Performing Arts
© Mike Keenan

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra at Roy Thompson Hall

Roy Thomson Hall, photo by Mike Keenan

With Toronto Go Trains running at modest rates for seniors, (from Niagara: $7.90; from Hamilton $5.50), my spouse and I took advantage of this affordable and relaxed mode of travel to take in the TSO playing Mozart at Roy Thompson Hall, located between King and Wellington just off Simcoe St. near the Royal Alex and the St. Andrew subway station. We stayed overnight at the beautiful, brand new Delta hotel, a true gem and a mere 8-minute walk away, conveniently connected by an indoor walkway almost the entire route from Union Station with only the last 50 metres for us to contend with the outside cold.

TSO director Peter Oundjian established an annual Mozart event in 2005, and it has become a favourite for ardent music lovers. We earlier in the year had visited Mozart's home in Salzburg, Austria (born there Jan 27, 1756) during a river cruise, so it was appropriate to celebrate his musical genius back in Canada.

Gordon Bintner   Hélène Guilmette   Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure.   John Tessier   Julie Boulianne

First, we enjoyed a free pre-concert performance by the Mozart Clarinet Quintet featuring TSO chamber soloists Joaquin Valdepeñas on clarinet, Jonathan Crow, TSO first violin, Mark Skazinetsky, violin, Teng Li, viola and Joseph Johnson on cello. This was a great warm-up and all the more fun because we sat in the choir loft with a unique view, facing the audience, just like the TSO orchestra does itself when performing.

This was the first of three concerts featuring Mozart's incredible Mass in C Minor, K. 427, with fragments of two of his lesser-known operas, Lo sposo deluso and Zaide (K. 430 and 344, respectively). A seemingly relaxed Paul Goodwin in his TSO début, ably conducted the TSO, Amadeus Choir and Elmer Iseler Singers, as well as formidable soloists: French-Canadians - soprano Hélène Guilmette (Montmagny) and mezzo Julie Boulianne (Dolbeau-Mistassini), with Canadian tenors John Tessier (Edmonton) and Jean-Philippe Fortier-Lazure( Kitchener-Waterloo), and baritone Gordon Bintner(Regina). The good-natured conductor took time to explain many of the pieces to the audience, and all the soloists were terrific.

At intermission there was a chat in the lobby with Lydia Adams, Conductor and Artistic Director of the Amadeus Choir and Elmer Iseler Singers, hosted by the Toronto Star's former music critic, William Littler, whom I had befriended on an opera trip in Israel, watching Aida performed in the desert at Masada.

In 1782, shortly after his marriage to Constanze Weber in early August, Mozart began work on the Mass in C Minor, his first opportunity to explore musical liturgical work on his own terms. Mozart scholar Alfred Einstein describes it as Mozart's "entirely personal coming to terms with his God and art," but Amadeus never did complete the Mass, leaving the majority of the Credo unfinished, and he never composed any part of the Agnus Dei. Remarkably, he was the youngest of seven children, five of whom died in infancy, and at age five, had composed his first Minuette, K.1e, but he did leave much work unfinished, no doubt as a result of genius and impetuousness.

This evening, all three pieces were unfinished works, but the Amadeus Choir and the Elmer Iseler Singers combined sounded powerful, and the skilled TSO dazzled us with the core of Mozart under Goodwin's energetic baton.

We should expose ourselves to great classical music now and then, and the GO Train is a deal for seniors. Upcoming TSO spring performances include: April - Tchaikovsky Symphony 4, Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto 2, From Swan Lake to Flight of the Bumblebee, Latin Jazz: Hilario Duràn Trio, May - Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, Verdi Requiem, Schubert and Yo-Yo Ma.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra: Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St. P. 416-593-4828

Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Principal Trumpet Andrew McCandless

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