Edmonton Classical Music

A comprehensive calendar of classical music concerts being presented in Edmonton, Alberta, and reviews of those concerts.

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Pro Coro New Year’s Eve Concert

Pro Coro with conductor Michael Zaugg in All Saints’ Anglican Cathedral
(photo supplied by Pro Coro)

dPro Coro saw out the Old Year and (nearly) saw in the New Year in style at All Saints’ Anglican Cathedral on Monday, December 30, with a wide-ranging concert of modern works (Morten Lauridson, Uģis Prauliņš, Joby Talbot, and Jordan Nobles) alongside some Mahler (arranged for a capella chorus), Vincent Youmans, Rossini, and a lesser-known but delightful song for the New Year by Arthur Sullivan, all ending up with conductor Michael Zaugg’s own arrangement of Auld Lang Syne.

For Mark Morris’ full review in the Edmonton Journal, click here.

Edmonton Opera: La Traviata

Edmonton Opera

Verdi La Traviata

Jubilee

October 20th, 2018; repeated October 23rd and 26th

Laquita Mitchell as Violetta
Nanc Price photo

Violetta: Laquita Mitchell
Alfredo: Jason Bridges
Germont: James Westman

Edmonton Opera Chorus
Edmonton Symphony Orchestra

conducted by Judith Tan

directed by Alain Gauthier

 

For Mark Morris’ review of the opening night of Edmonton Opera’s new production of Verdi’s La Traviata, click here.

Vox Luminis

Vox Luminis

photo David Samyn

For Mark Morris’ review of the award-winning Belgium Renaissance and Baroque choir, click here

Edmonton Opera: Verdi, La Traviata preview

Edmonton Opera

For Mark Morris’ preview of Edmonton Opera’s new production of La Traviata, click here.

Jason Bridges as Alfredo and Laquita Mitchell as Violetta
Nanc Price photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Edmonton Symphony Orchestra: Nicole Lizée, Mozart, and Bruckner

Edmonton Symphony Orchestra

sketches for the unfinished fifth movement of Bruckner’s Symphony No.9
Austrian National Library, Vienna.

Nicole LizéeZeiss After Dark
Mozart: Clarinet Concerto in A major, K. 622
Bruckner: Symphony No.9 in D minor (WAB 109), in the Samale/Mazzuca/Phillips/Cohrs completed edition

James Campbell (clarinet)
Edmonton Symphony Orchestra
conducted by Alexander Prior

For Mark Morris’s review of the ESO’s season opening concert, which included the Canadian premiere of the Samale/Mazzuca/Phillips/Cohrs completion of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony, click here.

Edmonton Symphony Orchestra: Beethoven, Dvořák, and Saint-Saëns

Edmonton Symphony Orchestra: Symphony Under the Sky

Beethoven: Coriolan Overture*

Saint-Saëns: Piano Concerto No.2 in G minor, Op.22

Dvořák: Symphony No.8 in G minor

Ilya Yakushev (piano)

Conducted by Robert Bernhardt and Alexander Prior*

Anton Dvořák

 

For Mark Morris’ review for the Edmonton Journal of the traditional Friday classical concert in the ESO’s mini-festival, Symphony Under the Sky, click here.

Edmonton Fringe: Stravinsky: The Soldier’s Tale

C’mon Chamber Music: Stravinsky The Soldier’s Tale

Picture

The Soldier: Oscar Derkx
The Devil: Andrea House
The Princess: Camille Ensminger
The Narrator: Davina Stewart

choreographed by Laura Krewski
directed by Farren Timoteo
C’mon Ensemble
conducted by Alexander Prior

August 17 – 25
King Edward School (Venue 5)

 

For Mark Morris’ Fringe review in the Edmonton Journal, click here.

 

Edmonton Fringe: McCune, Y2K Black Death Oratorio

Pop Goes the Opera: Y2K Black Death Oratorio

Music Director:  Dr. Sara Brooks
Director:     Joyanne Rudiak
Repetiteur:  Spencer Kryzanowski

Cast

Arnold RJ Chambers
Lillian – Nansee Hughes
Martha Jane – Mairi-Irene McCormack
Keith – Dan Rowley
Elmer – Hans Forbrich
Minister – Gareth Bergstrom
Russell – Spencer Kryzanowski
Muse – Lydia-Ann Levesque

Holy Trinity Anglican Church
August 16 – August 26

For Mark Morris’ brief Fringe review in the Edmonton Journal, click here

Rafael Hoekman and Jeremy Spurgeon: Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Elgar, and César Franck

Photograph of Edward Elgar, scanned from The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 3, No. 2 (April 1917), Oxford University Press, p. 289

Saint-Saëns: ‘The Swan’ from Le carnaval des animaux
Gabriel Fauré: Sicilienne Op.78
Gabriel Fauré: Élégie in C minor Op.24
Elgar: Cello Concerto in e minor, Op.85 (arranged for cello and piano by the composer)
César Franck: Cello Sonata in A major (arranged from the Violin Sonata in A major by Jules Delsart)

All Saints’ Anglican Cathedral
Monday June 25, 2018

Rafael Hoekman (cello)
Jeremy Spurgeon (piano)


The 35 years or so between 1880 and the start of World War I is such an interesting and attractive period for classical music. Quite apart from the early beginnings of composers who were to revolutionize music – Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Ives, to name but three – there is, alongside powerhouses of Mahler and the Richard Strauss, a  kind of warm glow to the last embers of Romantic music (and, perhaps, a more innocent world), that expressed itself in some places in a pastoral nationalism, in others in a mystical symbolism, in others in Impressionism.

