Home     Content     Articles      La Scena Musicale     Search   

La Scena Musicale - Vol. 19, No. 7

Ontario Festival Picks

by Joseph So / June 1, 2014

Version française...

Flash version here.

There was a time when Ontarians, particularly Torontonians, had to leave town in the summer to get their classical music fix. But no more – there are plenty of musical pleasures to be had right at home. Luminato Festival (June 6-15) now in its 8th year, celebrates the arts in Toronto with cutting edge programming. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra once again have a “late night” performance; this year it’s Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5 on June 14 from10 to 11 pm at Roy Thomson Hall, adjacent to the Festival Hub. The next day, the TSO presents a Salute to the Americas, billed as “in anticipation of Toronto’s 2015 hosting of the PanAm Games.” The program includes works by composers from Canada (John Weinzweig), the USA (John Williams), Cuba (Ernesto Lecuona), Brazil (Heitor Villa-Lobos), and Argentina (Alberto Ginastera). If your musical tastes extend beyond classical, there are plenty more on offer in the 10-day period of Luminato. www.luminatofestival.com

For the more hardcore classical music fans, the Toronto Summer Music Festival (July 22-Aug. 12) is the undoubted highlight. The two mandates of the TSMF are chamber music and art of the song, and this year the offerings in both are particularly mouth watering. It opens with the Emerson String Quartet (July 22) at Koerner Hall, followed by pianist Beatrice Rana, winner of the 2011 Montreal International Music Competition and Silver Medalist of the 2013 Van Cliburn Competition. American pianist Peter Serkin (son of the great Rudolf Serkin) joins the Orion String Quartet in a program of Brahms and Dvořák (July 24). The big attraction for voice fans is a concert of Italian opera arias by Canada’s Bel Canto queen Sondra Radvanovsky (July 31). Also very interesting is the appearance of the wonderful duo of British baritone Christopher Maltman and collaborative pianist Graham Johnson in masterclasses plus a recital of war-related songs by English, American, French and Russian composers (Aug. 6). Section principals of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra will give a chamber concert featuring works of Dohnányi and Johann Strauss, as well as Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer with baritone Peter McGillivray. On August 12, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Peter Oundjian gives its first-ever concert at Koerner Hall before starting its European Festival tour. Given that the TSMF is also an “Academy,” one looks forward to the many concerts in the mentors and fellows series, where established musicians play alongside the up and coming students on the verge of professional careers. Under the tutelage of Douglas McNabney, the TSMF has gone from strength to strength and this year promises to be exceptional. www.torontosummermusic.com

In the nation’s capital, summer music is well represented by two important festivals – famous American saxophonist-composer Branford Marsalis is the headliner in the opening concert of Ottawa’s Music and Beyond Festival (July 5). The Beijing Acrobatic Troupe makes a rare North American appearance in 10 performances from July 5 to 11 at the National Arts Centre as well as the Chinese Heritage Centre. The Auryn Quartet returns to the Festival for three performances (July 7, 8, 9). Program details not available at press time. The comic duo of Igudesman and Joo is made up of violinist Aleksey Igudesman and pianist Hyung-ki Joo. They have entertained audiences everywhere with their irrepressible and irreverent music making (July 9 & 10). I still remember their hysterical A Little Nightmare Music three years ago. www.musicandbeyond.ca

The venerable Ottawa Chamberfest (July 24-Aug. 6) celebrating its 20th anniversary, and the eclectic Music and Beyond (July 3-17). The Brentano String Quartet, which supplied the divine playing on the soundtrack of The Late Quartet, opens the Chamberfest on July 24. The Cecilia String Quartet joins forces with James Campbell in Janácek’s String Quartet No. 1 on July 28. The marvelous soprano Sondra Radvanovsky appears in a recital of arias and songs by Beethoven, Verdi, Massenet, Rachmaninoff, Copland, Cilea and Duparc (July 29). Two fine Canadian singers, baritone Russell Braun and Monica Whicher, team up in a program exploring Canadian and American Songs (July 31). Soprano/Comedienne extraordinaire Mary Lou Fallis pays tribute to William Shakespeare – in her inimitable way, of course! – with pianist/composer Peter Tiefenbach on August 6. The Festival closes on August 7 with the Ensemble Caprice playing Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos juxtaposed with Shostakovich’s Op. 87 Preludes, a work very much under the influence of Bach. www.chamberfest.com

