On the lake
Toronto's summer musical fare,
including music by Wagner, Weill and Alex Eddington, sampled by MALCOLM MILLER
The musical choice in Toronto during the summer may not be as wide and exciting as during the main seasons, but visitors may be fortunate, as I was, to find some uniquely attractive musical events available, not least the free 'Harbourfront' summer programme, concerts, operas and ballets, performed in contemporary spaces surrounded by the sights and sounds of Lake Ontario, and, newly developed quaysides with yachts and luxury condominiums lounging the water's edge. Now in its fourth season is 'Summer Music in the Garden', a series of bi-weekly concerts devised in association with the cellist Yo-Yo Ma, which presents wide ranging programmes from classical chamber music and Yiddish songs to Flamenco and Indian dance.
On Sunday 24 August 2003 (towards the end of the season which this year continued into September due to popular request) the featured artists were the Tokai String Quartet, young graduates from the University and Conservatory of Toronto, who regaled a large audience with a mixture of old and new including a première by Canadian composer Alex Eddington. The concert began with some Piazolla and Beethoven's Razumovsky Quartet Op 59 No 3, which gained a special aura performed in sunny surroundings adorned with green trees and flowerbeds, and fresh air from Lake Ontario. Despite some amplification of the string sounds, there was considerable clarity of texture. The poignant slow movement, with its beguiling melody and delicately insistent pizzicato cello was followed by an energetic Scherzo and a final fugue propelled with confidence and precision, continuing at a reasonable pace even during the challenging moment when a dog strolled around the players looking for a helpful tree.
The Toronto première (and second performance) of Children's Songs on the Lake, a song cycle by Alex Eddington based on children's poetry by Dennis Lee, for soprano and quartet brought the afternoon to a climax. The composer, a Torontonian currently based in Scotland, clearly displayed skill and wit, qualities also shared by the soloist, soprano Kristin Mueller, for whom the piece was written (and who had premièred it a few months earlier). Miss Mueller charismatically projected the eight humourous songs with Eddington's slinky accompaniments infused with punchy pastiche, Weill-like tangos, Gershwinesque harmonies, for instance in 'Summer Fair', and the very short 'William King', while the longer songs were reminiscent of Berio in their vocal demands. The final song, a gentle lullaby, luxuriated in cool, accessible and distinctive harmonies. The set was received enthusiastically by the audience which included many children listening from the grassy slopes. Introduced by Toronto music critic Tamara Bernstein this 'Summer Music in the Garden' is a refreshing cultural event which should be of great appeal both to residents and visitors alike.
Copyright © 2 October 2003
Malcolm Miller, London UK