Reflections of Wartime 2018 Toronto Summer Music Festival commemorates the 100th anniversary of the end of WWI

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The 2018 Toronto Summer Music Festival joins the multitude of events taking place around the globe that will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.   The festival runs July 12 to August 4, 2018, and offers a diverse and intriguing range of works written during or inspired by times of war throughout history to present day.

“Some of the most beautiful, emotional and challenging music has been written during times of war and conflict as artists struggled to find meaning and give expression to the horrors gripping the world,” said Jonathan Crow, Artistic Director of Toronto Summer Music.  The 2018 festival will showcase a breadth of musical perspectives, past and present, through works by Brahms, Messiaen, Ravel, Shostakovich, as well as music from today’s composers including Chan Ka Nin, Steve Reich, Kinan Azmeh, Abigail Richardson Schulte, and Tim Corlis.

Artists performing at the 2018 Festival include Russia’s internationally acclaimed Borodin Quartet, early music masters Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal,the incomparable Ben Heppner, superstar Canadian pianist Angela Cheng, and German lyric tenor Christoph Prégardien.

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Festival passes are on sale starting March 9; single tickets go on sale March 16, 2018.

Toronto Summer Music Festival 2018 Schedule

Opening Night:  Borodin Quartet
Thursday, July 12 at 7:30 p.m. at Koerner Hall

The Festival opens with Russia’s internationally lauded Borodin Quartet in their TSM debut.  “There is something special in the Borodin Quartet’s sound,” writes The Telegraph, “…a pearly, immaculate quality in the balance of the four parts.”  The quartet brings its unsurpassed insight and authority to two masterpieces from their homeland’s repertoire: Shostakovich’s searingly emotional String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op.110, which he dedicated “To the memory of the victims of fascism and war” and Tchaikovsky’s String Quartet No.1 in D Major, Op. 11.  Also on the program is one of Haydn’s “Russian” quartets – String Quartet No. 31 in B minor, Op. 33, No.1 – an unusually dark and troubled piece,  by the first master of the string quartet.

Mother Russia
Friday, July 13 at 7:30 p.m. at Walter Hall

Russian pianist Lukas Geniušas – a major prize winner at the prestigious Tchaikovsky and Chopin Competitions – headlines this program of treasures from the Russian tradition, performing with Russia’s celebrated Borodin Quartet.  The evening includes Sergei Rachmaninoff’s late-Romantic style 13 Preludes (1910) and Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 7 in B flat Major, Op. 83, a bravura work composed during the Second World War whose blistering virtuoso finale never fails to bring an audience to its feet. The recital concludes with one of Dmitri Shostakovich’s best-known chamber works, the grand Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 57, which the composer wrote and premiered in 1940.

Saturday, July 14 at 1:00 p.m. & 4:00 p.m. at Walter Hall

These recitals showcase outstanding young singers, pianists and chamber musicians from the 2018 Toronto Summer Music Academy’s Art of Song program and Chamber Music Institute.

Chamber Music reGENERATION 
Saturday, July 14 at 7:30 p.m. at Walter Hall

TSM Chamber Music Fellows are joined by their Academy mentors to perform compelling chamber music repertoire.

Tears of Exile
Monday, July 16 at 7:30 p.m. at Walter Hall

The destruction of the Temple of Solomon, the ruin of the Kingdom of Judah, and the captivity of the Jews in Babylon were depicted in the Lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah, a text that inspired several great composers of the Renaissance.  In its TSM debut, the acclaimed Studio de musique ancienne de Montréal conducted by Artistic Director Andrew McAnerney, performs a program featuring three magnificent and moving polyphonic Lamentations of Jeremiah from the 16th century—by Briton Thomas Tallis, Spaniard Cristóbal de Morales, and Flemish-German Roland de Lassus— each adapting the charms of counterpoint in the spirit of his respective nation.

Prégardien & Drake in Recital 
Tuesday, July 17 at 7:30 p.m. at Walter Hall

Celebrated for his precise vocal control, clear diction, intelligent musicality and ability to get to the heart of everything he sings, Germany’s Christoph Prégardien, one of the world’s foremost lyric tenors, makes his TSM recital debut with renowned pianist Julius Drake in a rare Toronto appearance. The eminent recitalist performs regularly with the leading recital venues throughout Europe and has toured Japan and North America.  He has made more than 120 recordings on major labels including BMG, EMI, Deutsche Grammophon and Sony.  Julius Drake is widely regarded as one of the finest instrumentalists in his field.  In addition to regularly appearing in recitals around the world and performing at international chamber music festivals, he has released several award-winning recordings.

