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

Another week at Toronto Summer Music  ends with a day filled with fine music!​

Tenor Elias Theocharidis and pianist Julie Choi in  an Art of Song performance

 ​​Yesterday’s concerts were each a combination of chamber music and art song performances. Major chamber music works of Mendelssohn, Brahms, Dvořák and Chausson were interspersed with English language art songs. Griffey and Jones had worked on English diction with the singers throughout the week. Throughout the day, each performance was polished and professional. The six total hours of music flew by, and as much as I could have used another hour for a supper break, it wouldn’t have been worth missing a minute of the day’s music.

In the first concert, the Dover Quartet’s violinist Joel Link led a string quartet in an uplifting and rhythmically charged performance of Dvořák’s String Quartet No. 10 in E-flat major, Op. 51, B.92. Tenor Eric Laine with pianist Scott Downing, soprano Yunji Shim with pianist Hanzheng Li and Clarence Frazer with Bronwyn Schuman were the song contributors. Shim and Frazer were both as impressive as in last week’s performance. Laine’s presentation, particularly in the second of five songs by Gerald Finzi was totally convincing.

Joel Link, violin; Heng-Han Hou, violin; Matthew Eeuwes, viola;
​and Fiona Robson, cello
in Anton Dvořák’s String Quartet No. 10 in E-flat major, Op. 51, B.92

​​by David Richards
oronto ON July 20th 2019

Alessia Disimino, violin; Jialiang Zhu, piano; Andrew Ascenzo, cello;
and Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, viola in performance
​of Brahms' Piano Quartet No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 60

Russell Iceberg, Christopher Stork, Charles Richard-Hamelin, Gregory Lewis,
Jacob Efthimiou and Chung-Han Hsiao
Ernest Chausson’s Concert(o) in D Major for piano,
​violin, and string quartet, op. 21

The second week of Toronto Summer Music concluded yesterday with three “reGENERATION” concerts at UofT’s Walter Hall in which both the Art of Song and Chamber Music sides of the Summer Music Academy were on full display.

The student performers, the 'Fellows' of the Summer Music Academy, worked with their ‘Mentors’ all week in preparation. It’s hard to refer to the Academy Fellows as students. Most have completed or are near completion of their formal training and are on the cusp of professional careers. They have come to Toronto for the Festival from across North America. For them, working with established musicians has been inspirational. Steven Philcox, Anthony Dean Griffey, Warren Jones and Daniel Taylor have worked with the 'Art of Song Fellows' this week. Pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin and members of the Dover Quartet have worked with the 'Chamber Music Fellows'.

Today’s performances marked the end of the incredible two-week ‘Art of Song Academy’ program. Audiences have had a glimpse of some of the next generation’s fine artists. Nevertheless, Toronto Summer Music continues with performances daily until August 3, 2019.
​Eastern European music originating in the Jewish ghettos of the past will be performed by the group Kleztory on Monday, July 22 at 7:30 at Walter Hall.  The Rolston Quartet will perform music of Brahms and Ligeti on Tuesday, July 23 at 7:30 pm, also at Walter Hall.

In the 4pm concert, there were two chamber music works with two sets of art songs sandwiched between. The Mendelssohn’s String Quintet No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 87 opened the program led by Bryan Lee of the Dover Quartet. Cellist Jaeyoung Chong gave a heartfelt introduction, considering whether virtuosity has a role in music’s ability to transform our state of mind. I was especially moved by the soulful third movement. Mezzo-soprano Alex Hetherington with pianist Bronwyn Schuman and tenor Elias Theocharidis with pianist Julie Choi contributed emotionally powerful performances. The concert concluded with Brahms’ Piano Quartet No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 60. Led by Dover quartet violist Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt, it also featured the Bedford Trio, a piano trio out of University of Toronto heard the previous day in a noon hour concert. Cellist Andrew Ascenzo gave a brilliant introduction referencing the work’s relationship to Brahms’ love of Clara Schuman, giving new meaning to the ‘sighing’ theme.

After a rushed dinner at LIVE Organic Food Bar (highly recommended vegan restaurant), we arrived just in time for the 7:30 concert. Two outstanding performances of chamber music enveloped two more sets of art songs. The Dover Quartet’s cellist Camden Shaw with violinist Jessy Je Young Kim and pianist Grace Hye Ri Shin combined in Dvořák’s Piano Trio No. 4 in E Minor, Op. 90, B. 166. The contrasts of mood were striking in this major work. The octave tuning between violin and cello was magical. Soprano Carolyn Beaudoin with pianist Scott Downing and bass Matthew Li with pianist Hanzheng Li concluded the ‘Art of Song’ contribution. Beaudoin’s powerful high register was needed in perhaps the most demanding works of the day by Maconchy, Griffes and Ives. Bass Matthew Li added American songs of Barber and Copland. Long Time Ago had a wonderful sense of loss while the Boatman’s Dance ended the set with humour and panache.

The concert and the evening ended with Ernest Chausson’s Concert(o) in D Major for piano, violin, and string quartet, op. 21, perhaps the 'performance of the day'. It was an inspired performance with pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin leading the ensemble. The solo violinist was Gregory Lewis, a graduate of University of Manitoba and Yale University and with an international resumé. The string quartet was the award-winning Iceberg Quartet from McGill University. The emotional depth of the work came to life in the many varied textures of the instrumental combinations and in the Wagnerian harmonies. The spontaneous standing ovation didn’t want to stop after two curtain calls. The audience didn’t want it to end.