Everybody loves Koerner Hall, the acoustically fine performing arts space operated by the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. We go there to hear everyone from Tafelmusik to Esprit Orchestra to Kurt Elling. But Koerner Hall is not just an auditorium. It stands at the apex of an ambitious, multi-disciplinary programming season that Mervon Mehta, the RCM’s executive director of performing arts, lovingly assembles each season.
Sometimes that season can get a bit lost in the welter of other arts events the city has to offer, but it seems that the RCM is making a concerted effort these days to re-establish itself as a major classical music presenter in town.
The next classical season has a bouquet of delights, from the Toronto debut of Montreal’s Orchestre Métropolitaine, led by international superstar Yannick Nézez-Séguin, to visits by Yuja Wang(a big hit this season), Anne Sofie von Otter, James Ehnes, Jeremy Denk, Hélène Grimaud and many, many others. First-rate talent and programming all around.
And the RCM’s 21C Festival this month seems part of that new ambitious programming creativity. Leveraging their collaborations with other new music groups, such as Esprit Orchestra and New Music Concerts, and adding original commissions, a who’s who of Canadian performers, and music by major Canadian and international contemporary composers, the Conservatory is doing everything in its power to remind us that in the 21st century, it’s not just a place where you take your piano lessons. It’s where the best in classical music comes to perform.