Kinan Azmeh City Band
Wednesday, July 18 at 7:30 p.m. at Walter Hall

Hailed as a “virtuoso” and “intensely soulful” by The New York Times, clarinettist and composer Kinan Azmeh (of Silk Road Ensemble fame) has gained international recognition for his utterly distinctive sound across different musical genres.  In 2006, he formed his New York-based quartet, the Kinan Azmeh City Band, impressing audiences and reviewers in Europe, the Middle East and the United States, with their high-energy performances that combine classical music, jazz and the music of Syria.

L’Histoire du Soldat 
Thursday, July 19 at 7:30 p.m. at Koerner Hall

Two works composed during the primary wars of the 20th century make up this intriguing program presented in partnership with Loose Tea Music Theatre, directed and designed by Alaina Viau.  Igor Stravinsky’s L’Histoire du Soldat (1918) retells the Faust legend in which the hero sells his soul to the Devil in exchange for the promise of wisdom and good fortune. Performed by the TSO Chamber Soloists, with narrator Derek Boyer and dancer/choreographer Jennifer Nichols, the work features a witty and rhythmically intricate score with several influences: Russian folk song, Romani fiddlers, klezmer music, the popular music of Spain, and jazz.  Also on the program is the rare opportunity to hear the suite from Aaron Copland’s magical and heart-warming ballet score Appalachian Spring in its original theatrical version for a chamber ensemble of 13 players, led by TSM Artistic Director Jonathan Crow.

TSM Late Night Encore
Thursday, July 19 at 10:30 p.m. at Koerner Hall

Interned in a Nazi camp during the Second World War, French composer Olivier Messiaen wrote a piece for the only four instruments available to him: clarinet, violin, cello and piano. Premièred in 1941 by professional musicians who were prisoners of the camp, Quartet for the End of Time has become perhaps his most frequently performed work. Written in his visionary and surreal style and inspired by apocalyptic verses from the Bible’s Book of Revelation, it produces a spellbinding atmosphere. This concert features violinist Jonathan Crow, cellist Julie Albers, clarinettist Miles Jaques, and pianist Natasha Paremski.

The Trout
Friday, July 20 at 7:30 p.m. at Walter Hall

One of the most joyous of all chamber compositions, Schubert’s sunny “Trout” Quintet in A Major anchors this enchanting program and features the talents of Scott St. John (violin), Yehonatan Berick (viola), Julie Albers (cello), Jeffrey Beecher (bass) and Natasha Paremski (piano).  The evening also includes Schubert’s Die Forelle, D. 550 performed by tenor Christoph Prégardien with pianist Steven Philcox; Shostakovich’s Five Pieces for Two Violins, Rachmaninoff’s Vocalise, and Sonata for Solo Violin by Paul Ben-Haim.

Saturday, July 21 at 1:00 p.m. & 4:00 p.m. at Walter Hall

These recitals showcase outstanding young singers, pianists and chamber musicians from the 2018 Toronto Summer Music Academy’s Art of Song program and Chamber Music Institute.

Chamber Music reGENERATION 
Saturday, July 21 at 7:30 p.m. at Walter Hall

TSM Chamber Music Fellows are joined by their Mentors to perform compelling chamber music repertoire.

Sounding Thunder
Monday, July 23 at 7:30 p.m. at Walter Hall

Sounding Thunder is a multi-disciplinary musical journey into the life of the renowned Ojibwe WWI sniper and decorated officer of the Canadian military, Francis Pegahmagabow.  Composed by Tim Corlis and written by Ojibwe poet Armand Garnet RuffoSounding Thunder draws upon the memoirs of Pegahmagabow himself, family memories, and historical sources. Produced and commissioned by Festival of the Sound, Sounding Thunder uses film, chamber music, dance and drumming to explore Pegahmagabow’s early years immersed in the world of the Anishinaabe spirits, his extraordinary accomplishments in the trenches of WWI, and finally his political life as Chief of the Wausauksing Ojibwe and founder of the early Indigenous political moment in Canada.

Also on the program, Musicians from Festival of the Sound, featuring clarinettist James Campbell, pay tribute to Leonard Bernstein, on the 100 anniversary of his birth with a performance of the Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, Bernstein’s first published work.  The evening concludes with Contrasts, a trio for clarinet, violin and piano, created by the eminent Hungarian composer Béla Bartók on commission from jazz great Benny Goodman.

Different Trains
Tuesday, July 24 at 7:30 p.m. at Lula Lounge

The New Orford String Quartet brings two contemporary American string quartet classics vibrantly to life. Reich’s Grammy-winning composition Different Trains(1988) presents a highly imaginative collage that combines taped speech and sound effects with music both live and pre-recorded. His goal was to contrast the warm feelings engendered within him by the trans-American railway trips he had made as a child during the early years of the Second World War, with the horrific railway journeys that Jews were being forced to make in Europe at that same time. George Crumb’s Black Angels (1970), scored for electric string quartet (and a handful of additional instruments) presents all manner of extended techniques and theatrical flourishes throughout its exploration of nightmarish atmospheres. The opening movement appeared on the soundtrack of the classic 1973 horror film, The Exorcist.

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons
Wednesday, July 25 at 7:30 p.m. at Church of the Redeemer

Violinist Jonathan Crow is joined by TSM Academy Fellows to perform what is perhaps the most popular of all Baroque-period orchestral compositions, the four vivid and immensely colourful violin concertos that make up Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. Also on the program is Czech composer Heinrich Biber’s Battaglia(1673), another remarkable example of painting in sound, which concludes with a battle scene and lament for the wounded.  Following the concert, the audience is invited to join the artists for a celebratory reception.

O Happy Day
Thursday, July 26 at 7:30 p.m. at Koerner Hall

Ben Heppner and the Toronto Mass Choir join forces to perform an evening of heartfelt gospel favourites.  On the cutting edge of the Canadian gospel music scene, TMC has been bringing their distinct sound to the world stage since 1988.

“My love for Gospel songs started at a young age.  When I was 3, my family was asked to sing in a little country church.  They thought I was too young to sing with them, but that didn’t stop me.  I just belted out the alto part right from the pew.  Gospel music is a thread that weaves through my entire life.  Even though I took a detour through the world of opera for a few years, those songs of the church held me together.  In fact, I would warm up in my dressing room with – Great is Thy Faithfulness or Amazing Grace.  So, I’m delighted to come back to sing the songs of my youth, and to share the songs of my heart.  The Circle is Unbroken.”  – Ben Heppner

New Orford String Quartet
Friday, July 27 at 7:30 p.m. at Walter Hall

The New Orford String Quartet and pianist Pedja Muzijevic present a program of moving works by Debussy, Beethoven and Elgar beginning the evening with Debussy’s Sonata for Cello and Piano in D minor written in 1915. Beethoven created his “Serioso” string quartet in 1810, the year after Napoleon Bonaparte’s French army had occupied Vienna, the city where he was living.  It has been described as a tragic, tortured piece, and was likely influenced by that catastrophic event.  The evening concludes with Sir Edward Elgar’s robust Piano Quintet in A minor, Op. 84.

Chamber Music reGENERATION 
Saturday, July 28 at 4:00 p.m. & 7:30 p.m. at Walter Hall

TSM Chamber Music Fellows are joined by their Mentors to perform compelling chamber music repertoire.

A Tribute to Yehudi Menuhin
Monday, July 30 at 7:30 p.m. at Walter Hall

Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999) is widely considered one of the 20th century’s finest violinists.  This tribute features Jonathan Crow and pianist Philip Chiu performing a program based on concerts Menuhin performed at liberated concentration camps and also for troops at military bases in Europe and North America during World War II and includes Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47 “Kreutzer”, Corelli’s La Folia and works by Ravel and Kreisler.

Angela Cheng
Tuesday, July 31 at 7:30 p.m. at Walter Hall

Gold medallist of the Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Masters Competition, Angela Cheng is one of Canada’s national musical treasures. Her solo repertoire for this recital includes Beethoven’s intensely beautiful Sonata No. 31 in A flat Major, Op. 110 and Chopin’s stormy Ballade No. 1 in G minor, Op. 23.  Angela and her husband Alvin Chow perform three French works for piano four-hands: Claude Debussy’s elegant Petite Suite which dates from his Romantic, pre-impressionist period; the happy-go-lucky frolic of Darius Milhaud’s Scaramouche, and Maurice Ravel’s La Valse, an increasingly troubled vision of Europe’s future after the catastrophe of the First World War.

