Dave Richards, Toronto Concert Reviews. It was a miserable night to trudge downtown. The six or more inches of snow and slush were enough to discourage many from heading out. By mid-afternoon in Oakville when I learned that the GO trains would be cancelled for several hours, my own attendance was put in doubt. But for those of us who did brave the weather to St. Andrew’s Church, The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and their Interim Conductor and Artistic Director David Fallis made it more than worth our effort with a celebration of Haydn and Handel.
Conductor David Fallis has put together a stellar group of soloists for this concert of two beloved 18th century greats on February 27, 2019. The Choir and orchestra will be joined by soprano Mireille Asselin, mezzo-soprano Christina Stelmacovich, tenor Asitha Tennekoon, and bass-baritone Stephen Hegedus.
Of the Missa in tempore belli, David writes in the program notes:
“The mass has many extraordinary touches. The overall feel is optimistic and confident, appropriate to the basic key of C major, but the beautiful cello and bass singer duet at the Qui tollis in the “Gloria”, the deeply moving Et incarnatus est in the “Credo” and the gorgeous harmonic colouring at so many moments mark this mass as the work of a great composer working at the height of his powers.”
Haydn's Missa in tempore belli (Mass in time of war) is so called because it was written in 1796-97 as Napoleon’s forces were advancing towards Vienna. In German-speaking countries it is often referred to as the Paukenmesse (Timpani Mass): the timpani does play a significant part in the mass, especially in the Agnus Dei where Haydn uses a brilliant drum solo to heighten the intensity of the movement’s prayer for mercy and peace.
The mass has many extraordinary touches. The overall feel is optimistic and confident, appropriate to the basic key of C major, but the beautiful cello and bass singer duet at the Qui tollis in the “Gloria”, the deeply moving Et incarnatus est in the “Credo” and the gorgeous harmonic colouring at so many moments mark this mass as the work of a great composer working at the height of his powers.
Spotlight on North America. Saturday, January 26 at 3 pm EST.
Interim Conductor David Fallis has put together a program featuring works by Canadian and American choral composers for the TMC’s 2019 free community concert. David notes
“We want to shine our spotlight on three key areas: the exciting new generation of Indigenous artists across Canada who are leading contributors to so many aspects of our cultural life, choral music included; local Toronto composers from Healey Willan to Stephanie Martin; and the fact that some of our most alluring melodies are folksongs whose origins are obscure but which live on in lively arrangements by important composers.”
This concert is a wonderful opportunity for people to hear the Grammy-nominated 120-voice Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and discover some stunning contemporary choral music, including two works by Andrew Balfour, the prominent Winnipeg composer of Cree descent.
Leslie Barcza, barczablog. Toronto is Messiah town, as I’ve joked before. Handel’s most popular Biblical oratorio is everywhere at this time of year.
Tonight I took in the second of six offered this week by the Toronto Symphony, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and soloists under the baton of Johannes Debus, the Music Director of the Canadian Opera Company. We’ve heard him lead operas at Four Seasons Centre, I wondered what he’d be like leading an oratorio down the street with the TSO & TMC.
And in fact it was the cleanest clearest Messiah I’ve heard at Roy Thomson Hall.
Arthur Kaptainis, ludwig Van Toronto. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents Handel’s greatest hit every December, generally with a new conductor. Our Messiah maestro this year is both familiar and surprising: Johannes Debus. On Monday, the music director of the Canadian Opera Company oversaw a performance in Roy Thomson Hall that was agreeable in particulars but lacking something in drama.
The stars of the show, numbering about 110, were in the loft. Clearly, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir has not lost interest in this annual assignment. “For unto us a Child is born” was exuberant and the stresses of “Let us break their bonds asunder” were spot-on. Sections were perhaps not of exactly equal strength — we all know which letter comes first in SATB — but counterpoint was vigorous and the tone was lucid at all dynamic levels. This great institution seems to be thriving under the interim supervision of David Fallis.
Brian Chang, Choral Scene, The Wholenote. Toronto Symphony Orchestra CEO Matthew Loden and I are chatting about the beloved cultural phenomenon that is Messiah in Toronto. Sitting in his office overlooking Roy Thomson Hall, I can see the iconic webbing of the edifice, a physical nest that cradles the music hall. In a few weeks, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and guests, under the baton of Johannes Debus, will present a major six-performance run of Handel and Jennens’ masterpiece.. (Full disclosure: as regular readers of this column know, I sing in the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and will be on stage for these performances.)
“We live in a very disjointed and fractured time right now. I think that the human condition is to long for a kind of togetherness, to find your place with people,” says Loden, speaking about the need for a space for an event like Messiah. “Increasingly, we keep finding ways to disintegrate relationships. When you have a moment where you can come together collectively and still have an individual experience while feeling the music coming off the stage with a couple thousand other people – that is really powerful.” With these TSO performances alone, 15,000 people will experience the majesty of the most iconic of Toronto classical-music traditions.
Starting with the 2019/20 season, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir will hire its own professional core of singers. This professional core will replace the Elora Singers, the acclaimed professional chamber choir who for 20 years formed the professional core of the TMC.
The 20 members of the professional core will participate in all TMC and TMC/TSO rehearsals and concerts. Contractual details are being finalized, but will include a two-year agreement and increased stipend. Auditions for the new TMC professional core will be held in early 2019.
Read through or download the concert program.
Jenna Simeonov, Schmopera.
There was a moment of particular vitriol in Bramwell Tovey's brief remarks before giving the Toronto Symphony Orchestra its downbeat for Britten's arresting War Requiem. He said, "When the sun goes down, and when the sun comes up - and in the rain - we shall remember." It was a pointed, verbal bite directed at a US President who, 100 years after the official end of WWI, was too small and weak to pay an in-person visit to an American military cemetary outside Paris; he cited rain as his excuse, which is in horrific taste even as it is thinly-veiled code for pouting and narcissism.
There was bile on Tovey's tongue that rang into Roy Thomson Hall, and its effect lingered long enough to dovetail into the first bars of the War Requiem. I have always found something magnetic and charismatic about Tovey, and as silly as it may sound, to hear him indulge in a brief moment of personal feelings about the meaning of war and commemoration felt akin to hearing a friend's firsthand experience with tragedy.