Tonight’s concert at Walter Hall –“Europe and the New World”—in the Toronto Summer Music Festival put artistic director Jonathan Crow into the spotlight. He seems very comfortable there.
That’s what I’m getting at with the headline. Our concert was sold out, the audience buzzing with excitement. We watched violinist Crow and pianist Philip Chiu play a series of pieces from either side of the Atlantic.
The young concertmaster of the Toronto Symphony with the matinee idol looks also has wit & charm to burn, as we saw between pieces tonight. And with this year’s festival he’s arriving as a genuine star in this city.
There were four items on the program plus an encore.
- Brahms’s Scherzo in C minor
- César Franck’s Sonata for violin & piano
- Heifetz’s arrangements of five selections from Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess for violin & piano
- Corigliano’s Sonata for violin & piano
Crow introduced the encore with a dedication to Toronto Symphony’s longtime manager Walter Homburger, who passed away a few days ago at the age of 95.
For the second time in the past few days, a TSM concert encore featured a piece by Healey Willan, namely his Romance.
Chiu was very much Crow’s equal throughout even if we may be a bit more familiar with Crow. In the Brahms I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of weight he used, especially in a series of triplet eruptions, resembling a galloping rhythm. It was a great omen for a concert requiring a pianist to take the stage and not merely “accompany” the soloist.
The Franck sonata is perhaps best known for its finale featuring a melody that gets passed back and forth between the two instruments. I was amused watching Chiu turn his head to watch Crow before some of their entries, a remarkable feat even if he weren’t also playing as well.
After the interval it was Gershwin’s turn via Heifetz’s stunning arrangements. Chiu gave a recommendation to the audience that tempted me to stand up –big mouth that I am—because he was telling people they need to go see Porgy & Bess.
I’m surprised he didn’t mention that it’s featured on February 1st 2020 in this season’s Metropolitan Opera high-definition broadcasts, starring two singers seen in Toronto, namely Angel Blue (seen in last season’s La boheme) and Eric Owens (seen in Hercules a few seasons back).
What we heard tonight were those wonderful tunes, via Crow’s violin. Heifetz’s brilliance was able to turn a duet (“Bess you is my woman now”) into a virtuoso violin solo, Chiu’s piano grounding the violin with the necessary jazziness.
To close we were dazzled by Corigliano’s sonata, a work Crow rightly described as having “many notes”. Oh yes, and they were played with fire & passion.
Toronto Summer Music is in its last week.