This Week in Toronto (Feb. 16 – 22)


My Toronto Concert Picks for the Week of Feb. 16 to 22

– Joseph So

We are faced with a period of intense cold here in Toronto, and the temptation is to stay home and “cocoon” rather than braving the elements for a concert.  That said, there’re quite a few events well worthy venturing out for.  First of all, this week is your very last chance of seeing the Canadian Opera Company‘s winter presentations of Don Giovanni (Feb. 18 and 21)  and Die Walkure (Feb. 19 and 22) at the Four Seasons Centre.  Great singing in both but I am particularly fond of the Wagner, so the four hour forty-five minute Walkure goes by in a flash. If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favour and go.

Mezzo Janina Baechle

Also there are two free noon hour concerts at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre this week that are very intriguing.  The COC Fricka, German mezzo Janina Baechle, whom I’ve heard multiple times in Munich and elsewhere is a fine recitalist. She will be giving a concert, Urlicht, on Tuesday Feb. 17. The title is taken from Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn – she’ll be singing three songs from this great cycle.  Also on the program are Brahms songs, really the bread and butter repertoire for the mezzo voice, plus songs by the lesser known composer Charles Loeffler.  Rachel Andrist is at the piano and Keith Hamm the violist.

On Thursday Feb. 19 at noon is the annual Collaborations, a joint recital involving the COC Ensemble Studio artists and those from the Atelier Lyrique of Opera de Montreal. This concert features the voices of France Bellemare, Aaron Sheppard, Josh Whelan, Gordon Bintner, Clarence Frazer, and Andrew Haji. Jennifer Szeto and Maxime Dube-Malenfant are the pianists. Complete program information can be found at

Conductor Steven Reineke

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is programming a “cross-over” show this week in From Bach to Bluegrass with Time for Three String Trio.  I have to admit I am quite ignorant when it comes to this genre. Based on the TSO website, this group has performed on Dancing With the Stars. On the program are Beatles tunes, Bach’s Double Concerto, and the Charlie Daniels Band’s The Devil Went Down to Georgia.  At the helm is TSO Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke. Three performances, on Tuesday Feb. 17 8 pm, and Wednesday Feb. 18 2 and 8 pm.

Pianist Lang Lang

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is once again celebrating the Chinese New Year, a tradition it started last year. This concert features prominent Chinese guest artists as well as Chinese members of the TSO.  Long Yu returns to conduct a program of Chinese and Western orchestral music. Lang Lang is the headliner of a line-up that also includes folk singer Lei Jia, pianists Johnson Li and Coco Ma, clarinetist Yao Guang Zhai, and violist Teng Li. Mark Rowswell “Dashan” is host and will narrate Saint-Saens’ The Carnival of the Animals. Also on the program are Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Spring Festival Overture by Li Huanzhi.   Saturday Feb. 21 7:30 pm at Roy Thomson Hall.

Violinist Sarah Chang
Violinist Sarah Chang appears in recital with American pianist Julio Elizalde at Koerner Hall on Friday Feb. 20th 8 pm. The Koerner website is a little vague on the program, except to say it will include Brahms’ Violin Sonata No. 3, Ravel’s Tzigane, and Romanian Folk Dances by Bela Bartok.
Pianist Denes Varjon
Hungarian pianist Denes Varjon makes his Toronto debut on Tuesday Feb. 17 8 pm under the auspices of Music Toronto. On the program are works by Beethoven, Schumann, Ravel and Bartok. Recital takes place at the usual MT venue of Jane Mallett Theatre at the St. Lawrence Centre.
Toronto City Opera (formerly Toronto Opera Repertoire) is presenting fully staged productions of Un ballo in maschera on Feb. 18 and 21, and Don Giovanni on Feb. 20 and 22, at the Bickford Centre near the Christie subway station. The two shows opens last week. TCO is under the joint direction of mezzo Beatrice Carpino and pianist Aldofo De Santis. The soloists are a combination professionals and amateurs, and all performances have piano accompaniment.

About Author

Joseph K. So is Professor Emeritus at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, but his first love is music, which he studied as an undergraduate student at the State University of New York. Since seeing his first live opera – La Gioconda with Renata Tebaldi at the Met in 1967, the singing voice became his lifelong favourite instrument. In addition to his longtime contributions to La Scena Musicale and The Music Scene, he is Associate Editor of Opera Canada and a frequent contributor to Musical Toronto.

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