Timothy Beattie, guitar; Michael Bridge, accordion; Aaron Chan, violin; Trevor Chartrand, piano; Joanne Yesol Choi, cello; Hannah Crawford, soprano; Caleb Georges, viola; Daniel Hamin Go, cello; Isobel Howard, violin; Jonelle Sills, soprano; Ben Smith, piano; Sejin Yoon, piano. Mazzoleni Concert Hall, November 30, 2022.
It’s fair to say that the career path of any aspiring young artist is likely going to be a challenging one. How does a promising young graduate from the conservatory make a successful transition to the real world as a freelance artist?
This is exactly why we need the Rebanks Family Fellowship Program. Its mission is to help the career development of students in the Glenn Gould School, the professional arm of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Since 2013, the Rebanks Program has guided many talented young musicians who have completed their formal studies to make this successful transition.
Thanks to the generosity of the Rebanks Family and the Weston Family Foundation, aspiring artists are given opportunities to study with renowned GGS faculty members and visiting artists, the chance to perform in major venues, and the tricks of the trade — the nuts and bolts of how to build a successful career.
To be sure, Rebanks Fellows are all highly talented, budding professionals, eager to show the world what they can do. Their concerts are great opportunities for music fans to spot the stars of tomorrow. The full house in Mazzoleni Concert Hall last evening was treated to a superlative evening of music-making. Associate Dean Barry Shiffman welcomed the audience, and explained the raison d’etre of the Rebanks Fellowship Program, then it was down to business.
It opened with a lively rendition of the Allegro from Mozart’s Piano Quartet in G Minor, K478, nicely executed, with the requisite lyricism and precision. A fine start. It was followed by the Allegro from Richard Strauss’s Violin Sonata in E flat major Op. 18, its Late Romantic sensibilities a nice contrast to the Mozart. I was most impressed by the singing tone of violinist Aaron Chan, who combined bravura technique with poetic imagination. Bravo!
Now to my favourite instrument — the human voice. Soprano Hannah Crawford, Second Prize laureate of the 2022 Centre Stage Competition, sang “Porgi amor,” the Contessa’s Act One lament from Le nozze di Figaro, with lovely mezza voce. She continued it with Liu’s “Signore, ascolta,” the final line rising to a piano B-flat, then given a huge crescendo with plenty of metal — this Liu is no shrinking violet!
Then it was soprano Jonelle Sills’s moment to shine, and shone she did, first with Donna Anna’s “Or sai chi l’onore,” from Don Giovanni, displaying a mix of opulent tone and steeliness, some of which spilled over into “Stridono lassu” from Pagliacci — I wouldn’t want to mess with this Nedda.
Incidentally, I was delightfully surprised at intermission, when we were treated to delicious snacks and drinks, greatly appreciated by all I am sure, since this was a free concert to begin with. The second half opened with the hauntingly beautiful Una Limosna por el Amor de Dios by Paraguayan guitarist Agustin Barrios, played here exquisitely by Timothy Beattie.
With the audience in the Hispanic mood, we were given Astor Piazolla’s Libertango. This piece can have different instrumental combinations, from accordion to trumpet. Here we got a guitar and cello duo. Kudos to cellist Daniel Hamin Go for his theatrical flair and virtuoso display.
Mr. Go, together with accordionist Michael Bridge, then offered the stunningly beautiful Elegie by Gabriel Faure. I have heard it with cello and piano, but my preference is with an orchestra. This was the first time I heard it with accordion in place of the orchestra. I’ll be honest: how do you replace an orchestra??? That said, a huge shoutout to Michael Bridge for his exceptional virtuosity and heart — I did like it.
Bridge followed it with the justly famous Spanish Dance No. 5 by Granados, a splendid piece here wonderfully played. The last work of the concert was something totally new to me, by Edson Zampronha, called Trazo. It’s edgier and more modernist than the Granados, and frankly it doesn’t touch the heart like the former, but Mr. Bridge made it work.
Final thoughts? A frigid evening, but warmed by beautiful music. I look forward to the next Rebanks concert.
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