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

In keeping with the spirit of giving each of the student artists an opportunity to shine there was a pre-concert performance of chamber music. Claude Debussy’s Trio for harp, viola, and flute was played by Benjamin Albertson, harp; John Sellick, viola; and Emily Phernambucq, flute. It was followed by Fryderyk Chopin’s Polonaise Fantasie performed by Hugo Kitano, piano.

The concert was live-streamed and can be seen here. The Royal Conservatory Orchestra will perform next at Koerner Hall on Friday February 8th 2019 at 8pm. Johannes Debus will conduct.

In each of the other works on the program, other students stood out. The opening work, Tovey’s Field of Light, is a piece of program music about the experience of soldiers in Vimy during WWI awaiting the command which would come at first light of day. Emily Phernambucq, flute; Nicholas Lazzara, English Horn; and Rick Barrantes, bassoon were featured and performed with sweet tone and cohesive phrasing.

Following intermission, the orchestra performed Gustav Mahler’s Blumine, originally meant to be a movement in his first symphony. It is essentially a trumpet solo with orchestra and for this, trumpeter Carlene Brown was confident and secure with beautiful tone in the melancholic piece. Principal oboist Glenda Lindgren, principal clarinetist Kailan Fournier and principal horn Ryan Garbett also made strong impressions in solos.

The final work on the program was Richard Strauss’ Suite from ‘Der Rosenkavalier’, TrV227, Op. 59. The work is a robust and dramatic portrayal of 19th century Viennese society as it weaves its way through the opera. Gentle melodies, crashing fanfares, and of course the Viennese waltz. One didn’t need to be familiar with the opera to enjoy this music. I particularly enjoyed the work of the strings in this work, but solos by June Kim, oboe; César Palacio, clarinet; and Colin Laursen, violin all had special moments.  

There was a kind of musical chairs, “principal chairs” that is, throughout the concert. There is sufficient depth of talent among the players in this orchestra that each is worthy of solo parts. The role of principal in each section changed with each work on the program. The concert master for the first half was Danielle Greene while Colin Laursen took over in the position for the second half. Tovey remarked to Anagnoson at intermission that the Glenn Gould School has become a very special establishment. He should know, he has conducted student orchestras in many parts of the world. Danielle Greene felt that each of the conductors brought something very special to their concerts. She felt that having “project weeks” to prepare for the concert gave a very professional experience.

Royal Conservatory Orchestra: Another triumph with conductor Bramwell Tovey and cellist Hannah Craig!

Royal Conservatory Orchestra with Bramwell Tovey; Photo credit:: Lisa Sakulensky

Last night’s performance at Koerner Hall was yet another triumph for the Royal Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School. Conducted by the celebrated British conductor, Bramwell Tovey, it was nevertheless more about the students of the school’s orchestra who excelled in a program of Tovey, Elgar, Mahler and Richard Strauss.

​The quality of this orchestra is the result of a confluence of excellent teaching, financial support, creative leadership and, of course outstanding student musicians. James Anagnoson, Dean of the Glenn Gould School and the mastermind behind the organization along with Associate Dean Barry Shiffman, gave tribute to the donors such as RBC, Classical 96.3FM, Telus, the National and Provincial governments and to the many individual donors to the Deans Fund. He singled out Tom Logan who continues to match individual donations up to $100,000. Nothing can happen without the convergence of funding, great teaching and fine students.

Last night’s conductor, Tovey, is one of four internationally renowned conductors who will each have conducted one of the orchestra’s series concerts this year. Tovey, who was for eighteen years Music Director of the Vancouver Symphony, has recently become Principal Conductor of the BBC Concert Orchestra and even more recently Artistic Director of Calgary Opera. Tovey sees himself as a teacher. He says it’s important to bring humour into the rehearsal process to lift the spirits. He certainly did that for the audience last night when a piece of music went missing prior to the final work on the program He bantered with the audience for five minutes while the music was retrieved.

But last night’s program was a triumph for the students. It was built around Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85, performed by Glenn Gould Artist Diploma student, cellist Hannah Craig, who won the opportunity to perform with the orchestra in last January’s Concerto Competition. Craig displayed an authoritative command of her technique, a sumptuously full sound and expressively lyrical phrasing. From the opening recitative and the sweeping lines of the main theme to the heart-felt final moments, she demonstrated wonderful artistry.

​​Review by David Richards
Toronto ON November 24th 2018

Royal Conservatory Orchestra with conductor Bramwell Tovey
​and Concert Master Colin Laursen;
Photo credit: Lisa Sakulensky

Royal Conservatory Orchestra with Bramwell Tovey
Photo credit: Lisa Sakulensky