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Critic’s picks: Toronto concerts for February 18 to 24

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Dancer Sean Ling and pianist John Kameel Farah are part of a free lunchtime performance on Tuesday (John Lauener photo).
Dancer Sean Ling and pianist John Kameel Farah are part of a free lunchtime performance on Tuesday (John Lauener photo).


  • Pianist John Kameel Farah with Peggy Baker Dance Projects at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, noon. Free.

Four pieces played on the piano by John Kameel Farah and choreographed by Peggy Baker are worth a standing-room-only lunchtime at the Four Seasons Centre. Three of the dances are solos, starting with an improvisation on the part of both dancer Sahara Morimoto and pianist. Newer musical works are by John Cage and Michael J. Baker. The programme ends with a five-dancer ensemble piece set to a Prélude by Alexander Scriabin.


  • Organist John Paul Farahat at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church, 12:30 p.m. Free.

Farahat, a graduate student at University of Toronto and organist at St Basil’s Church at St Michael’s College, should have some fun on the massive 1928 Casavant organ at this cavernous church, making for a nice midday break if you’re in the neighbourhood.


  • Canadian Opera Company Ensemble Studio at the Richard Bradshaw Amphotheatre, noon. Free.

Pianists Jenna Douglas and Timothy Cheung accompany members of the Ensemble Studio in a concert of late-Romantic treats. There are bonbons by Johannes Brahms, Hugo Wolf and Erich Korngold woven into a Richard Strauss-heavy programme. The event ends with bass-baritone Neil Craighead singing an ode to music, steadfast love and a life well lived, “Wie schön ist doch die Musik,” from Die Schweigsame Frau by Strauss. You’ll find the full programme details here.

Listen to “Wie schön,” as sung by Thomas Quasthoff shortly before he retired, at a Vienna State Opera gala (the conductor is Peter Schneider):


  • Tafelmusik presents Mozart’s Requiem at Koerner Hall, 8 p.m. (3:30 p.m. Sun.)

The period-instrument orchestra and chamber choir team up under conductor Ivars Taurins for a rich programme. Mozart’s Requiem doesn’t fill a whole evening, so Taurins has added mid-18th century fare by Bach children Johann Christoph and Carl Philipp Emanuel, as well as two Mozart updates of J.S. Bach fugues. The excellent quartet of soloists is soprano Nathalie Paulin, mezzo Laura Pudwell, tenor Lawrence Wiliford and baritone Nathaniel Watson. You’ll find all the details here.


It’s one of those unbalanced weeks where several great concert choices fall on one night. Here are but three choices among several more that should satisfy the heart of people looking for intimate musical experiences:

  • Via Salzburg at Rosedale United Church, 8 p.m. You can expect a lot of polish here, as well a cross-cultural flourish in a programme that includes Two Sketches for String Quartet by Sir Ernest MacMillan, a great figure from Toronto’s musical history, and a wonderful late string quintet (G minor, K516) by Mozart. The organization is also premiering a new work by Jim Hiscott for dizi, the Chinese flute, featuring soloist Xiao Nan. You’ll find the details here.
  • Ton Beau String Quartet at Gallery 345, 8 p.m. This three-year-old ensemble continues its first official season of concerts with three masterworks: The Op. 13 String Quartet by Felix Mendelssohn, the “Kreutzer Sonata” String Quartet by Leos Janácek and, with the help of pianist Emily Rho, Antonin Dvorák’s Piano Quintet. Regular admission is but $20. Details here.
  • Pianist Gabriela Martinez at the Glenn Gould Studio, 8 p.m. This New York City-based Venezuelan has a wonderfully elegant way with the keyboard. She’s presenting a rich and unusual programme in her Toronto début. I’ll have more on this later in the week. Recital details here.


Wesley Shen

  • Emergents IV at the Music Gallery, 8 p.m.

In its Emergents series, the Music Gallery tries to curate programmes with broad appeal featuring younger performers. This particular concert brings together two very different sensibilities.

The evening opens with pianist Wesley Shen and bassoonist Michael Macaulay. In duo they present Jean Fançaix’s late Deux pièces as well as a sonata by 20something composer Raphael Fusco. Shen is also playing excerpts from Ann Southam’s remarkable piano-solo work, Glass Houses.

The rest of the concert is given over to Shannon Graham and her nine instrumental conspirators known as the Storytellers, an ensemble that refuses to recognize borders between art music, jazz and pop.

You can’t go wrong for $10. You’ll find all the details here.


  • Jackson-de Margerie Duo with clarinetist Yao Guang Zhai at Gallery 345, 3 p.m.
Yao Guang Zhai
Yao Guang Zhai

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s phenomenal young associate principal clariet Yao Guang Zhai joins his orchestral colleague, bassonist Fraser Jackson, and Toronto collaborative pianist Monique de Margerie in an wildly eclectic programme that ranges from George Frideric Handel to Astor Piazzolla to the premiere of a new suite by clarinetist-composer Martin Van de Ven. You’ll find the details here.

John Terauds

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