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Critic’s picks: Toronto concerts for February 25 to March 3

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Isabel Bayrakdarian helps Amici celebrate 25 years on Friday night (Ruzanna Tantushyan photo).
Isabel Bayrakdarian helps Amici celebrate 25 years on Friday night (Ruzanna Tantushyan photo).


Art song and chamber music are nicely represented tonight:

    • Soprano Lorna MacDonald and pianist Henri-Paul Sicsic, both faculty members at University of Toronto, present a very promising all-French programme of art song and music for solo piano at Walter Hall, starting at 7 p.m. Details here.
  • The Associates of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra have a rich programme in store featuring a sextet of current and past members of the TSO. One of the highlights is bound to be Giacomo Puccini’s Crisantemi. The concert starts at 7:30, at Trinity-St Paul’s Centre. Details here.


  • A lecture by British keyboard scholar Peter Williams at Christ Church Deer Park, 7:30 p.m. Free.

A remarkable combination of performer, scholar and teacher, Bach expert Peter Williams is visiting at University of Toronto this week for a series of lectures and master classes. Tuesday’s public installment is titled “What it is to write a biography of J.S. Bach.” You’ll find the details here.

Williams is hosting a public master class with UofT organ scholars at Church of the Holy Trinity on Monday at 1:30 p.m. and a lecture-concert on Wednesday (about playing Bach chorales on the harpsichord) at Trinity College Chapel at 7:30 p.m. These events are free, as well.



  • The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra with conductor Franz Welser-Möst at Roy Thomson Hall, 8 p.m.

This is one of the orchestra concerts of the year. We get to hear one of Franz Schubert’s symphonies (No. 6), which are almost never heard in Toronto anymore. The programme also features Richard Strauss’s colourful Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks and a recent work by Jörg Widmann. Details here.


  • The Fauré Piano Quartett performs for Music Toronto at the Jane Mallett Theatre, 8 p.m.

There are not a lot of full-time piano quartets in the world, so it’s a treat to have this group of Germans who have been performing together for 17 years present something particularly intriguing in their Toronto début: An arrangement for their ensemble of Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. We also get to savour Richard Strauss’s broad-shouldered C-minor Piano Quartet. Details here.

Because we don’t hear it often, here is the Strauss quartet performed by four members of Ensemble Raro (a hip, young eight-member chamber music ensemble that’s been getting a lot of great buzz in central Europe) — violinist Alexander Sitkovetsky, violist Razvan Popovici, cellist Bernhard Hedenborg and pianist Diana Ketler:


  • Amici Chamber Ensemble with Isabel Bayrakdarian at Koerner Hall, 8 p.m.

It’s a good thing the Toronto Symphony Orchestra isn’t performing on this night, because its finest principals are going to be sharing the stage with Amici core members Joaquin Valedpeñas, David Hetherington and Serouj Kradjian — as well as special guest Isabel Bayrakdarian.

Amici gets to put a word in for the 50th anniversary of Francis Poulenc’s death with a performance of the wacky, surrealist Le bal masqué, a “cantata” from 1932. The rich programme also includes Chanson perpétuelle by Ernest Chausson, a septet by Beethoven and Kradjian’s arrangement of the gorgeous Cinco canciones niegras by Xavier Montsalvage.

You’ll find all the details here.

Here is Pierre Bernac, Poulenc’s favourite baritone (the two were born five days apart in Paris, in 1899), helping render the grand silliness of Le bal masqué. The six movements are Preamble and Bravura Aria, Intermezzo, Malvina, Bagatelle, the [very creepy] Blind Lady [“with the eyes that bleed”] and Finale:


  • Against the Grain Theatre presents staged song at the Extension Room, 8 p.m.

Not ones to take any artform for granted, the young company that brought us last season’s stunning production of The Turn of the Screw is presenting an intense programme of staged artsong featuring the music is Leos Janácek and György Kurtág in a post-industrial yoga studio on Eastern Ave. I’ll have more on this soon. For ticket details, click here.


Here are two fine choices from opposite ends of the Western musical spectrum:

  • The Tallis Choir, which is celebrating its 35th season and the 10th anniversary of countertenor Peter Mahon becoming its artistic director, presents the intense Tenebrae Responses by Carlo Gesualdo as the centrepiece of a Renaissance programme they have titled “Gesualdo: Murderer & Musician,” at St Patrick’s Church, 7:30 p.m. Details here. Here’s the fine amateur choir singing a bit of Giovanni Gabrieli:

  • The opening of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s annual New Creations Festival at Roy Thomson Hall, 7:30 p.m.

The first of this year’s New Creations concerts is a casual affair — right down to the video-game visuals that will accompany art music composer Nicole Lisée’s Arcadiac. There are Canadian premieres by two American composers on the bill: this year’s star Tod Machover and Mason Bates (who will also be performing onstage). Music director Peter Oundjian hosts. You’ll find the details here. Here’s a promotional video for Bates’ piece, Alternative Energy, made by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra:


  • The Windermere String Quartet at St Olave’s Church, 3 p.m.

The period-instrument chamber group adds guest violist Emily Eng to perform a programme of quintets by Mozart, Boccherini and one in E minor by one of my favourite forgotten composers, George Onslow. You’ll find the details here.

Here, to give a taste of Onslow’s fine craft is a later E-minor quintet, performed by Les Alchimistes Berlin:

John Terauds


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