Friday, April 8 marked the final stop (and the only Canadian one) in the North American tour by the superb choir of Christ Church College, Oxford, a tour that started in North Carolina a couple of weeks before that. I may not be formally edjimicated, but I did manage to figure out that the college is the home to several Harry Potter sets, such as the great hall of Hogwarts.
In Toronto the choir appeared at Grace Church on-the Hill (pictured above), and were joined by that church's Choir of Gentlemen and Boys. The repertoire covered a good deal of musical history, from John Taverner (c. 1490 - 1545) to Howard Goodall (b. 1958). The first half ended rousingly with Handel's "Zadok the Priest", but the moment I sat up, quite transfixed was, not surprisingly, with Britten's "Te Deum in C". Britten is always the man.
On Tuesday, April 26 we attended a performance by two fabulous groups: the Kalichstein-Laredo Robinson Trio and the ARC Ensemble. The former was new to me, the latter one of my favourite ensembles anywhere. Together they provided a wonderful evening. I love the soft, chocolate brown seats in Toronto's still-newish Koerner Hall, but I was nothing but riveted by the wonderful music being made on stage: Brahms' Trio in A Minor for Piano, Clarinet and Cello, Op. 114, Korngold's Suite for Two Violins, Cello and Piano Left Hand, Op. 23, and - after the intermission - Schumann's Piano Quartet in E flat Major, Op. 47. The Korngold, particularly, played on my romantic, film-loving nature, but I would be hard pressed to have picked one as a desert island choice.
The following week we were back in Koerner Hall for a recital by the great Canadian diva, Adrianne Pieczonka, with Brian Zeger at the piano. She sung a progam of songs by Schubert, Strauss and Wagner (his Wesendonck Lieder). The previous week, Pieczonka has been unwell, and had not been able to sing the opening night of the Canadian Opera Company's Ariadne auf Naxos. She dedicated Strauss's "Zueignung" (Dedication) to her wife, mezzo-soprano Laura Tucker, who - she told us from the stage - had been a blessing in that rough week. There weren't too many dry eyes after she had sung that. It was the last piece on the printed program. But then we had encores, including "An die Musik", which caused a lady to call out, after the applause had died down, "But Adrianne, you are the music!" The love-in continued, and I shed many tears when this wonderful artist sang "There's a Place for us" from Bernstein's West Side Story.
On Thursday, May 5, I attended, with my dad, a concert of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. It was a night of Finnish magic: Hannu Lintu, conductor, led the TSO with Karita Mattila, the riveting Finnish diva and Anssi Karttunen, cello. The repertoire was so generous and fascinating: Saariaho's Laterna Magica was inspired by Ingmar Bergman's autobiography of the same name. Her Mirage for soprano, cello and orchestra featured text from a poem. The program notes by Don Anderson told us:
"The shaman and healer Maria Sabina (1894 - 1985) spent her life in a tiny village, deep in the mountains of southern Mexico. She was among the first people to allow outside visitors to participate in a healing ritual involving the consumption of the trance-inducing psilocye mushroom. Her chants and incantations were set down and translated and Kaija Saarihao used one of them, in English, as the setting for Mirage."
I am a woman who flies.
I am the sacred eagle woman [the mushroom] says;I am the Lord eagle woman;I am the lady who swims;Because I can swim in the immense,Because I can swim in all forms.I am the shooting star woman,I am the shooting star woman beneath the water,I am the lady doll,I am the sacred clown,Because I can swim,Because I can fly.
I was high on the rest of the superb program which featured Bloch's Schelomo ("Hebraic Rhapsody") for cello and orchestra, Sibelius's Luonnotar, Op. 70 for soprano and orchestra, Sibelius's Der Barden (The Bard), Op. 64 and - I guess for shits and giggles - Ravel's La Valse.