Saturday, October 26, 2013

Symphony Meets Circus

A symphonic concert is typically meant to be a feast for the ears and less so for the eyes.  That wasn't the case on October 15 at the  opening concert of the Toronto Symphony Pops series.  Cirque de la Symphonie was in town and there was plenty of eye candy in addition to wonderful playing.  

Principal Pops Conductor Steven Reineke, looking classy as always, and the TSO opened the program with "Festive Overture" by Shostakovich.  I've seen this on multiple programs but have never attended those concerts.  Now I know why it's popular.  It has a great opening fanfare that fit the circus theme of the evening.  Perhaps what thrilled me the most though was hearing a very short transition melody in the lower brass about 40 seconds in that is identical to that used in a piece called "Christmas Prelude" (from the ISO Yuletide album) as a transition into "Deck the Halls".  No doubt musicians playing "Prelude" for the first time would get the in joke right away.  It may take me a while longer (ok, like 4 years longer) but I was excited to piece the two segments of music together.

The Cirque artists acts were set to classical pieces that one has likely heard, at least in part, before.  There were a few I didn't recognize but then ones like "Capriccio espagnol" by Rimsky-Korsakov (featuring Mark Skazinetsky with the violin solo) accompanied by Aloysia Gavre and Sagiv Ben Binyamin with an act that was a bit tango dance, balancing, contortion and hat swapping.

Aloysia and Sagiv (Photo by Matt Gade)
Aloysia reappeared to close the first half of the program with an aerial hoop routine to "Bacchanale from Samson and Delilah".  This was stellar!  She didn't just flip or hang from the hoop while suspended, she got is swinging!  The tight spin while hanging from the hoop and flying off the floor was dizzying and exciting to watch.
Aloysia (Photo by Matt Gade)

The second half opened with a no less impressive, but less death defying than flight, quick change act.  This featured the mime and juggler Vladimir, and Elena Tsarkov (who would later perform a lovely
Elena in Clair de lune
(Photo by Matt Gade)
balance/contortion segment with exquisite movements that fit the music of "Clair de Lune" beautifully).    

Then the evening really entered the acts with a major "wow" factor.  Sagiv started his aerial rope routine to "The Ride of the Valkyries" by hoisting himself all the way up the thick rope using just his arms!  He then hung, spun, twisted and even flew over the orchestra landing what looked to be very close to the cello section at one point.

Christine and Alexander
Alexander Streltsov and Christine Van Loo performed a duet on aerial silks to the "Valse" from Swan Lake.  Dressed in white with red silks they were impressive.  He flew over the orchestra and audience and she ended the routine by wrapping the material around her waist and slowly spinning back down to the stage.  That's always a crowd pleaser.

The most stoic act was the finale Jarek and Darek, the gold covered strongmen.  Set to "Finlandia", they walked out to a small platform centre stage and proceeded to demonstrate amazing feats of strength and balance.  They fluidly moved between hand holds and other positions including a single handed balance by one on the others head!
Jarek and Darek (

It was an exciting spectacle and I don't know how the orchestra was able to concentrate on what they were playing but it sounded as good as it looked!

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