Toronto classical ensemble Euphonia is all about bringing an informal, fun vibe to its concerts at Lula Lounge. But at its third concert there on Monday night, what impressed me the most was their risk-taking.
Founding conductor Simon Capet had chosen three pieces from the heart of the 18th century repertoire: Mozart’s Symphony No. 29, a Concerto for Flute by C.P.E. Bach and Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 6.
None of these works offers any latitude for mistakes or poor balance, yet Capet had reduced his forces down to the strictest minimum.
Having 13 players perform a Mozart symphony, for example, is like installing a shiny black kitchen countertop and expecting it not to show every bread crumb and sugar crystal.
But these young, energetic musicians did remarkably well, filling the space with moments of musical brilliance, and a clear committment to the score.
And things got better from there.
Soloist Christopher Lee was magnificent in the virtuosic C.P.E. Bach concerto, and brought the house down with a second-movement cadenza that slipped into a slinky-jazz duet with double-bass before returning back to the 18th century.
It would be weird to applaud a cadenza in a formal concert hall, but the gesture felt entirely appropriate at Lula.
And by the time the musicians got to the evening-closing Haydn symphony, the ensemble had truly found its bearings, doing full justice to a sparkling score.
At the start of the concert, Capet pointed out to the full house that this was the size of space in which the original audiences would have heard these works — intimate surroundings that helped connect ears and music with particular directness.
At the same time, the musicians were not merely anonymous faces on a distant stage, but people dressed in everyday clothes playing standing up on the dancefloor, in the middle of the action.
The youthful Lula Lounge audience was able to order dinner, sip their drinks, have dessert and coffee without missing a beat.
Clearly, Euphonia is on the right track. With a bit more work on honing their string sound and some judicious use of theatrical lighting to brighten up the concert space, this group will not just be the newest classical band in Toronto, but has the potential to develop into its hottest, too.