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Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

SCRUTINY | Plenty To Celebrate In TSO Russian Evening With Daniil Trifonov

By Arthur Kaptainis on June 17, 2018

Peter Oundjian and Daniil Trifonov (Photo: Jag Gundu)
Peter Oundjian and Daniil Trifonov (Photo: Jag Gundu)

Toronto Symphony Orchestra with Daniil Trifonov (soloist) and Peter Oundjian (conductor) at Roy Thomson Hall, Saturday.

“Celebrating Peter Oundjian,” reads the title page of the printed program for the final concerts of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra season. This mission does not preclude the presence in Roy Thomson Hall of some very good pianists, including the Russian A-lister Daniil Trifonov, who on Saturday delivered a Rach 3 to remember.

But second things first. After intermission, we heard Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition in the inevitable Ravel orchestration. This is a great showpiece for individuals, sections and (in The Great Gate of Kiev) the whole shebang. Many were the highlights. I cannot remember hearing warmer or smoother solos in Bydlo (by a trombonist, playing euphonium) or The Old Castle (by the saxophonist).

Both numbers were remarkable also for their rich atmosphere, unforced tempi and subtle interplay of parts. The weighty brass of Catacombs resolved evocatively into the shimmering strings of Cum mortuis in lingua mortua. Oundjian gave us an interpretation of the multifaceted masterpiece, not just a performance.

This all-Russian program started with Glinka’s Overture to Ruslan and Lyudmilla, taken briskly enough but not with music-wrecking haste. Then Trifonov entered to cheers from a nearly full house that might have included a few fans of Russian descent.

Imagine the reaction afterwards. Rarely does the filigree of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 emerge with such consistent (even persistent) clarity.

Should this elaboration be in the foreground? One might concoct an argument to the contrary, but all those notes glowed handsomely. Tempo changes in the Intermezzo sounded spontaneous. Phrasing, whether lyrical and or dramatic, was true to the arch-romantic idiom. Strings were rich yet proportioned. Everywhere Oundjian maintained a fine balance.

The finale evoked the inevitable standing ovation. As an encore, Trifonov offered a hypnotically peaceful treatment of the middle movement of Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 8. I see that he is playing the whole thing next February in Carnegie Hall. Worth the journey, I should say.

Arthur Kaptainis

Arthur Kaptainis

Arthur Kaptainis has been the classical music critic of the Montreal Gazette since 1986 and wrote for the National Post 2010-2016. His articles have appeared in Classical Voice North America and La Scena Musicale as well as Ludwig Van. Arthur holds an MA in musicology from the University of Toronto.
Arthur Kaptainis
Arthur Kaptainis

Arthur Kaptainis

Arthur Kaptainis has been the classical music critic of the Montreal Gazette since 1986 and wrote for the National Post 2010-2016. His articles have appeared in Classical Voice North America and La Scena Musicale as well as Ludwig Van. Arthur holds an MA in musicology from the University of Toronto.
Arthur Kaptainis
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SCRUTINY | Toronto Operetta's Die Fledermaus Brings On The Laughs

By Paula Citron on December 30, 2018

One expects a Toronto Operetta Theatre production to be fun, and the company’s latest incarnation of Johann Strauss’s beloved Die Fledermaus does not disappoint.
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SCRUTINY | TSO Delivers Serviceable Sibelius But Stravinsky Steals The Show

By Stephan Bonfield on January 11, 2019

The Toronto Symphony takes the chill off a cold, blowy January night with Sibelius Second Symphony and Kurt Weill's charming cabaret with violinist Leila Josefowicz, visiting conductor Ludovic Morlot.
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CRITIC'S PICKS | 9 Concerts + 2 Festivals You Absolutely Need To See In Toronto This Week (Jan. 14 – 20)

By Joseph So on January 14, 2019

Classical music and opera events happening in and around Toronto for the week of January 14 – 20.
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