclaimed Canadian performers; violinist Kerson Leong at age 22 has already set himself apart with dazzling technique and sweet tone among the next generation of globe-trotting superstars. The New Orford String Quartet along with collaborative pianists Stephen Philcox and Rachel Kerr rounded out the superb group of performers.
Violinist Kerson Leong and pianist Rachel Kerr; Photo Credit: Sean Howard
by David Richards
Toronto ON July 12th 2019
The program began with Mozart’s Piano Sonata in A Major, K.331, “Alla turca”. Its opening theme is familiar to every young pianist. Jon Kimura Parker gave the “Turkish” Rondo finale the fervor and excitement of a Janissary street band. It didn’t need the extra cymbals that might have been an added feature of early pianos as Allen mentioned in his introduction.
Adrianne Pieczonka and collaborative pianist Rachel Kerr were next with Maurice Ravel’s Cinq mélodies populaire grecques, traditional Greek folk songs arranged by the French composer for a lecture on Greek and Armenian folklore. Moments of tenderness, excitement of a wedding day, and the boastful song of a man trying to impress a woman about his sword were expressed beautifully. The most touching moments were in Pieczonka's crystal clear vocal fluidity without accompaniment when her warm tone filled the hall with the sweetest of sounds.
Kerson Leong came on to conclude the first half of the program with Pablo de Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen Op. 20, accompanied by pianist Rachel Kerr. The Hungarian Gypsy airs in the work by the Spanish violinist/composer come from his incessant travels and tours to all corners of the world. Leong astonished the audience with this crowd favourite. His elegant tone and sparkling technique showed off the dazzling harmonics, glissandi, pizzicato and spiccato in a show stopper.
Following intermission, Leong stayed true to the theme of the Festival with four short caprice-like pieces by world traveller Fritz Kreissler, once again showing this audience tremendous musicianship, technique and showmanship.
Jon Kimura Parker returned with a heart-felt performance of Fryderyk Chopin’s popular Ballade No. 4 in F minor, Op. 52. The virtuosic Ballade, a favourite with recital audiences, was a clear demonstration of Chopin’s longing for home in Poland as he lived out his life in France.
The concert concluded with some of the finest singing I have heard in Koerner Hall. Adrianne Pieczonka gave a stunning performance of Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder (Four Last Songs). The contemplations on death and the end of life were emotionally powerful. Pieczonka was totally in sync with the New Orford String Quartet and pianist Steven Philcox who performed a newly created arrangement by John Greer. What a stunning climax to a spectacular Opening Night.
The Toronto Summer Music Festival continues through August 3. Artistic Director Jonathan Crow has put together an eclectic assortment of music by world-class performers and budding stars of the future. The thirty-three Fellows of the “Art of Song Program” and “Chamber Music Institute” were in the audience last night, but will be featured performers throughout the Festival along with the established stars such as Charles Richard-Hamelin, Angela Hewitt, Daniel Taylor, Anthony Dean Griffey, the Dover Quartet, Ensemble Made in Canada, and the Rolston Quartet. Other special performances include appearances by Montreal’s folk-based ensemble Kleztory and West African storyteller Ablaye Cissoko with middle eastern/early music group Constantinople.
Tonight, July 12, the New Orford String Quartet will celebrate it’s tenth anniversary with a performance at Walter Hall at 7:30pm.