Sunday, June 30, 2013

Invitation to the Dance

Conductors Andrew Grams and James Gaffigan have been on my "to see" list since they were both on the NACOcast back in March 2010.  Host Christopher Millard had them pull questions out of a hat to answer.  I'm pretty sure Gaffigan has been to Toronto, I just haven't made it to the concert.  So my task to see them both started on June 22 when Andrew Grams conducted the last series of TSO 2012/2013 season concerts titled Invitation to the Dance.

The concert opened with the title piece by Carl Maria Von Weber.  There's a story that plays out as the cello, being the gentleman, asks the lady, the woodwinds, to dance.  She says maybe, eventually agrees and they dance!  At the conclusion they go their separate ways and fade away.

"Carmen Fantasie" was written for the 1945 Joan Crawford movie Humoresque about a virtuosic violinist.  Sixteen year old Kerson Leong, making his TSO debut, certainly fit the bill.  Based on themes from Bizet's opera Carmen, there's no lack of great content and Leong had the whole orchestra and audience applauding when he finished.
Leong and the TSO (TSO photo)

The first half finished with the always popular "Can-Can" from Offenbach's operetta Orpheus and the Underworld.  I've played an arrangement of this piece and whether listening or playing it has been forever converted in my mind from the words I knew as a child "can can can you do the can-can..." to the Straight No Chaser lyrics from their "Christmas Can-Can", "it's time to do the Christmas can-can if you can't can't dance well that's ok, not going to do the kickline..." etc.  Great song really no matter how you think of it.  One of those tunes guaranteed to stick in your head.

Andrew Grams (
Having been a violinist with the New York City Ballet, Grams said he'd played about 300 performances of The Nutcracker.  Yet he still is able to like Tchaikovsky and conduced a "Suite from The Sleeping Beauty".  It featured the intrduction of the Lilac Fairy, the Waltz (known to me as "Once Upon a Dream" from the Disney version), and the Rose Adagio.

Grams also shared that one of the common questions he's asked is what's his favourite music to conduct?  He said that people expect a young person like himself to say Mahler or Shostakovich.  But he really likes polkas and waltzes because they're the most fun!  He got to have fun and brought the audience along with him as the concert concluded with "On the Beautiful Blue Danube Waltz" by Strauss Jr. and "Radetzky March" by Strauss Sr.

"Radetzky's" was the other reason I wanted to attend this concert.  It was the recessional all through high school for commencement so we played it a lot and I was looking forward to hearing how it should sound.  I wasn't disappointed!  It's one of my favourites.  I had no idea there was a whole audience participation tradition though.  It took a bit to get the hang of the dynamics but finally we followed the conductor and got it right.

In addition to being the season ending for the TSO, it was the last concert for second trombonist William Cross, who is retiring.  He was acknowledged with enthusiastic applause from the audience.

Thanks to the Toronto Symphony for another great season.  See you in September!

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