Toronto Mendelssohn Choir
The roots of the large Toronto Mendelssohn Choir date back to the late 19th century, making the group one of Canada's best-established and most characteristic musical ensembles. The choir has had a long association with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir was formed in 1894 at St. Jarvis Baptist Church in Toronto, where its first director, Augustus S. Vogt, was choir director. The group made its debut on January 15, 1895, at Toronto's Massey Hall as part of that venue's grand opening celebration. In 1902, the choir performed with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and it has since had a long record of collaborating with American orchestras as well as the Toronto Symphony. After Vogt, the choir's conductors have included Herbert Fricker (1917-1942), Sir Ernest MacMillan (1942-1957), Frederick Silvester (1957-1960), Walter Susskind, later conductor of the St. Louis Symphony (1960-1964), Elmer Iseler (1964-1997), Noel Edison (1997-2018), and David Fallis (2018-). The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir has made multiple tours of Europe, beginning in 1972. It performed at the Summer Olympics in Montreal in 1972 and the Cultural Olympiad associated with the Vancouver Winter Olympics in 2010. The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir made its first recording in 1926. In 1952, it made a noted recording of Handel's Messiah, a work with which it has often been associated. Another early work in the choir's repertory was O Canada, which it frequently performed even before the piece became Canada's national anthem. Among the ensemble's many notable recordings was that of the score to the film Schindler's List (1993), conducted by John Williams. In 2019, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir was heard with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra under Sir Andrew Davis in a recording of Berlioz's Fantasie sur la Tempète de Shakespeare. The choir has about 150 members, also maintaining a 70-member Toronto Mendelssohn Singers and, since 1977, a Toronto Mendelssohn Youth Choir. The group performs at Toronto's Koerner Hall at Telus Center and at a variety of Toronto churches.
© James Manheim /TiVo
© James Manheim /TiVo
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Classical - Released June 28, 2019 | Chandos
Sir Andrew Davis was the music director of the Toronto Symphony from 1975 to 1988, and he has maintained strong ties with the group displayed here, even though the players in the main are not the ones he conducted back then. You might not think the world needs another reading of the Symphonie fantastique, Op. 14, but Davis' ease with the orchestra enables him to pull off a number of unusual orchestral effects. The real find here is the Fantaisie sur La Tempète de Shakespeare (Fantasy on Shakespeare's The Tempest), which is a symphonic poem movement, not incidental music. It is the last movement of Lélio, which was the immediate successor to the Symphonie Fantastique but is much less often performed. It is a charming collection of delicate orchestral displays complete with a choir singing words from The Tempest, or something like them, in Italian (Berlioz, who had just won the Prix de Rome, was in an Italian phase). The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, which has worked often with both Davis and the Toronto Symphony, achieves special grace here, and this little performance is worth the price of admission. The Symphonie Fantastique itself is more straightforward but has distinctive touches, including bell strokes in the "Dies irae" that will make you sit up and take notice, if not severely stress your expensive speakers. The Torontonians generally play well throughout, although the return of the idée fixe in the waltz movement (sample this) comes off more as an intrusion than as the desired fleeting thought. A fine product of Sir Andrew's old age. © TiVo