“Catharsis” is the wrong word: Britten’s War Requiem

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.
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Categories: 2018-2019 Season and Media Reviews.

Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem: A monumental commemoration of the WWI Armistice, November 11, 1918

David Richards, Toronto Concert Reviews. Amid the ominous chimes cutting through the languid sounds of lower strings and percussion, came the words of the Latin mass for the dead, “Requiem aeterna”. The unmistakable musical reference to  death and destruction was palpable. As the intensity of the orchestra and voices increased to a climactic cry of pain, an angelic choir of children sang out a prayerful warning “Te decet hymnus…” Such was the beginning of the powerful War Requiem by Benjamin Britten. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and Toronto Children’s Chorus, over 300 performers in all, came together for a monumental production of Britten’s 1962 masterpiece of remembrance of the horrors of war. Conducted by Bramwell Tovey, it featured soloists well-prepared for their roles, each having performed it with major orchestras and choirs recently. Indeed, the vision of Britten in having Russian, German and English soloists share the same stage was brought to fruition in this performance, something Britten himself couldn’t quite accomplish for the work’s première when soprano Galina Vishnevskaya couldn’t get an exit permit from the U.S.S.R. In last night’s performance it was the Russian soprano Tatiana Pavlovskaya, British tenor Toby Spence, and Canadian/German baritone Russell Braun. .... The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir for its part had some exemplary moments of great drama as well as reflective singing. The a cappella singing of “Pie Jesu Domine” was riveting.  “Libera me” with tenor drum and rumbles from the slow march of the bass drum began as a sorrowful lament that built to a frightening vision of judgment by fire. 
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Categories: 2018-2019 Season and Media Reviews.

Toronto Symphony Remembers With A Moving Tribute To The Wastes Of War

Stephan Bonfield, ludwig Van Toronto. Britten’s War Requiem: Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, Toronto Children’s Chorus, and soloists. Bramwell Tovey, conductor. Roy Thomson Hall. Nov, 8. Repeats Nov. 10. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra presented its annual Remembrance Day concert Thursday night at Roy Thomson Hall and, as always befits these solemn occasions, gave another moving tribute to those lost in a century of war and senseless conflicts. Last year it was Jeffrey Ryan’s immensely successful and evocative Afghanistan: Requiem for a Generation, but its model might well have been Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, a pacifist’s prime exponent of music mourning the casualties of young lives lost amid the senseless wastes of war. Thus, with this year being the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, the end of the Great War, it was an excellent choice to perform Britten’s masterful six-movement setting of the traditional Latin Requiem text and Wilfred Owen’s eight poems that Britten used to commemorate the man who died one week before the official armistice took effect. Owen’s writings, by his own admission, were less concerned with inherent poetic quality (they are brilliant regardless) and were rather more reflective about the war itself.  Owen superimposed his own deeply personal faith upon his psychologically harrowing experiences, and his extant writings inspired Britten’s polished and eruptive score, abounding with sumptuous depictions of Owen’s inner state as proxy for our collective horrified response to war’s ludicrous devastations.
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Categories: 2018-2019 Season and Media Reviews.

TMC announces 2018-19 Season and appointment of David Fallis as Interim Conductor

Acclaimed Toronto conductor David Fallis has been named as Toronto Mendelssohn Choir Interim Conductor and Artistic Advisor for the 2018/19 and 2019/20 seasons. “David brings to the TMC a life-long passion for choral music, incredible conducting experience, and a wide-ranging knowledge of choral repertoire and creative programming," commented TMC Executive Director Cynthia Hawkins.  "We are thrilled to work under the leadership of such an accomplished musician over the next two seasons while the TMC carries out an international search for our new artistic director.”   The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s 2018/19 season starts with performances with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in the Fall, including Benjamin Britten’s compelling War Requiem in a concert that commemorates 100 years since the conclusion of the First World War. The TMC’s own concert season begins in early December with Festival of Carols, the Choir’s annual joyous welcome to the season.  Then in January, a Free Community Concert will focus on the music of great composers from Canada and the United States. In February the TMC, with orchestra, will perform two great 18th century choral-orchestral masterpieces by Handel and Haydn. The season concludes with Sacred Music for a Sacred Space in April with a program that brings together two rich choral traditions: the French subtlety of Messiaen, Poulenc and Martin, and the mystical traditions of Eastern Europe and Russia.
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Categories: 2018-2019 Season and Media Releases.

Britten at 100 Program Notes

Program notes for Toronto Mendelssohn Choir Nov 20, 2013 concert – Britten at 100 – at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church. Notes written by music broadcaster Rick Phillips.
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Categories: 2013-2014 Season and Program Notes.

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and guests make magic of Benjamin Britten cantatas

Here’s a suggestion: If you go to one choral concert other than Messiah this season, make it the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir’s brilliant tribute to Benjamin Britten on Wednesday evening. Tuesday night’s dress rehearsal at Yorkminster Park Baptist Church revealed not only a compelling, deeply affecting programme, but wonderful performances from the Mendelssohn Choir, the Toronto Children’s Chorus, orchestra, pianists, organist and, last but far from least, soloists tenor Colin Ainsworth and soprano Leslie Bouza. Mendelssohn Choir music director Noel Edison chose two cantatas to showcase the composer’s genius for writing potent music drama for all ages and abilities: The Company of Heaven, created for BBC Radio in 1937, and Saint Nicolas, commissioned for the centennial of Lancing College but premiered at Aldeburgh in 1948.
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Categories: 2013-2014 Season and Media Reviews.

Britten at 100 – 2013

Britten at 100: Conductor Noel Edison and Music broadcaster Rick Phillips chat about Britten’s dramatic cantatas The Company of Heaven and St. Nicolas.
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Categories: 2013-2014 Season and Podcasts.

Toronto Mendelssohn Choir adds its voices to the celebration of Benjamin Britten’s centenary with Nov 20 concert

Noel Edison and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir celebrate Benjamin Britten’s centenary by bringing together all the musical forces – from adult and youth choirs to orchestra, soloists and speakers – needed to present two of Britten’s rarely-performed cantatas. Both The Company of Heaven and St. Nicolas immerse audiences in vivid and dramatic stories through text and music.
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Categories: 2013-2014 Season and Media Releases.

Drama, Artistry, Inspiration: the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir 2013/14 season

The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, under Artistic Director Noel Edison, has created an exciting 2013/14 season. The season, the TMC’s 120 th season, includes a celebration of Benjamin Britten’s centenary with a performance of two rarely-performed cantatas, a guest appearance by tenor superstar Ben Heppner at Festival of Carols, and Bach’s Mass in B minor at Koerner Hall. The TMC will also perform four concerts with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.
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Categories: 2013-2014 Season and Media Releases.