|Mr. and Mrs. Ehnes |
The first piece on the program was the polonaise from the opera Eugene Onegin. I was surprised I recognized it. Polonaise is just a dance with a specific rhythm pattern (long, short, short, long, long, long, long) but it was lively and fun. Click here for a link to the scene/dance from the opera.
|James and Peter Oundjian backstage on|
Jan 2011 Florida tour
One of the highlights of the first movement is the cadenza in the middle (which Tchaikovsky actually wrote rather than leaving it up to the soloist), that has lots of double stops at an almost frantic pace. At the end Ehnes looked at his bow and had to pull off broken bow hairs. The piece has a fiddle like sound to it, particularly in the final movement which is reminiscent of a cossack Russian dance. For an insightful discussion on the piece by none other than James Ehnes himself (complete with instrumental demonstrations) check out this link. The audience was on their feet immediately and wouldn't settle without an encore which turned out to be Caprice 16 by Paganini.
Post intermission things moved onto Symphony #2 in C Minor. Apparently there's a popular joke where a professor asks a class of music students how many symphonies Tchaikovsky wrote. A student in the back row puts up his hand and answers "Three, sir. Numbers 4, 5, and 6." All this to indicate that his other symphonies are not often performed. Number 2 is nicknamed "The Little Russian" since it has a basis in Ukrainian folk song. This is no longer politically correct since the Ukraine is now it's own republic, but there's still historical significance.
The opening begins with a horn solo, excellently performed by TSO principal horn Neil Deland, and there were great clarinet solo/duets with various other wind instruments. The lively fourth movement was my favourite and reminded me at the start of the "1812 Overture", which wouldn't be written for another eight years. There are parts that remind me of his Nutcracker music as well, although that didn't debut for another 10 years after the "1812 Overture". Great composers never throw any ideas away perhaps? It was extremely enjoyable to hear this uncommon symphony performed with such devotion and skill. Looking forward to hearing more of the Tchaikovsky symphonies and concertos featuring Mr. Ehnes. Go Canada!