A fine sampling of German Romanticism

Michael Johnson, concertonet.com

This program by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir was doubly unusual in that it presented a number of short choral works that rarely get the “big choir” treatment, plus the evening’s guest soloist was a pianist, in this case André Laplante, whose deeply thoughtful performance of six pieces helped fullfil the evening’s title German Romantics.

The Mendelssohn Choir with its 130 members is big for a hall (1100 seats) with Koerner’s intimate acoustics. However, Noel Edison has the measure of the space and deploys his full choir and it’s half-size version (the Mendelssohn Singers) to good effect.

The program opened with Schubert’s Gebet (“Prayer”), a wonderful showcase for the choir in that it features its various sections with intertwining musical lines. The four soloists, led off by soprano Lesley Bouza, are each briefly highlighted as well. This was followed by Schubert’s dreamlike Ständchen (“Serenade”) which sets off the alto against the choir’s men. Christina Stelmacovich has a voice much like a boy alto which left a rather chaste impression.

André Laplante then played Liszt’s Three Sonnets of Petrarch with a bold, full tone that still managed to be intimately conversational. Each piece has sections that build and then melt away. I was apprehensive that the choral audience might be rather cool toward a non-vocal interloper, but they were warmly appreciative.

The choir’s current associate conductor, Jennifer Min-Young Lee, assumed the podium for three Schubert works, the playful Der Tanz and Lebenslust bookending the more heartfelt expression of thanks, Des Tages Weihe, in which the men begin, joined by the women, then the women lead off joined by the men. All three pieces were extremely nicely done.

Read the full review online.