Robert Harris curates the best of Toronto's fall classical music lineup.
Schafer at 80
Canadian composer Murray Schafer shares a birth year with Glenn Gould, and there are many other similarities between these two iconoclastic Canadian musicians – a love of the outdoors, a desire for sonic peace amidst an ecologically monstrous modern environment. Schafer's 80th birthday is celebrated by one of Toronto's most distinguished new music groups – Esprit Orchestra – at their season's inaugural concert. Highlights include the world premiere of Schafer's Wolf Returns. Koerner Hall, Oct. 14.
For many years, Valery Gergiev has been cast as the wild man of classical music: passionate, intense and driven. He makes a rare appearance in Toronto this year headlining the Season Gala for the Royal Conservatory's Koerner Hall. And this time Gergiev is accompanied by the Stradivarius Ensemble, made up of the string section of his Marinsky Theatre Orchestra, all playing older, burnished instruments from the workshop of Antonio Stradivarius and his colleagues. Koerner Hall, Oct. 26.
It's easy to forget the whirlwind that was Marc-André Hamelin when he first burst onto the classical music scene. Hamelin not only plays the piano into a blur, he revived virtuoso repertoire that had lain dormant for decades, and writes for the instrument itself. He returns to Toronto in a more traditional role with the Takács Quartet, playing the Shostakovich Piano Quintet. The concert also includes the Takács alone, playing music by Schubert and Britten. Koerner Hall, Nov. 10.
Lets not forget how interesting and unusual it is for this city to have two completely different Messiah experiences presented to us in the month of December. The Toronto Symphony, complete with hundreds of Mendelssohn Choir singers gives us the traditional 19th-century view of Handel's masterpiece, and the Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra and Choir the more authentic 18th-century version. This year, maybe the TSO has the upper hand, with a stellar group of soloists, including Daniel Taylor, Michael Schade and Russell Braun. Toronto Symphony, Roy Thompson Hall, Dec. 18, 19, 21, 22, 23. Tafelmusik, Koerner Hall, Dec. 19, 20, 21, 22.
Montreal Symphony Orchestra
The Rite of Spring and Igor Stravinsky's angular, noisy, primitive score still has the capacity to shock, especially when played by the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, making a relatively rare Toronto appearance this fall. Conductor Kent Nagano has paired it with a symphony by Haydn and a work by contemporary British composer Peter Maxwell Davies. Roy Thomson Hall, Nov. 21.