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PREVIEW | 2024 Toronto Summer Music: A Critic’s Sneak Peek

By Joseph So on July 4, 2024

L-R: Dame Sarah Connolly (Photo courtesy of the artist); violinist Kerson Leong (Photo courtesy of the artist); pianist Vadym Kholodenko (Photo courtesy of the artist)
L-R: Dame Sarah Connolly (Photo courtesy of the artist); violinist Kerson Leong (Photo courtesy of the artist); pianist Vadym Kholodenko (Photo courtesy of the artist)

Calling all TO folks: Summer is here! What’s your pleasure?

Blue Jay fans would likely opt for catching the Boys of Summer at the Rogers Centre. For backyard BBQ devotees, there’s nothing like dining al fresco without having to put on a sweater. Homebodies fortunate enough to have a summer place? They’ll be spending quality time at the cottage.

For TO music fans in need of a classical music fix, it used to mean going out of town to venues like Elora, Parry Sound or Westben, or even venturing Stateside to Ravinia, Tanglewood and beyond.

Thanks to Toronto Summer Music, we now have great music right in town. Its history can be traced back to the summers of 2004 and 2005, as the Silver Creek Music Foundation, offering chamber music workshops and mini-series of public concerts featuring the likes of the Gryphon Trio, Scott St. John, and Shauna Rolston, to name a few.

Toronto Summer Music

Under the leadership of founding Artistic Director Agnes Grossmann, TSM became a full four-week Festival in 2006 with chamber music concerts and solo recitals complemented by pre-concert lectures. Also it marked the start of an Academy with masterclasses and workshops in Chamber music and Art Song, funded by many sources including individual donors, foundations, government agencies and corporate sponsors.

In September 2010, Douglas McNabney succeeded Maestra Grossman as Artistic Director. During his tenure at TSM (2010-2016), McNabney strengthened the TSMF’s Academy arm, making it a full-fellowship program for a select group of the best emerging chamber musicians, singers, and collaborative pianists.

The Academy differentiates itself because of its concentration on performances with international musicians of the highest calibre. Past Academy Mentors include Martin Beaver, Johannes Moser, Gerald Finley, Soile Isokoski, Angela Cheng, Martin Katz, Julius Drake, and many more.

The last several Festivals have been programmed thematically, focusing on a different place or period in music history and has featured top level international guest artists at Koerner Hall, Walter Hall, and other venues around Toronto with over 50 public events over the course of 4 weeks. The 2024 Festival’s theme is Voices Within.

TSM 2024: Voices Within

About this year’s Festival, TSM Artistic Director Jonathan Crow has this to say, “Within each of us lies a voice that is full of imagination and creativity. At the 2024 Festival, we welcome artists from around the world to share their artistry with us, and to let us experience the world as they see it through their musical voices and instruments. From the strong voices of masters resonating with wisdom and experience to the bright voices of emerging artists ringing with hope and innovation, we will celebrate the multitude of voices within our community.”

Perusing the TSM website, I am struck by the wealth of top notch offerings this year. Baroque fans will be thrilled by this year’s program. If you haven’t already, rush and get your ticket to the opening night presentation of Purcell’s opera Fairy Queen on July 11. It will be sold out, I am sure. It features the great Les Arts Florissants arguably the premiere Baroque ensemble in the world, under the superb directorship of William Christie.

Also highly anticipated is the recital by British mezzo Dame Sarah Connolly, in a program of songs by Barber, Mahler, Schönberg, Berg, and Weill (July 16). Connolly is one of those rare birds in classical music who’s also a fabulous jazz singer! She’s also going to be the mentor in the Art of the Song program, and she will give a free masterclass in U of T’s Walter Hall (July 12).

Chamber music fans will find TSM a veritable gold mine. I am particularly looking forward to a whole bunch, including the chamber version of Verklärte Nacht, or Transfigured Night, with Jonathan Crow, Andrew Wan and others (July 12). The other one is the New Orford Quartet playing the Schubert String Quartet No. 14, also known as Death and The Maiden (July 15).

Ukrainian pianist and 2013 Van Cliburn gold medal winner Vadym Kholodenko plays Handel, Beethoven and Prokofiev at Koerner Hall on July 18. I absolutely loved the evening of Klezmer music given by Kletztory at TSM two years ago. This high spirited, hands clapping, feet stomping Eastern European Jewish/Gypsy musical genre is completely infectious. Walter Hall will resound with the Klezmer spirit from Schmaltz and Pepper on July 23.

Innu soprano Elisabeth St.-Gelais was the winner of COC’s 2023 Centre Stage. She’s giving a recital of songs by Strauss, Duparc, Verdi, Chaminade, Bizet, Saint-Saens, as well as Canadian Ian Cusson (July 30). Canadian violinist Kerson Leong, winner of the Menuhin Competition back in 2010, is soloist in the Beethoven violin concerto with the TSM Festival Orchestra conducted by Simon Rivard (Aug. 1). The 2024 TSM draws to a close with a Final Concert on August 3, featuring Academy Fellows and Mentors.

The above is just a highly personalized list of my choices, but there are plenty more (check here). See you there!

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Joseph So
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