Skip to main content

Conductor Rafael Payare and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra.

It’s that time of year. With the summer cooling down, Canadian symphonies are tuning up, ensembles are reassembling, and performing-arts centres across the country are kicking off their 2022-23 schedules. Early-season highlights include an esteemed quartet’s farewell, an orchestra’s call for the Police and, fittingly, a melodious resurrection.

Montreal Symphony Orchestra: Rafael Payare Conducts Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony. What better way to get the blood flowing than with a little allegro maestoso? In his first season as the MSO’s music director, the hot-shot young Venezuelan Rafael Payare takes the baton (literally as well as figuratively) for a presentation of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2 in C minor, a historic rumination on death, lost love and revival. Sept. 15-17, Montreal Symphony House, Montreal.

Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra: Opening Night with James Ehnes. To mark its 75th anniversary, the WSO invites in a familiar face: the Prairie-schooled Ehnes. The Brandon-born virtuoso opens up his violin case for an evening of Beethoven and Mahler. His playing will be elite and affecting, but the heart-swelling applause he receives afterward just might be the highlight of it all. Sept. 17, Centennial Concert Hall, Winnipeg.

Toronto Symphony Orchestra: Gimeno Conducts Chopin and Scheherazade. For its season curtain raiser, the TSO checks off all the right boxes. A dazzling crowd-pleaser? Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade is your extravaganza. A marquee-name phenom? Canadian pianist Bruce Liu, who last year became the first Canadian to win the Chopin International Piano Competition, bows and sits at the bench for Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 2. And something for free? An open house on Sept. 24 (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) is just the ticket, so to speak. Sept. 21, 22 and 24, Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto.

Vancouver Symphony Orchestra: Stewart Copeland’s Police Deranged for Orchestra. Given that the British pop band the Police hasn’t toured since 2008, their hit Don’t Stand Too Close To Me probably sums up the trio’s feelings for each other. So, while frontman Sting tours the world at the moment, drummer Stewart Copeland joins the VSO for innovative orchestral treatments of Roxanne and other songs originally made to bop to. Sept. 30 and Oct. 1, the Orpheum, Vancouver.

Emerson String Quartet: Farewell. There’s always a commotion when this New York foursome comes to town, but this time the buzz is bittersweet. The Grammy-hoarding quartet is calling it quits after an illustrious 45 years of string-based savvy. A program of Mendelssohn, Brahms and Dvorak (presented by the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and the Quebec Music Club in Quebec City) is how they’ve chosen to wave goodbye. Oct. 2, Koerner Hall; Oct. 3, Palais Montcalm.

National Arts Centre Orchestra: Storgards conducts Tchaikovsky. The NACO principal guest conductor John Storgards leads Ottawa’s finest players through Tchaikovsky’s sweeping Symphony No. 5. The program also includes the appearance of Swedish trumpeter Hakan Hardenberger, who puckers his lips with better intent than most. His job is to supply trademark zing and subtlety to Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto and Betsy Jolas’s Onze Lieder (Eleven Songs). Oct. 5-6, Southam Hall, Ottawa.

Art of Time Ensemble: A Singer Must Die. Does the world need yet another Hallelujah cover? With its forthcoming new concert recording Songs of Leonard Cohen Live, the classy Toronto pop ensemble led by Andrew Burashko answers in the affirmative. For further evidence, a series of Ontario performances dedicated to the Cohen songbook will likely close with the late Montrealer’s signature hymn reimagined by Gregory Hoskins and Steven Page, two singer-songwriters who know their way around the “fourth, the fifth, the minor falls, the major lifts.” Oct. 13-14, Harbourfront Centre Theatre, Toronto; Oct. 15, Avon Theatre, Stratford, Ont.; Oct. 16, Burlington Performing Arts Centre, Burlington, Ont.

Vancouver Recital Society: Andras Schiff. Before leaving for Vancouver, a whistling Andras Schiff dusts off his Royal Academy of Music Bach Prize and gently places it back on its shelf. If you’re going to hire someone to play Bach’s Goldberg Variations, there is no one more suitable than the distinguished professor of piano. In addition to his Bach performance at the Orpheum, Schiff plays a surprise program two days earlier at the Vancouver Playhouse. Oct. 18 and 20, Vancouver.