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World-renowned pianist opens TSM Festival with a stunning all-Schumann program

July 21st, 2010 · No Comments

Austrian-born pianist Anton Kuerti delivered an awe-inspiring opening night performance for the TSM Festival at Koerner Hall on Tuesday July 20. Courtesy Toronto Summer Music Festival

By Emily Dontsos

If master pianist Anton Kuerti’s spectacular opening night performance for the Toronto Summer Music Festival on July 20 is any indication of what to expect from the festival’s 12 remaining concerts, then classical music lovers are in for a treat.

Held at the architecturally and acoustically astounding new Koerner Hall in The Royal Conservatory of Music’s TELUS Centre for Performance and Learning (273 Bloor St. W.), Kuerti’s all-Schumann program kicked off the festival’s fifth season with a brilliant display of masterful interpretation, impeccable timing, and truly awe-inspiring musicianship.

Preceded by proud and heartfelt opening remarks from TSM president Barbara Thompson and outgoing artistic director Agnes Grossmann, the mastermind behind the festival’s inception and growth within a city previously lacking access to classical music during the summer months, Kuerti’s performance opened with three dramatic and highly varied movements from Schumann’s Novelettes, Op. 21.

Bent over Koerner Hall’s beautiful new Hamburg Steinway piano, with his shock of white hair and matching jacket adding an air of drama to the already charged atmosphere, Kuerti delved into the opening pieces with utter commitment to his music. Fully concentrated and emotionally involved, the pianist’s rendering of Schumann’s exhilarating, playful and deeply moving compositions captivated the audience completely.

The three Novelettes were followed by the soaring Fantasie in C major, Op. 17 and the powerful Toccata in C major, Op. 7, with the towering Grand Sonata No. 1 in F# minor, Op. 11 as the closing piece. Punctuated by dramatic moments of seemingly impossible silence between movements, Kuerti’s interpretation of each piece reflected a deep respect for Robert Schumann’s emotionally complex and highly intricate work. Masterfully perfecting the frequent and sudden transitions from building crescendo to peaceful melody that are characteristic of the Romantic composer’s music, Kuerti’s performance was nothing short of brilliant.

Born in Austria, Anton Kuerti was raised in the U.S. but has spent the majority of his adult life in Canada. He has toured 39 countries and has performed with most major U.S. orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, as well as the Toronto Symphony and Montreal Symphony orchestras. A leading performer of Schumann’s works, Kuerti was honoured with the 2007 Schumann Prize of the Schumann Gesellschaft in Germany, and is also a recipient of the National Arts Prize of the Banff Centre in Canada (2007) and the Governor General’s Lifetime Artistic Achievement (2008).

The TSM Festival’s opening night performance by one of the world’s greatest living pianists was an unequivocal success. With 12 concerts featuring some of the best established and up-and-coming international artists still to go, the festival’s fifth season is truly a cause for celebration.

As she prepares to move on from the festival to pursue her international conducting and concert schedule more fully, Maestra Grossmann can rest assured that what she set out to accomplish has been achieved: the TSM Festival is quickly becoming an anticipated fixture in Toronto’s classical music scene, an institution unto itself, and an integral part of city residents’ summer plans.

The TSM Festival runs from July 20 to August 13.

Tags: Arts · General