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

Jennifer Koh, Minkyong Cho, violins; Jialiang Zhu, piano; Jacob Efthimiou, cello; Chung-Han Hsiao, viola

In the morning before the concerts, I was listening to CBC’s This is my Music featuring Annalee Patipatanakoon of the Gryphon Trio. Yesterday’s instrumentalists must have followed her advice when she said that every instrumentalist should sing in order to understand the singing line instrumentally. The playing standard was of the highest order. The singing line was breathtaking in every performance.

Members of the Summer Academy can be heard in the Academy Lunch Concerts at Heliconian Hall on July 31st, August 1st and August 2nd at 12 noon

Gregory Lewis, Chris Stork, violins; Fiona Robson, Julie Albers, cello; Soyoung Cho, Matthew Eeuwes, viola

Third Concert

After dinner, we returned for another program of two major chamber works, this time by Brahms and Schubert. If Suk was directly influenced by Dvořák, one could equally say that Dvořák was influenced by Brahms and therefore indirectly Schubert. The concerts together demonstrated that there is more linkage than borders and boundaries between generations. Once again, the singing line and the range of expression were equally moving in each of the works.

Johannes Brahms’ Piano Quintet in F Minor, Op. 34 led by violinist Jennifer Koh was a powerhouse of emotion. The rich tone of cellist Jacob Efthimiou and the phrasing delicacy of pianist Jialang Zhu were most impressive. The sweet tone individually and collectively in  the second movement came from meticulous phrasing. It’s hard to imagine putting this work together in one week. 

The concert concluded with a magnificent performance of the Piano Quintet. I can’t imagine enjoying a piece of music more than what I heard by the Rolston Quartet with Todd Yaniw, one of Canada’s finest pianists who deserves to be on international stages. For me, this was a highlight performance of the Festival full of nuance and beautiful singing lines. The Rolston Quartet keeps getting better and as Burashko indicated in his introduction, it is a quartet that is on a par with any in the world.

I hope this format is developed in future years. Andrew Burashko, founder and creative force behind Art of Time Ensemble is a master at breaking down the borders between popular and classical music.

Second Concert

At 4pm, we returned for a concert comprising two chamber ensembles made up of Fellows of the Summer Academy and their mentors. Whereas last week, two of the ensembles who came to the Academy intact (the Bedford Trio and the Iceberg String Quartet) performed as units, yesterday, the groups were split up to give them experiences with different musicians. Cellist Yegor Dyachkov mentored and led an ensemble in Josef Suk’s Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 8. Suk, a student and son-in-law of Dvořák was greatly influenced by his mentor in this early work. I was drawn to the wonderful sound and musical phrasing of violist Georgina Rossi during this performance. Accents are sharp and crunchy; the ensemble created wonderful fury in the finale marked allegro fuoco. Violinists Russell Iceberg and Alessia Disimino get full marks for their ensemble playing for the first time with each other. Pianist Felix Hong was magnificent with a particularly challenging score. 

Dvořák connections: chamber music and popular songs – Who would have guessed?​

 ​​Russell Iceberg, Alessia Disimino, violins; Yegor Dyachkov, cello; Georgina Rossi, viola; Felix Hong, piano

John Southworth with the Rolston String Quartet and Andrew Burashko, piano

Franz Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major, D. 956, Op. posth. 163 concluded the program and for us a long day of great music. Sometimes called the ‘cello quintet’ because of its second cello instead of a second viola, it is perhaps his finest chamber work with the rich bass line often the driving force with its pizzicato pulse. The work which lasted about 50 minutes, never lacked harmonic interest or melodic charm. I was particularly enamoured by the peaceful calm of opening and closing sections of the second movement. The virtuosity of the ‘hunting theme’ in the third movement was stunning. The major-minor back-and-forth in the finale demonstrated Schubert’s bohemian connection to Dvořák’s world. The communication among the members of the ensemble was noticeable throughout with mentor violist Beth Guterman Chu creating a joyful spirit.

​​by David Richards
oronto ON July 28th 2019

Jessy Je Young Kim, Heng-Han Hou, violins; Beth Guterman Chu, viola; Jaeyoung Chong, Andrew Ascenzo, cellos

Yesterday at Toronto Summer Music, three stellar reGENERATION concerts connected the borders of chamber music by introducing singer-songwriters and by making Dvořák central to three concert programs. 

First concert

​In the 1pm concert, Andrew Burashko introduced the program entitled Source and Inspiration featuring up-and-coming singer-songwriters and composers mentored by Sarah Slean, John Southworth, Christos Hatzis, and Robert Carli. The project resulting in this concert was a mini-version of a three-week intensive five years ago at the Banff Centre where up and coming singer-songwriters used Dvořák’s Piano Quintet No. 2 in A Major, Op. 81, B.155 to create popular songs. The work was an easy choice: it had already seen Nat King Cole’s hit song Nature Boy derived from the first bars of its second movement.

Yesterday’s concert consisted of three songs written during the Banff experience and two which were written just this week. With arrangements for singer, piano and The Rolston Quartet, Neil Burns, Sarah Slean, Kelsey McNalty, and John Southworth sang arrangements of their songs. Arrangements were written by Matthew Emery, Kelsey McNulty and Andrew Downing (I hope I got that right) with imaginative counter melodies within the strings and piano accompaniment. I was particularly enamoured with Neil Burns’s song Antonin arranged by McNulty; a song written to Dvořák to fill him in on what’s been happening in the world since his passing. Each of the songs was a heartfelt expression using themes from the Quintet.

Anton Dvořák’s String Sextet in A major, Op. 48, B. 80 followed. Cellist Julie Albers was the mentor for this performance. It was textbook Dvořák with a wonderful singing line bohemian rhythms and beautiful ensemble playing. Was it a love theme that kept returning in the first movement? The rhythmic motive of the second movement and the folk-like tune in the third were performed with understanding. I particularly enjoyed violists Matthew Eeuwes and Soyoung Cho in the finale. 

Rolston Quartet: Luri Lee, Emily Kruspe violin; Hezekiah Leung, viola; Jonathan Lo, cello with Todd Yaniw, piano