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The Globe and Mail

Royal Conservatory unveils next season’s Koerner Hall performances

American actress and singer Audra McDonald

Michael Wilson

Ever since it opened in Toronto five years ago, the Royal Conservatory's Koerner Hall has been an acoustically cherished venue. It might have the best sound in the city.

But a hall without artists is just a mute space, so the Royal Conservatory's programming division has been filling that hall with great musicians for half a decade. And from the looks of it, next season's classical artists will more than amply continue that tradition. Perhaps the highlight of the season will be the visit of pianist Menahem Pressler – at 90! – with the New Orford String Quartet in November. Pressler retired from the Beaux Arts Trio more than five years ago – but is still making brilliant music.

Along with Pressler, the RCM has put together a fine piano series to run throughout the season, including recitals by audience favourite Yuja Wang, the great Ands Schiff, as well as Kirill Gerstein and the intellectually challenging Stephen Hough. There are a couple of chamber concerts blending pop and classical music that look especially appealing. Renowned French soprano Natalie Dessay is teaming with Michel Legrand and Quebec's Les Violons du Roy to present an evening of Legrand's music in December. And Andrew Burashko's Art of Time Ensemble is presenting a evening based on the Beatles's "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band," featuring Stephen Page, and other pop performers in November. The season gala features Broadway superstar Audra Mcdonald, singing works specially composed for her.

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Add in visits by cellist Mischa Maisky and his pianist daughter Lily, a program based on Vivaldi's Four Seasons featuring Fabio Biondi and his Europa Galante – the funkiest Baroque ensemble anywhere – and RCM orchestral performances conducted by Julian Kuerti and the COC's Johannes Debus – and it seems that Mervon Mehta, the Conservatory's executive director of performing arts, has put together a winning combination of artists worthy of the acoustics of his gem of a hall.

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