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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

Concert review: Toronto Symphony sings Mozart with the help of Amadeus Choir and violinist Hilary Hahn

By John Terauds on January 15, 2014

Hilary Hahn, Peter OUndjian and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall on Wednesday night (Josh Clavir photo).
Hilary Hahn, Peter Oundjian and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Roy Thomson Hall on Wednesday night (Josh Clavir photo).

You can sing with a violin just as well as with a voice. Just ask anyone who was at the second in this year’s Toronto Symphony Orchestra Mozart festival concerts, which included violinist Hilary Hahn, vocal soloists and the Amadeus Choir under music director Peter Oundjian on Wednesday night.

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

On the Roy Thomson Hall programme were three works from Mozart’s early years, spent in his birthplace of Salzburg — so close to Vienna, yet frustratingly far away for the young and ambitious performer and composer.

American violinist Hilary Hahn, who grows in assurance with every visit to Toronto, played Mozart’s teenage Violin Concerto No. 5, K219, known as the “Turkish” concerto for its rollicking dance in the final movement.

The music, especially the slow middle movement, sang with the phrasing and breathing of a human voice — a clear, controlled and compelling one.

Hahn has remarkable control over her bow, perhaps a little too much control sometimes, which she uses to shape and hone every single note. It’s an uncanny ability that she underlined with a few minutes of smooth-as-silk Bach Partita.

The aural treats continued after intermission with the well-known “Laudate Dominum” movement from the Solemn Vespers, K339, and the “Coronation” Mass, K317, sung by 70 members of Toronto’s Amadeus Choir — excellently prepared by director Lydia Adams.

The four Canadian soloists were tenor Lawrence Wiliford and, in their Toronto Symphony débuts, soprano Leslie Ann Bradley, mezzo Lauren Segal and bass-baritone Gordon Bintner (a recent inductee into the Canadian Opera Company’s Ensemble Studio).

This is big, quasi operatic church music, and everyone involved gave it their all, with exhilarating results. Bradley had an extra chance to shine in the “Laudate Dominum” — and she did after she settled into the piece a couple of minutes in.

Oundjian seemed in his element throughout, shaping the music with efficient care and managing the difficult orchestration of the “Coronation” Mass with the fine balance and attention to nuance of a period-instrument orchestra.

I’m willing to bet there were a lot of people smiling — and singing — on their way home.

It’s worth checking out Thursday’s repeat performance. You’ll find the details here.

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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