Thursday, January 31, 2013

TSO Allows the Audience to Pick

For many months the Toronto Symphony posted polls listing pieces of music and inviting potential  audience members to pick their favourites.  After several rounds and finals the six top pieces were combined into an Audience Choice concert.  Not a lot of the music I voted for made the final list, but I was getting excited just listening to the orchestra warm up and hearing snippets from Star Wars!

The "Main Title Theme from Star Wars" opened the evening with a soaring brass section that let loose to great effect.  There's nothing quite like John Williams.  I was left wondering if it's the first time anyone in attendance had heard that piece live given that there isn't always a lot of crossover between people who favour classical concerts and ones who prefer the Pops series.  Maybe programs like this will help in the promotion of each.

Next up was the "long, short, short, long" movement from Beethoven's Symphony No. 7 (ok, technically movement 2).  The theme was introduced so beautifully by the strings and then got even quieter.   Wow, just lovely.

Ms. Rizikov
Rachmaninoff's "Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini" is probably my favourite piano piece, and I'll admit to being cliche and name Variation 18 as my favourite within it.  That variation proved to be another winner and made the program.  We also helped to fulfill a dream of sorts for the young pianist.  Thirteen year old Anastasia Rizikov had told the conductor who announced to the audience that it was her dream to perform with the TSO.  She took to the stage looking every bit a polished young lady.  Raising off the piano bench at times to get the sound from the piano to counter the orchestra, she got the job done, and musically at that.  I expect this won't be her last time on the Roy Thomson Hall stage.

Next was Movement 4 from Dvorak's "Symphony No. 9: From the New World".  It was a good book end to the first half with the Jaws sounding opening and brass fanfare that could slip right into a John Williams movie score.

Resident Conductor
Shalom Bard (
The audience voting continued even during the concert as after intermission we were tasked with making a selection between "The Great Gate of Kiev" from Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, or "Intermezzo" from the opera Cavalleria Rusticana by Mascangni.  The method of voting by was shouting the favourite phrase of the conductor for the evening, the TSO's new resident conductor, Shalom Bard.  No idea what it means but to me it sounded like "oy mon choi".  The brassy sounds of Kiev won.

Then a drastic change of pace for "Adagio for Strings", which was poignant as always.  I had forgotten this was in the movie Lorenzo's Oil, and while listening my mind wandered back to when I saw that movie in high school.

The evening concluded with the full "1812 Overture"!  Another smashingly exciting piece.  Particularly the finale that accompanies fireworks shows, yet I like hearing the whole thing in a concert setting, even if the real cannon fire is replaced with recorded shots.

But wait!  That ended up not being the end of the evening.  Letting those who lost the vote still be winners, "Intermezzo" was played as an encore.  It was my vote and I'm glad they played it.  The theme is likely to be known by many but it's not a piece I've ever heard in it's entirety and really had no idea where the melody that's so popular was from.  It was a wonderful conclusion.

I think the audience choice idea went over well and perhaps there will be more in the future.

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