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Five hot classical music concerts you have to see this spring

Baritone Russell Braun will be singing a wide variety of songs – from Bach to Butterworth – at Koerner Hall in Toronto on May 2.

Soundstreams: Piano Ecstasy

Ted Dykstra's and Richard Greenblatt's Two Pianos, Four Hands, has become a Canadian musical-theatre classic since its 1996 premiere. That's nothing. How about six pianos, 18 hands? That's what Soundstreams Canada has assembled for its final concert of the season: six grand pianos on the stage at Koerner Hall at the same time, performed by nine of the finest players – 18 of the finest hands – in the Canadian pianistic world, including Jamie Parker of the Gryphon Trio and Russell Hartenberger, as well as composer Glenn Buhr, who has a world premiere on the program, Serouj Kradjian and others. Music by Buhr, Steve Reich, John Cage, Colin McPhee.

Koerner Hall, April 26, 8 p.m.

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James Ehnes and Russell Braun

Canadian superstar violinist James Ehnes and superstar baritone Russell Braun team up for the first time ever, accompanied by pianist Carolyn Maule, in a program full of delights, including a world premiere by Canadian composer John Estacio and music by Bach, Beethoven, Paganini (you can guess who will be playing that one) and songs by Samuel Barber, Ralph Vaughan Williams and George Butterworth. A fascinating concert sponsored by the most underrated musical entrepreneurs in town, the 115-year-old Women's Musical Club of Toronto.

Koerner Hall, May 2, 1:30 p.m.

Mendelssohn Choir: Missa Solemnis

In April of 1819, Beethoven's friend and patron, the Archduke Rudolf, had a favour to ask of the composer. The Archduke was going to be installed as Archbishop of Olmutz in March of 1820, and he wondered whether Beethoven could write a little piece to honour the occasion. No problem, said the composer, and true to his word, he delivered the manuscript in the spring – the spring of 1824. The little occasional piece had blossomed and transformed into one of Beethoven's greatest compositions, Missa Solemnis, seldom performed, but to be given a powerful reading by the Toronto choir, The Mendelssohn, under the direction of Noel Edison.

Koerner Hall. May 15, 7:30 p.m.

TSO: Music of Bartok and Tchaikovsky

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Of many Toronto Symphony Orchestra concerts worthy of note this spring, this one stands out, mainly for the performance of one of Bela Bartok's last compositions, his amazing Concerto for Orchestra, composed on commission for the Boston Symphony in 1943. We've tended to forget the contribution Bartok made to the musical life of the 20th century, but as the recent Tokyo Quartet farewell recital reminded us, his was a powerful voice in defining the special stresses and strains of the past 100 years. The Bartok piece is paired with the best piece of overworked music in the repertoire – the kitschy, often played to pieces Tchaikovsky's First Piano Concerto. It's a better piece than you think – here's hoping conductor Giancarlo Guerrero and pianist Kirill Gerstein have figured that out. Because when Tchaikovsky is good, it's very good, but when it's bad...

Roy Thomson Hall, May 16, 18, 8 p.m.

Tafelmusik: Janina Fialkowska and Chopin

Pianist Janina Fialkowska is a phenomenon. At 61, she's performing better, recording more, winning more awards than ever before, and having the time of her life doing it. She ends the Tafelmusik season playing Chopin's Piano Concerto No. 2 in a special arrangement for chamber ensemble, on a beautifully restored Pleyel piano from 1848, basically the same model of piano Chopin had in his apartment when he died. Bruno Weil guest conducts the Tafelmusik Orchestra, with Beethoven's Fourth Symphony thrown in for good measure.

Koerner Hall. May 30, 31, June 1,2 8 p.m. (June 2, 3:30 p.m.)

All times Eastern

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