January is Mozart month at the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and this year, the TSO is celebrating Mozart’s 255th with two weeks of festivities. The celebrated Canadian violinist James Ehnes, recently on tour with the TSO in Florida, plays all five of Mozart’s violin concertos over two evenings – concertos 1 – 3 on Wednesday Jan. 19 8 pm and concertos 4 and 5 on Thursday Jan. 20 at 2 pm. This is a particularly special event as Ehnes is the orchestral leader as well as the soloist. The great Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux makes a welcome return to Toronto in two concerts of Mozart arias, on Saturday Jan. 22 at 8 pm and Sunday Jan. 23 at 3 pm. Lemieux is that rarest of species, a true contralto who also has the upper extension that allows her to tackle mezzo-soprano repertoire. Her recent recording of operatic arias on the Naive label is a spectacular achievement and a must-have disc for every opera lover. With Bernard Labadie leading the TSO forces, Lemieux sings arias from Nozze di Figaro, Mitridate Re di Ponto, and La clemenza di Tito. Also on the program are Mozart Symphonies No. 21 and 33. The Mozart @255 celebrations continue next week, and I will have more to say on Monday. Next weeks concerts are Mozart’s Birthday Celebration on Jan. 26 and 27, and Mozart’s World on Jan 29 and 30. Stayed tuned! For details and tickets, go to http://tso.ca/Home.aspx
The Canadian Opera Company doesn’t begin its winter season for another week, but you can get a taste of what’s to come at the free noon hour concert on Tuesday, Jan. 18 at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, Four Seasons Centre. Members of the COC Ensemble Studio will perform excerpts from The Magic Flute. Chief among the Ensemble artists is soprano Simone Osborne, who is singing four of the twelve performances as Pamina. Others are Adrian Kramer (Papageno), Christopher Enns (Tamino), Ileana Montalbetti, Wallis Giunta and Rihab Chaieb as the Three Ladies, and Ambur Braid as Queen of the Night. Go to http://coc.ca/ecms.ashx/pdfs/concert110118.pdf for program details. Remember to show up at least one hour early to have a chance of getting in.
Pianist Helene Grimaud will be in town Sunday Jan. 23 to give a recital of Mozart, Liszt and Bartok at Koerner Hall, Royal Conservatory of Music on 273 Bloor St. W. at 3 pm. I last heard Grimaud in an open air concert in Koenigsplatz in Munich two summers ago. The personification of elegance and refinement, Grimaud won over the audience despite less than ideal playing conditions. With the acoustically superb Koerner Hall, she will be right in her element. Instead of presiding over the TSO this week, conductor Peter Oundjian will be on the podium leading the Royal Conservatory Orchestra in a program of Mozart, Rachmaninoff and Debussy. Soloist is pianist Grace Kim, the winner of the 2010 Glenn Gould School Concerto Competition. Concert takes place at Koerner Hall on Friday Jan. 21 at 8 pm. For information and tickets, go to http://performance.rcmusic.ca/viewallconcerts
Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra is presenting Bach at the Coffee House at the George Weston Recital Hall in North York on Tuesday Jan. 18 at 8 pm. On the program is Bach’s Concerto for 2 harpsichords, Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, and Concerto for flute, violin and cello by Telemann. This is the last of five concerts that took place starting Jan. 13 in Tafelmusik’s downtown venue, Trinity St. Paul’s Centre. For details, go to http://performance.rcmusic.ca/viewallconcerts
The Juilliard Duo, consisted of pianists Lang-Ning Liu and Lu Wang, will present a joint recital of Brahms, Bartok and Lutoslawski at the Glenn Gould Studio on Tuesday Jan. 18 at 8 pm. Finally, Sinfonia Toronto is presenting Affairs of the Heart on Friday Jan. 21 8 pm at the Glenn Gould Studio. On the program are works by Mozart, Fuchs, and the centerpiece Affairs of the Heart, a violin concerto by Mezetich. Soloist is violinist Judy Kang, under the baton of Nurhan Arman. For details, go to http://www.sinfoniatoronto.com/web/home.aspx
Unfortunately, the recital by soprano Laura Klassen in Music Toronto’s Discovery Series, to take place on Thursday Jan. 20 has been cancelled due to illness.