Going Out: Top Toronto concerts for May
From classical and jazz to pop, we pick our favourite Toronto concerts every month. This May, Jill Barber plays Massey Hall, Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique is at Roy Thomson and Randy Bachman takes over the Wychwood Barns with The Sadies and Melanie Fiona.
Though born in small-town Ontario, Barber has a distinctly cosmopolitan flair. She’s the kind of singer who would go so far as to enroll in an immersion course in the south of France to perfect her renditions of the Gallic classics on her latest album, Chansons. Topping the Canadian jazz album charts shortly after its release last year, the disc luxuriates in a kind of frisky melancholy. May 3. $29.50–$39.50. Winter Garden Theatre, 189 Yonge St., 416-872-4255, masseyhall.com.
Bartók Concerto for Orchestra
Few of the Hungarian composer’s works fall into the love-it-the-first-time category, but this concerto is definitely one of them. It brims over with folk-inflected melodies, sprightly rhythms and lush orchestration. The concerto is partnered here with another work that shows folk influences: Tchaikovsky’s first piano concerto, with Russian-born Kirill Gerstein on the keys. May 16 and 18. $29–$145. Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St., 416-593-4828, tso.ca.
Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique
A musical take on an artist’s opium-induced visions, this may be the 19th century’s most celebrated orchestral head trip. The Berlioz pairs nicely with Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, also kind of trippy in its own gorgeously impressionist way. Then it’s a return to Gallic clarity with Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, manned by Frank Braley and Eric Le Sage. Stéphane Denève conducts. May 1 to 4. $29–$145. Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe St., 416-593-4828, tso.ca.
Britten: The Song Cycles
The Aldeburgh Connection continues its celebration of the centenary of the great composer’s birth, highlighting Britten’s indelible contribution to the art of song. Soprano Shannon Mercer and mezzo Susan Platts team with pianists Stephen Ralls and Bruce Ubukata for a garland of vocal music that features settings of poetry by Auden, Blake, Burns, Pushkin and others. May 7. $50. Glenn Gould Studio, 250 Front St. W., 416-872-4255, roythomson.com.
Chopin and Beethoven
Though it specializes in the baroque, Tafelmusik occasionally takes
up the challenge of the classical period. Pianist Janina Fialkowska has the rare pleasure of playing Chopin’s Concerto no.2 on a 19th-century instrument—one made by the same company used by the composer. Beethoven is represented by his fourth symphony, under the spirited, lucid direction of Bruno Weil. May 31 to June 2. $45–$99. Koerner Hall, The Royal Conservatory, 273 Bloor St. W., 416-408-0208, tafelmusik.org.
Beethoven’s mammoth work lives up to his inscription on the score: “From the heart—may it return to the heart.” Soloists Shannon Mercer, Krisztina Szabó, Michael Colvin and Michael Adair partner with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and Festival Orchestra, conducted by Noel Edison. May 15. $53–$87. Koerner Hall, The Royal Conservatory, 273 Bloor St. W., 416-408-0208, rcmusic.ca.
Music for China
As part of its 30th-anniversary season, Soundstreams has put together an evening consisting almost entirely of world premieres. On the program are Dorothy Chang, Fuhong Shi and Ye Xiaogang. The outlier on the bill is R. Murray Schafer’s Theseus. May 14. $20–$65. Koerner Hall, The Royal Conservatory, 273 Bloor St. W., 416-408-0208, rcmusic.ca.
La Vie Parisienne
Jacques Offenbach, often thought of as something of a Gallic Gilbert and Sullivan, churned out thoroughly amusing trifles for 19th-century Parisian audiences, and this effervescent operetta is one of his most popular. Revolving around a Swedish couple and a wealthy Brazilian who want to sample the city’s many pleasures, the plot supplies the requisite number of ingenious disguises and hoaxes. May 2 to 5. $66–$95. Jane Mallett Theatre, 27 Front St. E., 416-366-7723, torontooperetta.com.
A Woman’s Life
Toronto Consort’s multimedia concert celebrates women composers, from the Middle Ages to the baroque, who dared to write music as well as perform it. Actors Maggie Huculak and Karen Woolridge, with the help of projected imagery, bring the work of women like Hildegard of Bingen to vibrant life. May 24 to 26. $22–$52. Trinity–St. Paul’s Centre, 427 Bloor St. W., 416-964-6337, torontoconsort.org.
Danilo Pérez Trio and the Cecilia String Quartet
The Panama-born pianist and composer hands over a large chunk of this concert to the work of Dizzy Gillespie. The main attraction, however, will be the world premiere of Pérez’s own piano quintet. The prize-winning Cecilia works the strings while he lets loose on the keys. May 4. $40–$80. Koerner Hall, The Royal Conservatory, 273 Bloor St. W., 416-408-0208, rcmusic.ca.
Diana Braithwaite and Chris Whiteley
Braithwaite’s smoky voice and Whiteley’s gritty fluency on multiple instruments mark the pair as true blues devotees. With nine Maple Blues Awards and six Juno nominations to their collective credit, they’ve got plenty of industry cred to go along with their musical authenticity. May 31. $25. Hugh’s Room, 2261 Dundas St. W., 416-531-6604, hughsroom.com.
Espejo, the new album from this Venezuelan-born Latin jazz singer’s new album, consists entirely of original tunes, though her growing reputation rests as much on her honeyed, edgy voice as it does on her compositional skills. Her backup team features percussion, bass and trumpet, as well as Jeremy Ledbetter on piano. May 15. $15. Lula Lounge, 1585 Dundas St. W., 416-588-0307, lula.ca.
Michael Kaeshammer and Kellylee Evans
Kaeshammer is a classically trained pianist with a passion for boogie-woogie, reggae, blues and mellifluous pop. A forceful vocalist with the heart of a crooner, he partners well with Evans, a Juno Award–winning singer who can stretch her voice from roof-raising to reverential in the same song. May 25. $19.50–$59.50. Massey Hall, 178 Victoria St., 416-872-4255, masseyhall.com.
Oz Noy Trio
Alternately raucous and soulful, blues-driven and rockabilly, Noy’s guitar work is the driving force in an ensemble that has played together often enough that performances often come across as jam sessions. Late Show With David Letterman vets Anton Fig and Will Lee man the drums and bass, respectively. May 3 and 4. Cover charge may apply. The Rex Hotel, 194 Queen St. W., 416-598-2475, therex.ca.
Graydon James and the Young Novelists
Maybe there’s something in the water, but Toronto has a weird ability to keep producing unerringly classy country-rock bands who know their way around four-part harmonies and Gretsch hollow-body guitars. James and friends have been together for four years, releasing In the Year You Were Born, their first proper album, last fall. May 2. $20. Hugh’s Room, 2261 Dundas St. W., 416-531-6604, hughsroom.com.
The Edmonton-bred duo creates glitchy, synth-drenched avant-pop that’s Britney-on-a-budget one moment, deliciously dark and gothic the next. They spent all last year sending music critics into paroxysms of nerdy joy with their lush first album, Shrines. May 5. $26. The Danforth Music Hall, 147 Danforth Ave., 416-778-8163, collectiveconcerts.com.