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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

Classical retrenchment at Koerner Hall as Royal Conservatory unveils some of 2013-14 season

By John Terauds on January 23, 2013

Europa Galante is a highlight of sparse classical programming by Royal Conservatory at Koerner Hall in 2013-14.
Europa Galante is a highlight of sparse classical programming by Royal Conservatory at Koerner Hall in 2013-14.

You would think that the Royal Conservatory programs more classical concerts at 1,135-seat Koerner Hall than good-old Music Toronto does at the 497-seat Jane Mallett Theatre downtown. Think again.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

The Royal Conservatory has announced its classical, jazz and crossover programming for the 2012-13 season and, if one looks at concerts offered by professional musicians (which excludes the Royal Conservatory Orchestra and opera programmes), the organization has programmed 13 mainstage classical concerts at Koerner Hall next season, compared to 16 for Music Toronto.

An insert in last night’s Music Toronto programme notes showed that the veteran chamber music series is continuing its established pattern of eight quartets, five pianists and thee Discovery concerts by up-and-coming musicians. Only three dates have confirmed names, including the great Arnaldo Cohen to open the piano series on Oct. 8.

Telus Centre programming appears to be veering ever-steadily away from strict classical programming. The season is offering only one quartet and four pianists. There are, however, three great violinists on the roster.

The season-opening headliner is Audra MacDonald, a much loved Broadway singer, on Sept. 28. She is setting the tone for a season rich in fine jazz and crossover material.

Thoroughly modern opera diva Natalie Dessay makes her Toronto début alongside composer Michel Legrand — best known for his film scores, not art music — and Les Violons du Roy, for two performances, Dec. 15 and 16.

Grand established names from the string world include cellist Mischa Maisky, accompanied by daughter Lily, on Oct. 10, and violinist Midori, on Nov. 8. Other notable violinists coming are Isabelle Faust next Jan. 24 and Leonidas Kavakos on Feb. 28, 2014.

The Conservatory has done well with great pianists during Koerner Hall’s first four seasons. That tradition continues for the fifth season, with a spectrum representing masters young and old. Chinese sensation Yuja Wang and veteran András Schiff lead off the pianistic parade on Oct. 27 and Nov. 3. Kirill Gerstein visits on Dec. 8 and Stephen Hough arrives on Mar. 2, 2014.

Georgian hotshot Khatia Buniatishvili will be 26 when she appears for her April 6, 2014, Toronto début.

There are few classical ensembles next season: The wonderful New Orford String Quartet is scheduled to perform with a 90-year-old Menahem Pressler at the piano on Nov. 24; a special treat for fans of baroque music will be a Feb. 8, 2014 concert by Fabio Biondi and Europa Galante, who helped set the current European standard for period-performance.

The Conservatory has programmed a free chamber music concert for Sept. 29 that could turn into one of the finer chamber music concerts of the season. It features the resident ARC Ensemble in a rich all-Italian programme capped by baritone Peter Barrett singing Ottorio Respighi’s Il tramonto.

None of these dates includes the many classical and art music concerts booked at Koerner Hall by other presenters. There will also be many recitals at 237-seat Mazzoleni Hall, including that of promising young violinist Luri Lee on Feb. 23, 2014.

But that said, it looks clear from Koerner Hall programming that the Royal Conservatory is backing off from strict classical fare, focusing on groups and artists that are international big names in order to sell 1,000 tickets (which go on sale Feb. 11).

Take away the New Orford quartet and ARC Ensemble, and where are the Canadian names?

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, Editor-Emeritus of Ludwig van Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at the University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
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