On the Toronto music scene, Toronto Sinfonietta is truly unique. Since its inception in 1986, this orchestra has captured the city’s imagination with ground-breaking concert presentations to capacity houses. Classical favourites, jazz, world music, new pieces commissioned by gifted local composers, and multi-media are just part of the alchemy that creates its signature style.
Led with extraordinary dedication by founding Artistic Director Maestro Matthew Jaskiewicz, Toronto Sinfonietta has been presenting exceptional performances for over two decades. The critically acclaimed CD recording, Romancing Chopin, featured numerous times on CBC radio, is a testimony to Toronto Sinfonietta’s distinctive approach to programming.
Toronto Sinfonietta’s annual concerto competition has become a fixture on Toronto’s music scene, and is very popular with young instrument players. Winners of the concerto competition take part in Sinfonietta’s annual Gala Concert, performing with the orchestra – often for the first time in their lives.
The seeds of the Toronto Sinfonietta were sown in 1986 when Music Director Matthew Jaskiewicz, in collaboration with his Polish musical friends and colleagues, founded the Polish Canadian Society of Music in Toronto. Two performing ensembles were created within the Society, the Ars Antiqua Chamber Orchestra and Choir, both specialising in early music. The orchestra gradually extended its repertoire and subsequently changed its name, first to Musica Antiqua and, in the autumn of 1990, to the Toronto Sinfonietta.
With the birth of the Toronto Sinfonietta came the orchestra’s first recording – a joint production with the Musica Antiqua Chamber Choir, featuring Polish Christmas carols arranged by Matthew Jaskiewicz and Magnificat by M.J. Zebrowski. An evolution in programming saw the presentation of ambitious repertoire for string orchestra by Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, Elgar, Grieg and Karlowicz.
Moving the Toronto Sinfonietta’s concerts to prestigious Glenn Gould Studio and partnering with Ryerson University Choir marked important milestones in the orchestra’s development. With its choir partners, the Toronto Sinfonietta presented a range of magnificent oratorios, from Handel’s Messiah to Orff’s Carmina Burana, characterised by very emotional interpretations for which the orchestra became renowned.
Constant search for new repertoire brought Matthew Jaskiewicz and the Toronto Sinfonietta to the medium of opera. Concerts of opera arias and choruses evolved into concert performances of full operas (Gluck’s Orpheus, Mozart’s Idomeneo) and, in 1996, a fully staged production of Halka by Polish romantic composer Stanislaw Moniuszko. With the help of the Polish Canadian Society of Music, the Polish Symfonia Choir and the combined Polish choirs of Toronto and Hamilton, the Toronto Sinfonietta delivered two large-scale performances for the Polish community – Kurpinski’s Te Deum and Kilar’s Angelus.
Recognising the importance of cultivating Canadian repertoire for a Canadian orchestra, the Toronto Sinfonietta appointed Ronald Royer as Composer-in-Residence for the 1998/99 season.
Royer’s inspiration and imagination combined with Jaskiewicz’ attachment to his Polish musical heritage fuelled the Toronto Sinfonietta’s most significant artistic achievement – the recording of the “Romancing Chopin” CD. “Romancing Chopin” features new creative arrangements of Chopin’s piano music as well as original Canadian compositions by Ronald Royer and Alexander Rapoport, each inspired by the music of the great Polish composer. Contemporary sounds woven into Chopin’s traditional musical language have produced a recording that is at the same time musically ambitious and pleasing to listeners.
Always seeking new musical adventures, Matthew Jaskiewicz and the Toronto Sinfonietta are exploring popular genres such as symphonic pops and musical humour. Now, the appreciative applause at Toronto Sinfonietta concerts is equally matched by delighted rounds of laughter.