TORONTO CONCERT REVIEWS

Music reviews of the finest concerts in Toronto and beyond!
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As Artistic Director, Coral Solomon is to be congratulated on the programming of an entertaining and informative evening of wonderful music. The linkages in the program to Enescu were uncanny. Even Jonathan Crow had a lineage to the composer, having studied with Yehudi Menuhin who was himself a student of Enescu. The concert ended with, as an encore, the famous ‘Méditation’ from Thaïs by Massenet who just happened to be Enescu’s teacher.

There will be two more concerts in Toronto’s George Enescu Festival with some of Canada’s finest chamber musicians performing on Saturday September 14th at 7:00pm at the Eglinton-St. George’s United Church. Performers will include Michael Berkovsky, piano; Conrad Chow, violin; David Hetherington, cello; Barry Shiffman, viola; and Nunè Melik, violin. On Saturday September 22nd, at the Glenn Gould Studio, the Romanian violinist, Alexandru Tomescu will perform with the Argentinian bandoneon player, Omar Massa. Both concerts will be preceded by pre-concert chats by Joe Ringhofer at 6:15pm. For more information and tickets go to: www.enescufestival.ca

The events of the George Enescu Festival in Canada are produced by TRADICIOUS with the support of Dr.Elena Cioata-Tomsa and FloCello.com, importer of Romanian cellos and violins.

Violinist Jonathan Crow and pianist Coral Solomon at George Enescu Festival
Photo credit: Iuliana Pacso

Joe Ringhofer in a pre-concert chat at the George Enescu Festival

Last night, violinist Jonathan Crow and pianist Coral Solomon gave a spectacular concert to open the first ever Toronto edition of the George Enescu Festival at Jeanne Lamon Hall in the Trinity-St. Paul Centre.


Begun in 1958, the George Enescu Festival, the largest classical music festival in Eastern Europe and perhaps even the world, is centred in Bucharest, but has expanded to cities throughout Romania and Europe. This year the 24th edition is truly an international event with scores of concerts throughout September in six cities and five countries outside Romania including Toronto and Montreal for the first time. The Festival honours the Romanian born international musical celebrity of the first half of the twentieth century. Enescu, a superb violinist, conductor, pianist and composer deserves more attention in this part of the world. He is to Romania what Chopin is to Poland. They both left their homelands but are both revered as national heros.

Coral Solomon, last night’s pianist and Artistic Director of the Festival in Canada chose works to honour the life work of the composer and his Romanian heritage. Opening the concert was Béla Bartók’s popular Romanian Dances, soulful folk tunes collected from the people of the Transylvania region that transported the audience immediately to Enescu’s birthplace.

The remainder of the first half included Enescu’s Impromptu Concertant, a work reflecting his Germanic roots from his time as a student in Vienna and Maurice Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 2 in G major. Enescu performed this work when living in Paris with Ravel on the piano. From the soaring melodies of Enescu to the jazz and the ‘perpetuum mobile’ of the third movement, Jonathan Crow was brilliant. From passionate lyricist to jazz saxophone-like blues player and ultimate fiddler, Crow, the concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony, is the ultimate violinist. Solomon, a doctoral student at University of Toronto has performed extensively throughout Canada, Europe and especially Romania, her family’s native country. Her collaborative work was sensitive and bold.

The second half included solos by both performers followed by the largest work on the program, Johannes Brahms’ Violin Sonata No. 3, Op. 108. Coral Solomon began with George Enescu’s ‘Toccata’ from Piano Suite Op. 10. She held nothing back as she performed brilliantly what was a piece that won a French competition adjudicated by among others Claude Debussy and Alfred Cortot. The music seems to have a French flavour but not without hints of Enescu’s Romanian heritage. Jonathan Crow followed with Eugène Ysaÿe’s programmatic Sonata for Solo Violin No. 3 “Ballad”.

The Brahms Sonata was indeed a tour de force for both violin and piano, and Crow and Solomon gave a polished performance. The second movement found me imagining it being sung by a lyric soprano. The Presto Finale alternated from ferocity to reflective lyrical splendour.

This was a concert that was designed with the audience’s enjoyment in mind. Joe Ringhofer, co-author of Royal Conservatory history texts and Director of the Phoenix Conservatory of Music, set the tone with an insightful pre-concert talk. The trivia of Enescu’s performance in Toronto in 1937 and invitation to conduct the TSO in 1940 (cancelled because of the war) was an interesting tidbit.

​​by David Richards
T
oronto ON September 8th 2019

George Enescu Festival expands to Toronto in spectacular fashion