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Around Canada

‘Walküre,’ shrunk to fit compact opera house, still an exhilarating ride

VICTORIA, British Columbia – Pacific Opera Victoria's production, using an arrangement for 43 musicians led by a stand-in conductor making his Wagner debut, parlayed solid musical leadership and a fine cast into a full-hearted, splendid event.

Presto! (Or Andante): Between Competitions, A Festival Works Magic

BANFF – In 2017, the triennial Banff International String Quartet Competition introduced a recurring string-quartet-plus festival. This year's typically surprising musical adventures drew assorted artists and full houses for eight concerts.

How Suite It Is, Or Six Flourishes For Trumpet From Master Marsalis

MONTREAL – The Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and principal trumpet Paul Merkelo made a good case for Wynton Marsalis' multi-styled Trumpet Concerto, a six-movement work that scans more as a suite than a true concerto.

Mega Flourish Of Horns Lifts ‘Alpine Symphony’ At Canadian Music Fest

JOLIETTE, Quebec – The International Horn Society's annual symposium and the improbable availability of Yannick Nézet-Séguin to conduct Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitain at the Festival de Lanaudière led to a memorable collaboration.

Joplin’s ‘Treemonisha’ Revived In Canada With A Freshening Makeover

TORONTO – The opera has not won a firm place in the repertoire, but the Luminato Festival and TO Live presented the premiere of an effort by a mostly Black and female creative team to broaden its musical palette and strengthen its narrative.

In The Stillness Of June, A Festival’s Bright Trio Serves Up Intimate Fare

MONTREAL – Three stellar young (or in one case, youngish) Canadians who had never performed together before relieved the city's fallow concert period in June with personal music-making that ranged from a Beethoven sonata to a Kodály duo.

Bang-Up Mahler Third Brings Montreal Season To A High-Decibel Wrap

MONTREAL – The year just past has been a veritable Mahlerpalooza for the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal and first-year music director Rafael Payare, who closed their season with a clamorous account of the Third Symphony.

In This Season Farewell, An Orchestral Grab Bag Revealed A Silk Lining

VANCOUVER – On paper, music director Otto Tausk’s season ender for the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra had a miscellaneous look, but it all worked in a concert highlighted by Brahms’ Violin Concerto with soloist Stefan Jackiw.

Beatrice Rana Fuses Ferocity And Beauty In ‘Hammerklavier’ Sonata

TORONTO – I have heard a lot of Beethoven over the years, but never have I heard his daunting Sonata No. 29 in B-flat played with the fire and passion summoned by this Italian pianist – not to mention her almost miraculous technical mastery.

A Throwback Concert Recalls Triumvirate Of 2nd Viennese School

VANCOUVER – Soprano Robyn Driedger-Klassen sang Berg's Seven Early Songs in a concert by the Turning Point Ensemble on a program titled "Vienna, End of an Ear," spotlighting a wide range of works by Berg, Webern, and Schoenberg.

‘Fragments’ For Cello: Random Bach, New Bits All Add Up To Very Little

TORONTO – Cellist Alisa Weilerstein's project Fragments integrates Bach’s cello suites, their movements scrambled, with 27 new commissions to make six hourlong, multi-sensory programs for solo cello. Ambitious, yes, but what's the point?

A Hundred Musicians, One Glorious Sound: Chicago’s Grand Band

TORONTO – Although the Chicago Symphony Orchestra hadn't played here in 109 years, its recorded legacy was well known. Two concerts led by music director Riccardo Muti proved the current CSO remains an ensemble par excellence.

With Canadian Premiere Of ‘Jobs,’ Opera House Buffs Modernist Profile

CALGARY – Embellishing its exceptional history of Canadian premieres of works by contemporary American composers, Calgary Opera presented the country's first look at Mason Bates and Mark Campbell's The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs.

Multi-talented Hannigan Cedes Baton In Display Of Otherworldly Singing

MONTREAL – The Canadian soprano and conductor Barbara Hannigan left the podium to Orchestre symphonique de Montréal music director Rafael Payare but made a distinctive contribution as vocalist in an intriguing program.

Amid Old Friends Again, Emerson Quartet Offers Farewell To Remember

VANCOUVER – The celebrated ensemble, formed in 1976 and retiring from the concert stage at the end of this season, played an eloquent valedictory program of Haydn, Schubert, and Shostakovich for longtime hosts the Friends of Chamber Music.

Music Was Resonant, Applause Tremendous. Don’t Ask About Drama.

MONTREAL – La beauté du monde, a new work by composer Julien Bilodeau and librettist Michel Marc Bouchard commissioned by the Opéra de Montréal, displayed greater intention than tension in a tale of Nazi plunder of European art.

‘Goldberg’ Perspectives: Bach In Knowing Hands On Piano, Harpsichord

VANCOUVER – Keyboard fans enjoyed a once-in-a-lifetime conjunction of performances when pianist András Schiff and harpsichordist Jean Rondeau, in very different venues, delivered two thoughtful readings of the Goldberg Variations.

Bach’s ‘Art Of Fugue,’ Luminously Analyzed And Masterfully Played

VANCOUVER – To call pianist Filippo Gorini's achievement a performance doesn’t convey the scale of his encompassing project, which included outreach activities, a lecture, and a series of filmed discussions about Bach's relevance today.

In Golden Homecoming, Chopin Winner Scores Again As Keyboard Hero

MONTREAL – Pianist Bruce Liu, a 25-year-old Paris-born Montrealer who last October won gold in the International Chopin Piano Competition, displayed his winning mettle in Rachmaninoff with the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal.

Yiddish Cabaret Echoes In Fresh Form And Spirit Of String Quartet Fare

VANCOUVER – In the intimacy of a synagogue, the Jerusalem Quartet, with Israeli soprano Hila Baggio, offered a nuanced program featuring a work based on cabaret-inspired songs by Ukrainian-born composer Leonid Desyatnikov.
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