War in the 20th Century
Wednesday, August 1 at 7:30 p.m. at Walter Hall

Music shadowed by war makes up this moving program. Maurice Ravel began his Piano Trio in A minor in 1914, just before the First World War broke out. The grim events of that conflict cast a pall upon this otherwise elegant composition. The Second World War cut short the promising career of Moravian composer Gideon Klein. Confined to concentration camps from the age of 22, he was murdered shortly before the last of them was liberated. Composed in 1944, the tart, eloquent String Trio was his last completed work before being taken to the camps. In defiance of the Nazis, Polish composer Grażyna Bacewicz’s neo-baroque Suite for 2 violins (1943) was premièred in secret at an underground concert in Warsaw.  John Williams’ poignant score for director Steven Spielberg’s Oscar-winning Holocaust drama Schindler’s List (1993) captured all the heartache of this intensely moving story. This concert features Aaron Schwebel (violin), Alexander Kerr (violin), Barry Schiffman (violin), Stephen Dann (viola), Ani Aznavoorian (cello), David Hetherington (cello) and Philip Chiu (piano).

A Big Band Celebration
Thursday, August 2 at 7:30 p.m. at Koerner Hall

During World War II the big band music of Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Glenn Miller and others was the soundtrack of life on the home front, and these familiar tunes became a metaphor for the way of life soldiers were fighting to preserve. Join us for an uplifting evening of the best of the Big Band Era lead by Music Director Gordon Foote and featuring JUNO Award-winning jazz singer Ranee Lee.

Brahms Sextet
Friday, August 3 at 7:30 p.m. at Walter Hall

The evening begins with Janáček’s Violin Sonata, a typically passionate and quirky piece by this unpredictable Moravian master and concludes with Sextet No.1 in B flat Major, Op.18, a heartily expansive string sextet by Brahms, and considered a cornerstone of the repertoire.  Also on the program, composer Chan Ka Nin’s JUNO Award-winning composition Our Finest Hour pays tribute to “the achievements of mankind” and “the power of the citizens and liberty for all human beings”, drawing its title from a celebrated patriotic World War II speech by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. This concert features violinists Aaron SchwebelAlexander Kerr, and Barry Shiffman, violists Eric Nowlin and Steven Dann, cellists Ani Aznavoorianand David Hetherington, clarinettist Miles Jaques, and pianist Philip Chiu.

TSM Finale
Saturday, August 4 at 7:30 p.m. at Walter Hall

The Festival’s closing night celebration will feature performances by TSM Artists, Academy Fellows, and Community Academy participants.

Toronto Summer Music Festival 2018 Free and Pay What You Can Events 

Toronto Summer Music will offer many free and pay what you can events as part of the 2018 Festival including:  TSM Kids Concerts – engaging one-hour concerts specially designed for children ages 5-12; TSM Happy Hour – casual, hour-long concerts featuring Festival artists and next-generation stars; TSM Connect –daytime chats that provide opportunities to connect with TSM musicians, learn about the festival and gain insight into the world of classical music; and Academy Concerts – popular lunchtime concerts that showcase gifted young performers from the Toronto Summer Music Academy and Festival guest artists.  Full programming details for the Toronto Summer Music Festival’s free and pay what you can events will be announced in June.

Ticket & Venue Information
Festival Passes ($361-$784) and Flex Passes (15-20% discount on 5 or more concerts) are on sale as of March 9, 2018. To purchase festival passes call 416-408-0208 or visit the Weston Family Box Office at the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning (273 Bloor Street West).

Single tickets to the Festival concerts ($20-$90) will be on sale as of March 16, 2018.  To purchase single tickets visit, call 416-408-0208 or visit the Weston Family Box Office at the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning (273 Bloor Street West).  For information on all 2016 Festival activities call 416-408-0208 or visit

Festival mainstage performances take place at: Koerner Hall in the TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning (273 Bloor Street West), Walter Hall at University of Toronto (80 Queen’s Park), Church of the Redeemer (162 Bloor Street West) or Lula Lounge (1585 Dundas Street West).

2018 TSM Festival Supporters
Toronto Summer Music gratefully acknowledges support of Canadian Heritage, The Ontario Arts Council, Ontario Arts Foundation, Toronto Arts Council, Metcalf Foundation, TD Bank, Deloitte, Jones Collombin Investment Counsel Inc., BMO Financial Group, RBC Emerging Artists Project, CIBC, PricewaterhouseCoopers, First National Financial LP, Power Corporation of Canada, Business for the Arts, B Espresso Bar, Remenyi House of Music, TELUS Centre for Performing and Learning, University of Toronto Faculty of Music, Classical 96.3 FM, Toronto Life, The Wholenote, and the InterContinental Toronto Yorkville. Many thanks!

Thank you to our 2018 Collaborative Artistic Partners:  Loose Tea Music Theatre and National Youth Orchestra of Canada.


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