TSO opening concert for 2017/18 showcases Canadian talent, with violinist James Ehnes and music by award-winning composer Mychael Danna
August 30, 2017
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO), led by Music Director Peter Oundjian, opens its 96th season on Tuesday, September 19 at Roy Thomson Hall. The performance, part of Canada Mosaic (a Canada 150 Signature Project) is anchored by the World Première of Life of Pi—a new orchestral suite by Canadian composer Mychael Danna. Commissioned by the TSO, the new suite is based on the soundtrack of the award-winning movie (please note that this performance does not include any film projection). Guest artists Bombay Jayashri (vocalist) and V. Selvaganesh (percussionist), who were both featured on the film soundtrack, join the TSO. Canadian violinist James Ehnes takes centre stage for Chausson’s wistful Poème for Violin and Orchestra, and Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso by Saint-Saëns. Derek Charke’s brief Élan (Sesquie for Canada’s 150th) and Stravinsky’s formidable Suite from The Firebird frame the program.
On September 22 & 23, the TSO proudly presents A Tribute to Glenn Gould. This unique program that honours the life and legacy of the legendary pianist—hosted by celebrated Canadian actor Colm Feore and conducted by Peter Oundjian—features Curiosity, Genius, and the Search for Petula Clark by Canadian composer Kelly-Marie Murphy (World Première/TSO Commission), followed by Wagner’s beautiful Siegfried Idyll. Young Canadian pianist Jan Lisiecki returns to the TSO to perform Brahms’s Piano Concerto No. 1, a piece that Gould made uniquely his own. Yannick Plamondon’s Wīhtikōw and Cecilia Livingston’s Leap of the Heart (both Sesquies for Canada’s 150th) open the September 22 & 23 concerts, respectively.
On September 27, 28 & 30, renowned Canadian singers Erin Wall (soprano) and Russell Braun (baritone) are the guest soloists for the ever-moving Brahms German Requiem. Peter Oundjian conducts the combined forces of the Orchestra and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. As part of the Casual Series, the September 30 concert only features Brahms’s A German Requiem. The September 27 & 28 performances also feature Jonathan Crow, Andrew Wan, and Yosuke Kawasaki—concertmasters of the TSO, the Orchestre symphonique de Montréal, and the National Arts Centre Orchestra, respectively—who merge their talents in the World Première of Alexina Louie’s Concerto for Three Violins and Orchestra. The trio of brilliant violinists will also perform Louie’s work (co-commissioned by the three Canadian orchestras) in Ottawa and Montreal later this season. The September 27 concert includes Rolf Boon’s Hyacinth Caelum, and the September 28 concert opens with Buzzer Beater by Jared Miller—both Sesquies for Canada’s 150th.
TSO Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke leads the Orchestra in four performances of Music of John Williams, October 3–5. With five Oscars (and countless nominations) to his credit, the prolific film composer is known for some of the most memorable and beloved movie scores ever. This program of cinematic music includes some of Williams’s most iconic themes from such classics as Jaws, Jurassic Park, Schindler’s List, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. The October 3 performance begins with Toboggan!, Darren Fung’s Sesquie for Canada’s 150th.
On October 7, Sandra Laronde (Teme-Augama Anishinaabe), founder and artistic director of Toronto’s Red Sky Performance, curates and directs Adizokan, a World Première/TSO Commission that celebrates the evocative culture of Indigenous peoples of Canada. With an original score by composer Eliot Britton (Métis), Adizokan is a new genre-defying creation with Indigenous vocals, electro-acoustic and orchestral music, dance, and film that explores Indigenous connections to ancestral origins. The evening brings together outstanding performers such as throat boxer Nelson Tagoona (Inuk), singer Fara Palmer (Saulteaux-Cree), and musician/dancer Michel Muniidobenese Bruyere (Anishinaabe), with the collaboration of Red Sky dancers and videographer Andrew Moro (European/Mushkegowuk Cree). The TSO, under the direction of Gary Kulesha, also performs Blood Echo (Sesquie for Canada’s 150th) by Canadian composer Carmen Braden.
Peter Oundjian returns to the TSO podium on October 19 & 20 for A Tribute to Maureen Forrester. Distinguished Canadian tenor Ben Heppner hosts this homage to the late Montreal-born singer. Described as one of the world’s leading contraltos, Forrester was a consummate artist, and dazzled audiences worldwide. The evening features British-born Canadian singer Susan Platts in the World Première/TSO Commission of L’Aube, a new song cycle for mezzo-soprano and orchestra by Canadian composer Howard Shore (who famously scored The Lord of the Rings films, among others). Acclaimed Canadian tenor Michael Schade performs one of Forrester’s signature works, Mahler’s symphonic song cycle Das Lied von der Erde. The October 19 concert opens with Start, a Sesquie for Canada’s 150th by John Abram.
On October 21 & 22, the TSO presents With Glowing Hearts, an all-Canadian program that celebrates some of the best our country has to offer in classical music. Canadian-music champion Victor Feldbrill curates the program, conducts, and acts as host for the evening. The concert features works by Somers, Freedman, Weinzweig, and John Beckwith. Brilliant Canadian pianist Christina Petrowska Quilico takes the spotlight in the Romantic-style Piano Concerto by Quebec composer Claude Champagne. RBC Resident Conductor Earl Lee also takes the podium for Violet Archer’s Poem for Orchestra, and Nicolas Gilbert’s UP! (Sesquie for Canada’s 150th), which opens the October 21 concert.
On October 25 & 26, guest conductor Juanjo Mena (Chief Conductor of the BBC Philharmonic) is at the helm of the TSO for Schubert Symphony 9. Also known as the “Great”, Symphony No. 9 was the final large orchestral work Schubert composed. Canada’s own Marc-André Hamelin brings his magic to Ravel’s jazz-inspired Piano Concerto for the Left Hand. The evening also includes the Canadian Première of Ollantay by Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera.
On October 28, the TSO brings the illustrious Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and its music director, Zubin Mehta, to Roy Thomson Hall. This exclusive event—the only Canadian stop on their North American tour—is a rare opportunity to experience the celebrated orchestra live under the baton of the legendary conductor before he retires. The program features R. Strauss’s romantic tone poem Ein Heldenleben (A Hero’s Life), Footnote Suite from the music for the motion picture by Israeli composer Amit Poznansky, and Ravel’s lush Suite No. 2 from Daphnis et Chloé.
On October 31, RBC Resident Conductor Earl Lee is on the podium for All Beethoven—an evening of powerful music that ranges from the tempestuous Fifth Symphony to a pair of sweet-natured romances for violin and orchestra with Canadian soloist Blake Pouliot, the Grand Prize winner of the 2016 Orchestre symphonique de Montréal Manulife Competition. The dramatic Coriolan Overture rounds out the mighty program.
As part of the TSO’s Canada Mosaic project, some of these concerts will begin with a two-minute orchestral work called a Sesquie, to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary.