Touring is incredibly important for an orchestra. Not only does it allow us to grow closer, socially and emotionally, as a collective, but it also yields innumerable artistic benefits.
From February 11–14, 2023, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO) toured three cities and acclaimed venues in Canada and the US: débuting at Chicago’s Symphony Center, and returning to Ottawa’s National Arts Centre and New York’s Carnegie Hall, which also marked TSO Music Director Gustavo Gimeno’s début at the legendary venue.
Gimeno’s program for those performances told the story of a 21st-century TSO — a dynamic melange of new music, brilliant soloists, and timeless favorites of the classical repertoire, including a work chosen in honor of Valentine’s Day: Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet, in a special suite compiled by Gimeno. The concert opened with Canadian composer Samy Moussa’s texturally evocative Symphony No. 2, which the TSO commissioned and premièred last spring. Rounding out the program was Edouard Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole, with María Dueñas — the exceptionally talented Spanish violin prodigy — as the soloist.
"This was a watershed moment for the institution,” said our CEO, Mark Williams, during the post-tour toast. “For 100 years, the orchestra has come to epitomize all that is best about Toronto: it is a cosmopolitan enterprise, welcoming diverse ideas and influences from many perspectives. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra embraces innovation while respecting tradition. And it fosters creativity, both musically and through engagement with our community. As you all know, this was the first tour with our Music Director, I can say that the audiences were overwhelmingly positive at every single stop.”
The orchestra’s performance at Carnegie Hall garnered praise from audiences and critics alike. “In a program of strong works, it was Édouard Lalo’s Symphonie espagnole that stood out.” wrote Joshua Chong in a review for Toronto Star, adding that, “Spanish violinist María Dueñas delivered a ferocious interpretation of the showpiece, threatening to blow the roof off Carnegie Hall’s Isaac Stern Auditorium.” Reflecting on the TSO’s first-class musicianship, George Grella of New York Classical Review writes, “The playing in Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet was often deeply stirring, and the orchestra’s playing just as frequently brilliant. The playing was at the highest level, full of energy and detailed skill.”
The tour was not without its memorable moments, including Dueñas’s strings suddenly breaking in the middle of our Ottawa concert — to which she responded with spontaneity and zeal before delivering a compelling conclusion to the performance. In New York, the awe-struck silence that followed the first encore was a profound compliment. Whereas the audience at Symphony Center responded to the last notes of the concert with no less than three standing ovations.
The four-day tour ended with a reception in our hotel in Chicago as the musicians and staff members of TSO, along with friends of the symphony, joined together for an intimate toast. As Gimeno puts it, “Touring enhances the personal and professional connections between players, enabling the entire ensemble to flourish creatively. There really is nothing else like it.”