Wednesday, November 24, 2010

TSO at the Weston

Way back on Nov. 14 (hence this will be a whirlwind review since I'm 3 concerts behind) I continued what is turning into a real music month by attending a Toronto Symphony concert in a new location with a new friend.  Several times throughout the season the TSO vacates Roy Thomson Hall in favour of the George Weston Recital Hall at the Toronto Centre for the Arts.  While paying the parking meter I ran into a few musicians actually.  I would have expected parking to be provided for them, but they were parking on the street and paying like the rest of us.  tsoundcheck tickets aren't usually offered for concerts at the Weston, but I guess they had a lot of empty seats, so we were able to attend for the cheap rate :)  Our seats were on the floor level however, and near the front which limits what you are able to see of the actual orchestra.  The stage is smaller and the musicians seemed a bit squished in places, but they were able to squeeze in a piano at centre stage for Dvorak's "Piano Concerto in G Minor".

The program opened with Glinka's lively "Overture to Rusian and Lyudmila" (a really fast version is linked here) then the piano concerto performed by  Natasha Paremski.  She played Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto #2 last season (May 2009) with guest conductor Xian Zhang, as a blonde and now is looking just as pretty as a brunette.  But that's beside the point, boy can she play!  All I know of Dvorak's is the "New World Symphony" (#9 I believe), and Peter Oundjian mentioned in his introduction that part was quoted in the concerto, I tried hard, but not knowing what part to listen to, I clearly missed hearing the quote.

Next came an odd piece.  A cello concerto written by Witold Lutoslawski in 1969/70.  I'd say I'm still working on furthering my appreciation of music from the classical and romantic eras and haven't expanded to contemproary yet because I didn't like it.  There was practically non-existent melody, lots of dissonance, and conflict.  That's the point actually.  The composer wrote "The relationship [between soloist and orchestra] is one of conflict...the orchestra provides the element of intervention, interruption, even disruption."  My favourite part was the all out brass interruption section.  Not pretty but forceful.  Colin Carr was the guest cellist, and he called this work one of the best pieces not just for cello but ever.  Well, I'm glad he has an appreciation for it, but it was lost on me.   He was extremely energetic in his playing however, going so far as to knock the first row violins music off the stand.  Good thing it was at the very end and they had finished playing.

Lastly was what I had wanted to attend for...Stravinsky's "Suite from The Firebird".  Only discovering at the NACO Gotta Dance concert a few weeks ago that The Firebird was a ballet (I don't know what I thought it was before, but I've recognized some of the themes for a while, as they tend to crop up in various places.  Fantasia and TSO Halloween concerts for example.  Oh and of course youtube.  Here are parts you may recognize) I was quite looking forward to this.  I wasn't disappointed, although it would have been more thrilling to be able to have a view of the full orchestra not just the front rows.  I have since listened to the full ballet music and it's all great!  Obviously the themes in the Suite are most recognizable, but I love the intensity and the beauty of the various sections.  Since it's a ballet it's a given there's a Prince, and he rescues Princesses with the help of this bird.  It's ballet, plots are what they will be, it's all about the music anyway :) and this ended the concert on a high note!

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