Sunday, October 21, 2012

A Whirlwind of Music

Shamefully this is being written in November and back dated a month (wow, so behind) so it shows in the correct month drop down menu.  So way back on Oct. 14 the Toronto Symphony offered a Whirlwind of Music program.  We started in Germany with the first movement of Mendelssohn's "Italian Symphony No. 4", then moved on to Italy for Vivaldi's "Concerto for Bassoon in F Major" and Rossini's "Overture to William Tell".  After intermission we went to Austria for the "Overture to the Magic Flute" by Mozart, then back to Germany for Mendelssohn's "Konzertstuck No. 1 for Two Clarinets", before finishing the trip with the second and fourth movements of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 7".

Joshua Weilerstein
The concert was conducted by the incredibly energetic (ah, the joys of youth) Joshua Weilerstein.  He's accomplished a lot in his 24 years, completing graduate studies in conducting and violin, assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, and has had conducting gigs all over the world with orchestras such as the BBC Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Danish National Symphony to name a few.  He had an excellent rapport with the audience, provided interesting tidbits about the pieces and added humour by defining an intellectual as one who can "list to the William Tell Overture without thinking of The Lone Ranger".  True not a quote created by him (wikipedia credits it to Jack Guin of the Denver Post) but fun nonetheless.

Michael Sweeney
Highlights of the concert for me started with the bassoon concerto.  I enjoy the sound of the bassoon, but often find it difficult to pick out from the full orchestra unless it has an obvious melodic line.  So it was really nice to hear principal bassoonist Michael Sweeney take centre stage.  In fact it was an embellished version of the concerto that Mr. Sweeney created himself.  A rather prolific concerto writer with over 500 to his credit and more than three dozen for the bassoon, I've always liked that Vivaldi probably wrote most of these works for the female students at the Venetian orphanage where he worked.

L: Valdepenas, R: Zhai
The spotlight continued to be on principal players when new TSO clarinetist YaoGuang Zhai joined the veteran Joaquin Valdepenas for the "Konzertstuck (or Concert Piece) for Two Clarinets".  What impeccable tone, articulation and ability they both have that showed off the versatility of this wonderful instrument (sorry, I'm biased since that's my instrument too).

Clearly I'm no intellectual because I thought of The Lone Ranger, but I had no idea the "Overture to William Tell" had four sections and is 12 minutes long!  As a whole it's a great piece, and a shame so much gets forgotten about because of the popularity of the final gallop.  It opens with a section called Prelude: Dawn featuring only the cellos and basses, then the full orchestra joins for the Storm.  The third section, Call to the Cows, is the pastorale calm after the storm and features the English horn, before  transitioning to the brass filled finale.

It was a lot of variety packed into an fun filled afternoon concert.

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