A highlight in this year’s Stratford Summer Music (July 14-Aug. 24) is a concert that brings together violinist Hilary Hahn and pianist Jan Lisiecki (Aug. 1) in a program of Brahms and Chausson. Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra presents two concerts (Aug. 22 & 23) featuring works of Vivaldi, Telemann, and Bach, including the Coffee Cantata and the Wedding Cantata with soprano Nathalie Paulin, baritone Phillip Addis and tenor Zacharie Fogal. Also very intriguing is The Bicycle Opera Project that “brings Canadian contemporary opera to communities across Ontario by bicycle!” The performances feature young musicians and the repertoire consists of short pieces with contemporary resonance. Soloists include baritone Geoffrey Sirett, tenor Christopher Enns, mezzo Stephanie Tritchew and soprano/Artistic Director Larissa Koniuk. www.stratfordsummermusic.ca

Now in its 35th year, the Elora Festival (July 11-27) combines musical excellence with the rustic charm of rural Ontario. It opens with Haydn’s Creation on July 11 in the Gambrel Barn. Joining the Festival Singers are the 35-member Trinity College Choir from Cambridge, England. (Information on soloists is not yet available at press time) Canadian bass Robert Pomakov joins the Gryphon Trio for Mussorgsky’s Songs and Dances of Death (July 20). www.elorafestival.ca

Traveling further north in cottage country is the Festival of the Sound (July 18-Aug. 10), also celebrating its 35th anniversary. There’s going to be a musical birthday party (July 19) with pianist Gene DiNovi, trumpeter Guy Few, soprano Virginia Hatfield and baritone Peter McGillivray in a light-hearted musical romp of Paris from La bohème to Gershwin. Canadian tenor Richard Margison is teaming up with his talented vocalist daughter Lauren Margison in an evening of pop, jazz, folk, musical theatre as well as opera (July 27). On August 10, the Festival closes with a flourish, in the form of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony and soloists soprano Leslie Fagan, mezzo Marion Newman, tenor Michael Colvin and baritone Russell Braun, joined by the Elmer Iseler Singers. www.festivalofthesound.ca

Having recently announced his retirement from opera, tenor Ben Heppner nevertheless has agreed to appear at the Westben Arts Festival on July 20, in a show billed as Sunday Afternoon with Ben Heppner with pianist Brian Finley, in a program of music from opera and art song. The title is obviously a take-off on Heppner’s serving as host of CBC’s Saturday Afternoon at the Opera. No further detail is available on their website. This may be the last chance one gets to hear the beloved Canadian tenor. Other highlights include the Cecilia String Quartet (July 12), four performances of The Phantom of the Opera in concert (July 23-26) with Mark Dubois as the Phantom, Donna Bennett (Christine), Gabrielle Prata (Carlotta) and Robert Longo (Raoul). Also of note is the Toronto Masque Theatre’s presentation of Dido and Aeneas (July 5 & 6). www.westben.ca

Though not technically part of any summer festival, the presentation by Soundstreams of the new opera Airline Icarus by composer Brian Current and librettist Anton Piatigorsky June 3-8 proves intriguing. Directed by Tim Albery, soloists include Krisztina Szabo, Jennifer Taverner, Zorana Sadiq, Alexander Dobson. The performances take place in Ada Slaight Hall of Daniels Spectrum, a new venue in Regent Park, an area in downtown Toronto that has undergone a remarkable transformation. (An excerpt from the opera will be performed by the Bicycle Opera Project at Stratford Summer Music) www.soundstreams.ca

Version française...
(c) La Scena Musicale