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With soprano Measha Brueggergosman, conductor Tania Miller and others. Koerner Hall, Thursday.
For those itching to hear good live classical music in the city over the summer, it can be slim pickings. But in comes the Toronto Summer Music Festival and all is right with the world again.
This year the festival celebrates its 10th anniversary and is dedicated to the new world, a theme that encompasses the American dream and eternal optimism.
If you build it they will come — this was in evidence from the sold-out hall. Of course, it didn’t hurt to include superstar soprano Measha Bruggergosman.
The party kicked off with Copland’s 1945 Pulitzer Prize-winning Appalachian Spring with Victoria Symphony Music Director Tania Miller leading the Toronto Summer Music Festival Ensemble.
The music proclaimed a stunning start to the festival in Koerner’s acoustically pristine hall — particularly the endowed snippets of Americana, which endear each movement as a journey to meet springtime. It was a jubilant reading of the original chamber ensemble version of 13 instruments.
Bruggergosman took to the stage with pianist Steven Philcox to perform American gems by Copland, Gershwin and Bolcom.
After recently giving birth to her second son, Bruggergosman looked radiant and cast a spell of pure charm that was hard to resist. From her moving rendition of Copland’s “Heart, we will forget him,” to Bolcom’s hilarious “The Total Stranger in the Garden,” Bruggergosman’s wholehearted and buttery tone was served hot. Playing up the role, one could see the diva not only sing the words, but feel them deeply.
Gershwin’s “My man’s gone now” and “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess are among the best-loved of the American opera repertoire. Brueggergosman crooned with confidence alongside the nimble fingers of Philcox.
The show continued to heat up with a magnificent performance of a rarely heard Clarinet Concerto by Copland. The star of the number was TSO’s associate principal clarinet, Yao Guang Zhai, whose instrument earned amazement and a standing ovation.
Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” closed the evening with an almost inexhaustible supply of energy by piano soloist John Novacek. A master of the blue notes that swings with the best of them, Novacek’s pounding chords and steely rhythms offered a small miracle in that the piano made it out alive.
There was a newfound gait in the audience as they made their way out of the hall into the summer evening, a feeling of eternal optimism. Of course, the free champagne at the post-concert reception never hurts.