Elena Tsallagova and Sandra Horst entertained the crowd in the RBA yesterday with a flower themed recital of French and Russian songs. It was a very well chosen selection that allowed Ms. Tsallagova to display her versatility. From Debussy’s quite operatic Rondel chinois, where she showed a lot of power for a young lyric soprano, through the varied moods of Bizet’s Feuilles d’album where by turns she was dramatic, sombre and very playful. Throughout she was extremely demonstrative while managing excellent phrasing and impeccable French. She has an interesting range of colours too, from extremely bright through to quite covered and dark and she’s not afraid to use them. Actually, the way she threw herself into the material I don’t think she is afraid of much!
Last night’s Soundstreams Koerner Hall presentation; Magic Flutes was an interesting experience. Aside from interesting (mostly) contemporary flute pieces it was very much an experiment in different ways of staging a concert. I’m all for breaking down the conventions of Mahlerian solemnity and I think experimentation is great. It’s in the nature of taking risks though that some things don’t quite work.
Evolving Symmetry is the first of a promised series of collaborations by soprano Adanya Dunn, clarinetist Brad Cherwin and pianist Alice Gi-Yong Hwang. The focus will be on “modern” chamber and vocal works (for some value of “modern”) and last night at Heliconian Hall they presented French works ranging from the 189os to the 1960s.
The program was bookended by two late Poulenc works; the song cycle La courte paille to nonsense verse by Maurice Carème and the clarinet sonata. These works were composed at the same time and share some musical material though the sonata seems a weightier work. The songs are fun and playful and they were interpreted by Ms. Dunn with excellent French diction and lots of humour. The sonata is seems much sadder and more reflective though its final movement is manic enough. Fine playing from both musicians here.
The Academy Program is an important part of the Toronto Summer Music Festival. It allows selected young artists; singers, collaborative pianists and chamber/orchestral musicians, to work with experienced professionals in an intensive series of coachings, masterclasses etc culminating in a concert series. This year the mentors for the vocal/collaborative piano component were pianist Craig Rutenberg, who has worked everywhere and with everybody, and mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke; a last minute replacement for an indisposed Anne Schwannewilms. I didn’t make it to any of the masterclasses, though word on the street is that they were exceptional, but I did make it to yesterday’s lunchtime concert in Walter Hall.
Yesterday’s recital in the RBA was given by soprano Simone Osborne and the very busy pianist Stephen Hargreaves. The program began with three Mozart songs that I was not familiar with; Oiseaux, si tous les ans, Dans un bois solitaire and An Chloe. They were unfamiliar to me but Mozartian in a pleasing, intimate way; very much songs rather than concert arias. They got a clean, rather dramatic reading with real feeling from both parties. Next came the Ariettes oubliées of Debussy. Here we have texts by Verlaine of a mostly languorous ecstasy variety with a complex, very impressionistic piano part. Indeed they really do sound like pieces composed by someone who prefers writing for the piano and Stephen brought out their somewhat ethereal qualities nicely. Still the soprano gets to spin some very beautiful languorously ecstatic lines and there’s even one piece; Chevaux de bois, where the mood changes and the singer can have some fun. Which Simone did.
Yesterday’s concert in the Songmasters Series at Mazzoleni Hall featured Mireille Asselin and Brett Polegato with Peter Tiefenbach and Rachel Andrist in a program of songs more or less related to painting and painters. The first half of the program was all French; Fauré and Debussy. Mireille and Peter gave us two songs from Fauré’s Cinq mélodies de Venise plus three pieces from Debussy’s Fêtes galantes and Pantomime from Quatre chansons de jeunesse. I thought the Debussy generally suited Mireille’s voice rather better than the Fauré. The first three songs were beautifully and charmingly sung while Pantomime gave full rein to Mireille’s considerable comedic talents. The highlight of the first half for me though was Brett’s singing of the Poulenc work that gave the concert its title. Seven songs by Paul Eluard; each a brief portrait of a painter. Written at the same time as Dialogues des Carmélites, these pieces have the same sort of intensity and drive (and decided non trivial piano parts!). They were most expertly sung with fine diction and legato and a keen sense of the varied moods of each piece.
It’s getting pretty busy in Toronto. Here are a few upcoming things of interest that I haven’t already mentioned.
This year, the Faculty of Music’s annual student composer project is a co-production with Campbell House Museum, the 19th century home of Sir William Campbell, Chief Justice of Upper Canada. Footsteps in Campbell House is a series of pieces by student composers to words by Michael Albano. The audience moves around the house exploring the lives of those who livedd there. There are five performances on January 30th and 31st and February 1st. Each performance is limited to 35 people. Tickets are $20 and available here. I’m really intrigued by this but there’s no way I can go. Continue reading →