For my review in today’s Toronto Star, click here.
Here is a copy of what I filed to the paper last night:
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra closes its Mozart@256 festival in high dramatic style this week with a can’t miss program that added up to slightly less than its parts at Wednesday night’s opening performance.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s posthumously completed setting of the Requiem mass is one of the world’s most popular pieces of choral music. His Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor (K. 466) is one of the most evocative.
Adding further lustre to Roy Thomson Hall was Canadian teenage piano star Jan Lisiecki, making his début with the flagship orchestra in the country’s largest city.
Although music director Peter Oundjian shaped the orchestral portions of the music with grace as well as power, the multitude of guests did not always match the attempted mood.
Lisiecki played in a way that can only be described as dainty. His technique is flawless and he made Mozart’s already limpid score particularly transparent with crystalline articulations and a velvety touch. But lacking were expressive power and drama.
The young pianist’s performance was the musical equivalent of a watercolour landscape, a wash with little definition. The effect was pretty, but not compelling.
The Requiem, on the other hand, suffered from an overdose of drama from the Amadeus Choir and Elmer Iseler Singers – 66 of them, in all – and an uneven set of four vocal soloists who, more often than not, paled in comparison to the full-bodied choir.
The vocal discovery of the evening was American mezzo Kelley O’Connor, making her début with the Toronto Symphony. She didn’t have a lot to sing, but, whenever she did, she produced a big, dusky sound as compelling as it was effective in conveying the drama in the score.
This was a fine rendition of the Requiem, overall, but better suited to George Weston Hall, where it gets its final performance on Sunday afternoon, than at the orchestra’s downtown home.