4th Annual Toronto Bach Festival Offers The Best in Baroque

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Bach Specialist, Harpsichordist Luc Beauséjour makes Festival Debut

Two concerts directed by Artistic Director John Abberger

Vocal Soloists Hélène Brunet, Daniel Taylor, Lawrence Wiliford, Joel Allison

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Instrumental Virtuosi: violinist Julia Wedman, cellist Elinor Frey,

flutist Alison Melville, oboist John Abberger

The Toronto Bach Festival Singers and Orchestra

New Canadian Music for Baroque Cello

Free Lecture by Noted Bach Scholar and Author Ellen Exner

“Toronto is fortunate to be home to brilliant period music performers, such as those participating in the Toronto Bach Festival.” – Toronto Concert Reviews, 2018

 “Seventy per cent of Bach’s music is unknown to the average music lover,” says oboist John Abberger, founder and artistic director of the Toronto Bach Festival (www.TorontoBachFestival.org).   “Yet his music stands out as one of the most profound expressions of the human spirit in western art music.  The mission of the Toronto Bach Festival is to introduce audiences to lesser-known works of Johann Sebastian Bach, while presenting perennial favourites, all in historically informed performances.” 

The fourth annual celebration of one the world’s most prolific and best loved composers, the Toronto Bach Festival takes place Friday-Sunday, May 24-26 at St. Barnabas-on-the-Danforth, 361 Danforth Avenue, Toronto, and at an added nearby location – The Black Swan, at 154 Danforth – where, in a new Festival feature, patrons can enjoy a beer with some late night Bach. 

Over the three days, music lovers will be treated to back-to-back Bach, from the three main categories of his work – vocal music, solo keyboard music, and instrumental music.  The Festival offers two Bach concertos – an iconic Brandenburg, and another for violin – plus cantatas, rarely heard Lutheran masses, keyboard suites, solo cello pieces and new Canadian works inspired by the baroque cello.  The artists are some of Canada’s leading interpreters of baroque music. The festival’s founder and director, John Abberger, will conduct two of the concerts. 

Montreal harpsichordist Luc Beauséjour, artistic director of the series Clavecin en concert, makes his Festival debut, appearing in the opening concert and in a solo recital on Saturday afternoon.  With some 35 recordings to his name, he has performed virtually everything Bach wrote for keyboard.

Also coming from Montreal is cellist Elinor Frey, who brings elegance and the unique singing quality of her playing to the Late Night with Bach concert, May 25 at The Black Swan.  Performed on a five-string instrument, her program features Bach’s sixth solo cello suite, and two recent Canadian works that explore the colors and versatility of the barque cello:  Scott Edward Godin’s Guided by Voices – the title track of her new Analekta CD of contemporary works launching this March – and Isaiah Ceccarelli’s With concord of sweet sounds (also on the album). 

Featured singers are soprano Hélène Brunet (Juno Award, Classical Vocal Album for Las Ciudades de Oro; upcoming Bach cantatas CD, both on ATMA Classique), countertenor Daniel Taylor (internationally renowned SONY artist and educator); tenors Nick Veltmeyer (director of Halifax’s early music ensemble Aureas Voces), and Lawrence Wiliford (“one of this country’s finest song interpreters” – Rick Phillips, Opera Canada), and bass-baritone Joel Allison.  Recent prize-winner in the Christina and Louis Quilico Awards, Allison is also scheduled to sing in the Canadian Opera Company’s 2019-2020 Season. 

Violinist Julia Wedman and baroque flutist Alison Melville return as instrumental soloists.  Artistic Director John Abberger will perform as oboist, and will lead The Toronto Bach Festival Singers and Orchestra, comprising the finest performers from Toronto’s baroque music scene.

The tradition of a free lecture continues this year, featuring Boston-based author and Bach authority Dr. Ellen Exner, who delivers an engaging, often witty talk on Bach and the French Style.  The award-winning educator is also a baroque oboist and an editorial board member of the American Bach Society.

The 2019 Bach Festival opens May 24 with the dazzlingly virtuosic Brandenburg Concerto No. 5, featuring Luc Beauséjour, harpsichord; Alison Melville, baroque flute/recorder; and Julia Wedman, violin, as soloists.  The evening will also feature two cantatas: the early Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn (1714), and the later Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sohn (1723), with a powerful chorale ending Bach reused in his St. John Passion). Wedman adds to the fireworks with Bach’s Violin Concerto in A minor.

The festival continues on Saturday, May 25 at 3:30 pm with Ellen Exner’s free public lecture Bach and the French Style, in which Exner will discuss the influence of the historically important French keyboard style on Bach’s music.

Featured Festival artist Luc Beauséjour follows this with a one-hour recital of solo harpsichord music showcasing French and English Suites for harpsichord, as well as other keyboard gems by Bach. In addition to the delight of hearing this less often heard genre of Bach’s music, this recital will provide a fascinating illumination of Exner’s lecture.

The closing concert, Sunday, May 26, 3 p.m. features two Lutheran masses, which while rarely performed, demonstrate how Bach developed the adaptation technique that he later used to create his great Mass in B minor.

The 2019 Toronto Bach Festival is presented in partnership with The New Classical 96.3 FM and Chamber Factory.  


Individual tickets to the three main concerts are $42; Seniors (65+) $37; and $15 for ages 30 and under. The Late Night with Bach concert is $20, $15 for ages 30 and under.  A 3-Concert Festival Pass – $110; $30 for ages 30 and under – offers preferred seating and a discount of up to 42%.  For only an extra $15; $5 for age 30 and under, pass holders can add the Late Night with Bach concert.  Passes may be picked up from the Festival box office at St. Barnabas at the first concert. 

Tickets and information may be obtained through www.TorontoBachFestival.org, or by contacting the Festival at 416-466-8241 or by emailing I[email protected] 


The Toronto Bach Festival was founded in 2016 by internationally recognized Bach authority John Abberger, to perform the music of J.S. Bach through historically informed performances that engage the wide diversity of Toronto audiences.  As success builds, the Festival has grown fourfold since its inception, both in regards to audience size and donations to the Festival. 

Abberger describes Bach as “the consummate artist, who channeled the human spirit into music. His musical language culminated in his extraordinary skill in musical text setting, and his use of complex harmony for musical expression.  Musical tastes had changed by the end of Bach’s life, but centuries later, his music still reaches into you.”

One of North America’s leading performers on historical oboes, John Abberger (www.TorontoBachFestival.org/johnabberger) has been principal oboe with Toronto’s Tafelmusik since 1989 and with the American Bach Soloists (San Francisco) since 1990. He has performed extensively in North America, Europe and the Far East with these ensembles, and appears regularly with other prominent period-instrument ensembles across North America.  His critically acclaimed recordings on Analekta include his reconstruction of Bach’s oboe concertos and orchestral suites, and Gramophone Magazine called his recording of Alessandro Marcello’s Concerto for Oboe “one of the best there is”.

A native of Orlando FL, he trained at the Juilliard School and Louisiana State University, and holds a Performers Certificate in Early Music from New York University.  He has taught at the City College of New York, and serves on the faculty at the University of Toronto and the Royal Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School.

The complete Festival lineup is below.

Toronto Bach Festival presents its Fourth Annual Festival

Friday-Sunday, May 24-26, 2019

John Abberger, Artistic Director

3 Main Concerts, Free Lecture, Late Night With Bach

St. Barnabas-on-the-Danforth, 361 Danforth Avenue

The Black Swan, 154 Danforth Avenue

Info & Tickets: 416-466-8241 / www.TorontoBachFestival.org

Email: [email protected]


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