This was the period that cellist Rafael Hoekman and pianist Jeremy Spurgeon concentrated on in their enterprising concert at All Saints’ Anglican Cathedral (where Spurgeon is the organist) on June 25. It was all the more welcome for being on an unusual day of the week for a concert in Edmonton – a Monday evening – and the surroundings of the Cathedral, with its warm brickwork, its tapestries and its stained-glass, suited this ambience well, and acoustically worked surprisingly effectively.

Hoekman is, of course, the Principal Cello of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, and a considerable asset to that orchestra. The hallmarks of his playing are the richness of his tone, and the considerable emotional involvement in the music. His is, indeed, a Romantic style, happy to use vibrato emotively, and revelling in the phrasing and in the skills of changing colour and tone within a long phrase. Spurgeon, so often appearing in different musical roles in the city (as readers of these reviews will know), is a sensitive and sympathetic accompanist, but also a fine chamber musician, as he showed here.

The concert opened with a kind of prelude to that warm Romanticism of the evening: Saint-Saëns’ ‘The Swan’, written in 1886,  which set just the right tone for music on a very hot summer’s evening.

Jeremy Spurgeon

Jeremy Spurgeon

 Of the two Fauré’s selections that followed, his 1886 Sicilienne is, with its rippling opening piano, its musing yet singing cello lines, and its gentle fade way into inconclusiveness, quintessential idyll music of the period. His Élégie (1880) is better known (especially in the arrangement that Fauré made for cello and orchestra) and more stentorian. Both were beautifully played, with a notable moment in the Élégie when Spurgeon allowed the rhythmic line in the piano to free up and open out, and was then matched by Hoekman.

The central work in the concert, though, was composed when the innocence of that period had been shattered by the First World War. Elgar’s Cello Concerto, written in 1919, somehow manages to combine those rich Edwardian colours with a deep sense of regret and yearning, and it is almost impossible not to hear in it a lament for all those who had died. Elgar himself made the transcription for cello and piano a year after the full score was published. It’s a work that is daunting enough in its orchestral version (the cello is playing almost non-stop), but perhaps even more so when the cello is so exposed by being matched with piano alone. Of course there are moments when one misses the orchestra, but, to counteract that, the thinner textures means one can hear little unexpected details,  the unfolding of the structure really comes across, and the arrangement is particularly effective in the slow movement.

Hoekman’s playing was wonderfully fluid from the outset, with very long phrasing, a consistency of tone, and the passion that the piece demands. If he was not quite so strong in the fast passage work of the second movement, the demands are considerable, the third movement was beautifully played, and the tempi in the finale well judged. More important, this was an emotive performance, and to give the whole concerto in the context of an already weighty recital was a risk that was fully justified in the playing.

César Franck’s Cello Sonata is an arrangement, by the French cellist Jules Delsart and sanctioned by the composer, of the Violin Sonata in A major. The piano part remains exactly the same, though the cello part of necessity has some changes, and Franck’s publisher simply included the cello solo part in with the violin score. In its violin form, it is one of Franck’s most celebrated works, and in its cello form it is one of the staples of the cello repertoire. Indeed, it was the last work that Jacqueline du Pré, who was so responsible for popularizing the Elgar Cello Concerto, recorded in the studio.

In spite of its rather autumnal opening, and although the violin sonata was written in 1886 (as a wedding present for the violinist Ysaÿe), it belongs to an earlier era than the rest of the works in this concert, weightier in feel and sound in the way that Brahms is weightier than Dvořák, more Balzac than Proust. Grand in its scale and ambitions, it received a performance to match, the highlight the deep solemnity and weight of the playing (and the lyricism that followed) in the third movement.

Edward and Alice Elgar

Edward and Alice Elgar

The concert ended with another piece written as an engagement present, Elgar’s Salut d’amour, which he wrote in Seattle in 1888, and brought back for his fiancee Caroline Alice Roberts. Like the Franck, it was originally written for violin and piano, but when it was published (as Liebesgruss – ‘Love’s Greeting’) a year later there were versions for violin and piano, piano solo, cello and piano, and for small orchestra (now perhaps the version most often heard). It is the Edwardian salon piece par excellence, with its winning song-like tune, a touch of wistfulness, its hint of knowing sophistication – a perfect way to end this most enjoyable concert, not just for the music, but because it was also Rafael Hoekman’s wedding anniversary.

Husband and wife Rafael Hoekman and Meran Currie-Roberts

Husband and wife Rafael Hoekman and Meran Currie-Roberts

 

Opera Nuova: The Arctic Flute and Into the Woods

Opera Nuova

Into the Woods
from left to right: Emily Ready (Cinderella), Kael Wynn (Steward), and John Carr Cook (Prince)
Nanc Price Photography


Mozart, reimagined by Michael Cavanagh: The Arctic Flute, based on The Magic Flute
June 23rd, 2018
Festival Place, Sherwood Park


Sondheim: Into the Woods
June 24th, 2018
Festival Place, Sherwood Park


Opera Nuova’s mainstage productions from its 2018 Opera and Music Theatre Festival run until Saturday June 30th. The Arctic Flute, directed by Michael Cavanagh, is not quite as expected – the Arctic element is minimal – but is done in a very entertaining vaudeville style, with strong singing-acting, and is great fun if you are not expecting something more serious. Into the Woods, directed by Brian Deedrick, is more straightforward, and will appeal to those who enjoy Sondheim’s musical or who are curious as to what it is like.

For Mark Morris’ full review in the Edmonton Journal, click here.

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