Music reviews of the finest concerts in Toronto:
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Nikki Chooi, Joseph Johnson and Steven Dann
Photo Credit: Gord Fulton
STRING EXTRAVAGANZA: Five of Canada’s finest chamber musicians join together at Toronto Summer Music Festival
Following intermission, the main event of the evening, Franz Schubert’s String Quintet in C Major, D. 956 was a brilliant performance of a masterpiece. Here, the evening’s five artists came together to create a sound that was at once both orchestral and at the same time intimately beautiful. The cello duet of the second theme, the tranquility of the second movement, and the duality of the peacefulness and violence of the third, all gave evidence of the human spirit of Schubert. Despite his impending death, there is unbridled joy in the final movement.
Jonathan Crow, Artistic Director of TSMF is to be congratulated for putting together these outstanding artists who created such uplifting music for this sold-out event. TSMF continues until August 5th with performances daily in several venues. Programs are listed at www.torontosummermusic.com
This is the last review of the summer for Toronto Concert Reviews. We look forward to a new season beginning in September with reviews of performances by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Canadian Opera Company, Music Toronto, Tafelmusik, Opera Atelier, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Elmer Iseler Singers, Toronto Consort, the Royal Conservatory and more.
Andrew Wan, Nikki Chooi, Desmond Hoebig, Joseph Johnson and Steven Dann
Photo Credit: Gord Fulton
The last few weeks has been a “Tale of Two Cities” for Toronto Concert Reviews. We have shuttled between Elora and Toronto and enjoyed both the intimate atmosphere of St. John’s Church and the grandeur of Koerner Hall. The Elora Festival has exploited the human voice for the most part while the Toronto Summer Music Festival has focused on chamber music. Both festivals have crossed over into both the vocal and instrumental arts providing a generous mix of great music. Bookending these two weeks has been music written within a few short years of each other by Beethoven in the case of the St. Lawrence Quartet on the opening night of TSMF, and Schubert in the case of last night’s String Extravaganza at University of Toronto’s Walter Hall. In between, the Cecilia Quartet’s Death and the Maiden by Schubert was composed within the same time frame while cellist Cameron Crozman delighted his audience with Mendelssohn’s Cello Sonata No 2 written some 15 years later. It has been a ‘Romantic’ summer.
Last night, TSMF displayed five of Canada’s finest chamber musicians, each of whom has been a concertmaster or principal in major orchestras as well as a highly acclaimed soloist and chamber musician. The program began with Nikki Chooi, Concertmaster of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in 2016/17, Steven Dann, former Principal Violist of the Toronto Symphony; and Joseph Johnson, Principal Cellist of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra performing Gary Kulesha’s Trio for Violin, Viola and Cello. Written when Kulesha was only 16 years old, it was full of energy, lyrical beauty, and humour. In the hands of three superb artists, the work came alive. Kulesha, one of Canada’s leading contemporary composers, let this work sit idle for twenty years. I suspect we will hear it played more often in the next twenty. The work is certainly worthy.
Andrew Wan and Desmond Hoebig; Photo Credit: Gord Fulton
The second work, Maurice Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello M.73, featured Andrew Wan, Concertmaster of the Orchѐstra symphonique de Montréal, and Desmond Hoebig, former cellist with the Orford String Quartet and principal cellist of several major symphony orchestras. The combination of violin and cello without the usual piano gave rise to very interesting counterpoint. The transparency of the musical lines and the chemistry between the two performers was a treat. Not being familiar with the work, I was listening for evidence of jazz influence such as is in Ravel's piano concerto. However, it was the eastern European influence that grabbed my attention. Wan and Hoebig were especially brilliant in their rendering of the spirited contrapuntal finale.
Review by David Richards
Toronto ON July 17th 2017