Toronto Symphony 2018-2019 #5: Romantic Opulence and Worldly Pleasures

Ken Stephen, Large Stage Live!. The combined forces of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the Toronto Youth Choir acquitted themselves magnificently throughout the cantata, from the majestic opening cry of O Fortuna to the rapid-fire yet still completely clear diction of In taberna quando sumus or Veni, veni, venias.  The steadiness of the tone was noteworthy and the choral blend across the full dynamic range was an unfailing delight.
More

Categories: 2018-2019 Season and Media Reviews.

Unlikely Pairing Of Orff And Korngold Hits The Spot In TSO Revival

Joseph So, ludwig van Toronto. From the downbeat of “O Fortuna” onwards, it was a sonic journey of extraordinary impact. Sometimes this piece can come across as a tad bombastic, but under Runnicles’s baton, it was plenty loud but never overdone. There were moments of subtlety, underscoring the inherent lyricism of the work. But at the climaxes, it was thrilling, thanks to the inspired playing by the TSO, notably the brass and the woodwinds. ... And what can I say about the three choirs, except that they are the best. It was headed by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, surely a national treasure. The torrents of sounds were thrilling, full-bodied, incisive, rhythmically precise, exactly the way it should sound. The ending, a recap of the opening “O Fortuna,” was exhilarating, bringing the audience to its feet.
More

Categories: 2018-2019 Season and Media Reviews.

Pathways to the past with TSO Carmina Burana

Leslie Barcza, barczablog. I’ve heard a lot of versions of Carmina Burana and must recommend Runnicles’ distinctive interpretation. He connects the sections together rather than making big pauses, he pushes the tempi in the quicker passages, which is especially electrifying if you get your percussion & brass to opt for clear & crisp attacks. You won’t hear a better performance. This orchestra is in fine form coming towards the last few concerts of the year (this week & next). Credit too must go to David Fallis, who has the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir matching Runnicles’ requirements for clarity. The text was pristine, the dynamics sometimes beautifully restrained except in the big climaxes, so that the performance had more shape than usual (more than last time certainly). The soft singing still had great intensity, diction and consonants and energy but without being loud all the time. As a result? Extraordinary. If I could go see every concert this week, I would.
More

Categories: 2018-2019 Season and Media Reviews.

Choral maestro Andrew Balfour pursues his Indigenous identity through music

Carol Toller, The Globe and Mail. Toronto’s Tafelmusik and Mendelssohn choirs and the buzzy New York-based experimental ensemble Roomful of Teeth have all commissioned pieces from Balfour, and close to 20 groups across the country have performed his first published work, Ambe. The five-minute piece builds around a driving, rhythmic bass line that echoes the sound of a ceremonial drum – or, as Balfour has said, the heartbeat of Mother Earth – and projects a message of unity for all "two-legged beings.” The text is in Ojibway, and its energetic, welcoming message “seems to be something that people want to hear right now,” Balfour says.It’s a far cry from Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus and the rest of the Western canon that dominates choral programming in North America. And for Canadian choir directors, that may be what’s most exciting about Balfour’s work. He’s drawing on his First Nations identity to nudge the Canadian classical-music scene out of its stodgy Eurocentric traditions.
More

Categories: 2018-2019 Season, 2019-2020 Season, and Media Reviews.

A great blend of architecture and music

Michael Johnson, Concertonet.com. This year’s Easter presentation by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (“Sacred Music in a Sacred Space“) took place at St. Anne’s Anglican Church a heritage building whose interior was decorated in the 1920s by notable artists in a style hearkening back to art nouveau. The space thus related nicely with the program of 20th century music composed between 1910 and 1987, a time period that experienced the emergence of various musical philosophies and styles. The word “rapt“ best describes the approach of all eight composers.
More

Categories: 2018-2019 Season and Media Reviews.

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir inspired by new venue for Sacred Music in a Sacred Space

David Richards, Toronto Concert Reviews. The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir found a new venue for its annual concerts for Holy Week,Sacred Music for a Sacred Space. The new location, St. Anne’s Anglican Church, has a beautiful Byzantine style structure that dates to 1907 with interior decoration and paintings completed by J.E.H MacDonald and other members of the Group of Seven. Before the concert began many of the early birds in the audience were out of their seats getting closer looks and photos of the iconography on the walls and ceilings The symmetrical shape and the domed ceilings gave a warm acoustic without the excessive decay of Gothic styled churches. The setting was clearly one of Interim Conductor and Artistic Advisor David Fallis’s inspirations for the program.​The first half of the program was clearly designed to set the tone for a meditative experience. Two reflective motets by French composers opened the concert.
More

Categories: 2018-2019 Season and Media Reviews.

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s Haydn and Handel celebration lifts the spirits on a blustery winter night!

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.
More

Categories: 2018-2019 Season and Media Reviews.

Toronto Symphony–Mendelssohn Choir Messiah

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.
More

Categories: 2018-2019 Season and Media Reviews.

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir Makes Handel’s Messiah Shimmer With The TSO

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.
More

Categories: 2018-2019 Season and Media Reviews.

Coming Together through Toronto’s Beloved Messiah

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.
More

Categories: 2018-2019 Season and Media Reviews.