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September 17: Toronto classical concert highlights for the next seven days

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James Ehnes helps kick of a new Toronto Symphony Orchestra season on Thursday and Saturday (Benjamin Ealovega photo).

The big artistic and creative powers come out for Glenn Gould on the weekend, with details coming in a later post. As a prelude, we get a host of fine season-opening concerts:


The modern viola is the last vestige of a whole family of stringed instruments that goes back five centuries. Played as a consort, viols become a gentle, complementary chorus, a sound that inspired many English composers, including John Dowland. I can’t think of a better meditation break in the middle of a workday (even if it is the first day of the week). Toronto’s Cardinal Consort suggests a donation of $5.

In case you need an introduction to the sound, here is a great audio and visual illustration by the Ernst Stolz Viol Consort, using a piece by William Byrd:


Less than two weeks ahead of curtain on the first production of the season, the Canadian Opera Company introduces this year’s Ensemble Studio members in a recital of opera favourites at the first of its capacity-crowd free lunchtime concerts at the Four Seasons Centre. You’ll find full programme details here.


  • Organist Michael Bloss at Our Lady of Sorrows, 3055 Bloor St W., 12:15 p.m.

One of Toronto’s finest concert organists presents a free lunchtime concert on a fine Casavant instrument inside a beautiful building with great acoustics.


  • Soprano Nathalie Paulin and pianist Che Anne Loewen at Walter Hall, University of Toronto, 12:10 p.m.

These two excellent artists pair up for a free lunchtime art song recital plucked from three cycles by Francis Poulenc: MétamorphosesFiancailles pour rire and Trois poèmes de Louise de Vilmorin. Prof. Eric Domville introduces.

Here, just for fun, is the world premiere of two piecs from Poulenc’s song cycle La Courte paille (The Short Straw) on French television, with the composer accompanying soprano Denise Duval.


The Toronto Symphony Orchestra has chosen the tried-and-true path to open its 2012-13 season in choosing Canadian star James Ehnes (now based in Florida) to breathe his unsurpassed technical control on one of the warhorses of the violin repertoire, the 1878 Violin Concerto by Johannes Brahms.

The oddly structured programme led by music director Peter Oundjian starts with the Overture to Giuseppe Verdi’s La Forza del destino and ends with American composer John Adams’ popular — and gripping — 1984 symphony Harmonielehre. The title comes from a music theory treatise by Arnold Schoenberg, but the three-movement work is tonal, bristling colourfully with Adams’ now-signature shifting music-pattern textures.

For concert and ticket details, click here.

Here is the opening to Harmonielehre, courtesy of conductor Simon Rattle and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra:


  • Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra plays Bach at Koerner Hall (8 p.m. on Fri. & Sat., 3:30 p.m. on Sun.) at George Weston Recital Hall (8 p.m. on Tues.)

Toronto’s great period-instrument orchestra built its international reputation on a handful of Baroque masterpieces, including J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. Their Sony recording, recently reissued on Tafelmusik’s new in-house recording label, continues to set the standard for how this music should be interpreted.

For the orchestra’s season-opening programme, we get to hear Brandenburg Concertos No.1, No. 3 (the one with the fancy violin work) and No. 5, which will give Charlotte Nediger an opportunity to show off her skills at the harpsichord.

The programme, led by violinist Jeanne Lamon, is rounded out with Bach’s brilliant Fourth Orchestral Suite, which dates from the same period as the Brandenburgs and doesn’t get performed nearly enough.

Note that the Friday concert is sold out.

For concert details and tickets, click here.


  • Claudio Monteverdi’s Vespers of 1610 at Metropolitan United Church, 7:30 p.m.

One of the masterpieces of the early Baroque gets a rare Toronto performance, in a pared-down version that places one instrument per part, featuring a new small vocal ensemble Accenti Vocali and the Elixir Baroque Ensemble. Tickets are $20, which mitigates the risk of checking out these brave musicians in the ample acoustics of this large downtown church.


  • New Music Concerts at the Betty Oliphant Theatre, 8 p.m.
Lawrence Wiliford

I’ll have more later in the week on this season-opening programme, which features the premiere of a new piece for tenor (Lawrence Wiliford) and eight cellos by Toronto composer James Rolfe.

You’ll find all the details and ticket information here.

(A note to anyone not of average size: the Betty Oliphant Theatre has the most uncomfortable seats in town.)

John Terauds

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