Il Giardino d’Amore concert in Toronto

Maria Guzowska and Katarzyna CichonAs I mentioned in my previous post, the beautiful young people of Il Giardino d’Amore are in town, thanks to the presenter Mooredale Concerts. They performed today, Sunday October 20 at Walter Hall.

What stood out for me:

– the excellent lute and guitar player, Maria Guzowska. She was the only accompanist  to the soprano in Charpentier’s “Celle qui fait tout mon tourment”, for which she also improvised the percussion, and she had another notable solo sections in–if memory serves–Caresana’s “Dorme nimo”. The rest of the time she was a key person in the continuo. I hope we’ll see her again, with this or another band.

– the continuo was good and solid, and held the entire edifice together. Marco Vitale was at the harpsichord and Katarzyna Cichon at the cello: I wish the two were allowed more room to shine and more leadership opportunities and solos. The violins, usually leading the baroque ensemble, were today utterly disjointed (it sounded like there were five of them, rather than three or two, and each sounded differently tuned). One of the violinists came comically under-prepared, with a wrong stash of music and without his own music stand. The music director and the first violin Stefan Plewniak’s own playing in the very first number, Vivaldi’s Concerto for Violin “Il Grosso Mogul”, sounded slightly out of tune. (At first I thought maybe Vivaldi wanted to make a joke so he made the entire concerto chromatic, but no: I came home, listed to another version of the same concerto on Rdio, and realized that that was not the case.) By the final Concerto grosso by Corelli, Il Giardino managed to meld and sound like a real ensemble playing together. But that was the end of the concert. The band did not prepare an encore, although the audience was willing.

Natalia Kawalek has a lovely voice, especially when it travels to its high register. She sang only a short segment from the wonderful “Cessate, omai cessate”, and she sang it well, but it’s a shame that it ended so quickly: I was left wanting to hear more, the entire wide range of this cantata. I was left with the impression of a good voice, somewhat underused and under-challenged in this program. In her second appearance, Zebrowski’s “Suscepit Israel” she showed off her angelic, youthful inflections, and in “Celle qui fait mon tourment” was finally a bit more daring. The text was somewhat under-digested, and she had to rely on the music stand, but all the same, the two of them, Guzowska and Kawalek, managed to pull it off.

– The introductions to the program done by Plewniak at the beginning of each half of the concert did not help one bit! He seemed unprepared, but also as if he did not particularly care to remember what the items in the program are about. Here’s a suggestion: why not somebody else from the ensemble do the intro talk about the program? The music director doesn’t have to do everything. Why not one of the players, or the musician about to sing, tell us more about what we are about to hear? The program itself was rather light, with many short arias, one discarded number and no encores. I have the impression that these musicians can do much better than that.

Il Giardino d’Amore performed at Walter Hall, University of Toronto Department of Music, 80 Queen’s Park Cres.

Il Giardino d'Amore - post concertFar left Marco Vitale, fourth from the left Natalia Kawalek, red trousers Maria Guzowska, next to her with the cello Katarzyna Cichon. Far right, Stefan Plewniak, music director

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