TORONTO CONCERT REVIEWS

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

The concert opened with the ebullient Overture to La clemenza di Tito, K. 621 by Mozart.  Takács-Nagy set a blistering tempo and the orchestra captured the spirit and handled the break-neck speed of the scales and arpeggios with remarkable cohesiveness.

The second work on the program was Piotr Ilych Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35, one of the favourites of the symphonic repertoire. It has been performed by virtually every major soloist of the past hundred years and is filled with ravishing melodies and rhapsodic passages. Soloist Orin Laursen handled every challenge that Tchaikovsky wrote into the score. He played with warmth and dazzled with his virtuosity. I had a chance to speak to Orin following his performance and he described the amazing feeling of being totally connected with the conductor and the orchestra. He commented on the bond that Takács-Nagy created with each performer. Laursen has long held Takács-Nagy in high regard. Among his favourite recordings are those of the Takács Quartet recorded when Takács-Nagy was its first violinist. Laursen is in his second year of the Artist Diploma program on full scholarship.

Following intermission, the orchestra performed Antonin Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8 in G Major, op. 88, B. 163. The work opened with a heart-stirring melody in the cellos and takes one on a journey of highs and lows through four movements filled with striking tunes and elaborately complex structures. Solos by each of the wind principals and concert master stood out. The lush sounds of the strings opening the second movement were especially moving. The brilliant fanfare of trumpets filled the hall at the opening of the finale. I was especially taken by the soulful melody in the third movement with the descending scales that were like tear-drops commenting on the music’s beauty. When the orchestra was called on to play fortissimo in tutti sections, the energy was brilliant.

Leslie Ashworth, one of two concert masters of the concert was ecstatic as she told me what it was like to perform with such a wonderful leader in Gábor Takács-Nagy who made the whole week a special time. Takács-Nagy embodied childlike enthusiasm and energy while sharing his wisdom from a life of music-making.

The Royal Conservatory Orchestra will perform next on Friday, November 23rd at 8pm in Koerner Hall with Bramwell Tovey conducting a program that includes music by Elgar, Mahler and Tovey. The soloist will be cellist Hannah Craig. If you missed last night’s performance you can watch it on line here.  

I never fail to be impressed by the young musicians of the Glenn Gould School. For that reason, the four concerts of the Royal Conservatory Orchestra are the first dates I put on my calendar at the beginning of each concert season. They bring not only their youthful enthusiasm and dedication to their challenging programs, but a consistently high level of musicianship and preparation. 


The Glenn Gould School opened its 31st season last night with a free concert at Koerner Hall. The full house was treated to a program of Mozart, Tchaikovsky, and Dvořák with uplifting works for both audience and orchestra. Guest conductor Gábor Takács-Nagy spent the week with the orchestra leading up to the big night.

Takács-Nagy arrived on Monday from Valencia, Spain and following the concert, flew back to London, England to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra. The week of rehearsals and last night's concert was all about process. For the students, it was a week away from their usual academic studies and private lessons during which intensive rehearsals took place throughout each day with the renowned conductor. The music gave the right amount of challenge to both inspire and demand their finest work. Takács-Nagy, in a pre-concert chat, said that his job was to encourage confidence in each performer with positivity to allow them to work together for a peak experience. James Anagnoson, Dean of the Glenn Gould School told the audience that the smiles on the faces of the orchestra at the end of an intense week of rehearsals, told him that it was a process that the students enjoyed.

The process for violin soloist Orin Laursen was much longer. He was selected over a long list of performers from the school in a competition last January. His preparation began months before that. Last night was the culmination of his months of effort.​

​​Review by David Richards
Toronto ON September 29th 2018

Orin Laursen and Gábor Takács-Nagy performing an encore
 Photo Credit: Royal Conservatory of Music

Royal Conservatory Orchestra with Guest Conductor Gábor Takács-Nagy
 Photo Credit: Royal Conservatory of Music

Concert Masters Leslie Ashworth and Nakwon Choi
 Photo Credit: Royal Conservatory of Music

Royal Conservatory Orchestra: Gábor Takács-Nagy inspires childlike energy and enthusiasm in the music of Mozart, Tchaikovsky and Dvořák!