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Music Flows Along The Niagara

Niagara-on-the-Lake Music Festival begins this weekend

The Music Niagara Festival kicks off its 12th season in Niagara-on-the-Lake this Saturday with a gala opening night concert. It continues at multiple venues, including area wineries, for a total of 34 concerts, before ending on August 14. Unless noted otherwise, all concerts start at 7:30pm at St. Mark’s Anglican Church. What follows is a selection of some of the festival highlights.

Andre Laplante

In celebration of the bicentennials of both Chopin and Schumann, Canadian pianist Andre Laplante opens the festival on July 17 with a program of works by Chopin that includes the Fantasy in F minor and the Sonata in B flat minor, as well as a pair of nocturnes. He will be joined by the Gould String Quartet for Schumann’s Piano Quintet. Hungarian-Canadian mezzo-soprano Krisztina Szabo teams up with baritone Brett Polegato in a program of songs and arias by Mozart, de Falla, Copland, Ireland, and Novello on July 23. On July 24, pianist Darrett Zusko plays Clara Schuman’s Variations on a Theme by Robert Schumann, op. 20 in F sharp minor, as well as Brahms’ Variations on a Theme by Schumann, op. 9; he is joined by the Gould String Quartet for a performance of Chopin’s Concerto No. 2 in F minor. On July 31, the Swiss Piano Trio perform Schumann’s Trio in D minor, Beethoven’s Archduke Trio, and a trio by Daniel Schnyder.

The “Musical Bridges” concert on August 6 features BPO principal cellist Roman Mekinulov, along with his wife, soprano Sebnem Mekinulov, and his brother, pianist Alexander Mekinulov. They are joined by the festival’s artistic director, Atis Bankas, on violin and violist Natasha Sharko in works by Schumann and Brahms. The Paris-based Trio Magellan performs the piano trios of Debussy and Faure as well as sonatas by Debussy and Ravel on August 7. A program of instrumental and vocal music on August 13 celebrates the music of Italy, and the festival winds up on August 14, with the unique sounds of the hugely popular Quartetto Gelato in a program of Spanish music and tango. (Did festival organizers know in advance that Spain would win the World Cup?)

Schumann and his circle

The four Monday evening concerts in Addison Hall celebrating the bicentennial of Robert Schumann include readings by Shaw Festival actors. On July 19, American mezzo-soprano Leah Summers and pianist Charis Dimaras will perform works by Chopin, Schumann, Barber, and Mahler, with readings by Neil Barclay. On July 26, Bankas, Neil Deland, and Buffalo’s Claudia Hoca perform Brahms’ Horn Trio, and both Schumann’s Adagio and Allegro op.70 for Horn and Piano and his Sonata for Violin and Piano No. 1 on July 26, with readings by Patty Jamieson. Pianist Mykola Suk performs Schumann’s Fantasiestucke and Papillons and is joined by the Gould String Quartet in Beethoven’s C minor Concerto for Piano and Strings, Op. 37 on August 2, with readings by Lorne Kennedy. Hoca returns with Bankas on August 9, in a program featuring Joachim’s Romance and Clara Schumann’s Three Romances as well as the famous FAE Sonata, while long-time Shaw cast member Guy Bannerman will read selections from Bernard Shaw’s musical writings.

Niagara Pops

The 4pm concert on July 18 launches a new series featuring a mixture of classical and jazz known as “Niagara Pops.” Anna Dynarowska and the Pacanowski Jazz Trio perform sonatas by Brahms and Poulenc, as well as Paul Pacanowski’s own Sonatina for Clarinet and Piano. The 4pm concert on July 25 features Camille Watts on flute and Pacanowski on saxophone with the Gould String Quartet in a program billed as “Baroque and Jazz.”

Winery concerts

This season, the festival presents three pairs of Saturday concerts at two wineries. On July 24, at 11:30am, the Peller Estates will offer a pair of string quartets by Haydn and Mozart, while at 4:30pm, the Reif winery offers a program of Vivaldi and Haydn at an event that includes wine and hors d’oeuvres in the ticket price. Both wineries offer similar programs of music at the same times on July 31 and August 7.

Jazz concerts

On July 30, American jazz pianist Dick Hyman returns in a program featuring new settings of his original song cycle from the plays of William Shakespeare, sung by baritone Maciej Bujnowicz. Hyman will also perform his hit The Minotaur, arranged for violin and piano, and the first movement of his Sonata for Violin and Piano.

On three Saturday evenings, July 24, July 31, and August 7, the John Sherwood Trio brings its smooth style to the Epicurean Bistro on Queen Street at 10:15pm. Addison Hall, on Byron Street, is the venue for three Sunday noon concerts: On July 25, vocalist Juliet Dunn is joined by keyboardist Peter Shea; on August 1, vocalist Maria Shantz and Doug Mundy perform jazz standards; the Doug Mundy Trio rounds out the series on August 8. Alexandra Dominick and Madeline Robertson are featured in the final jazz event in Addison Hall, at 2pm on August 9.

For tickets and information, call 1-800-511-7429 or visit

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