Sunday, September 21, 2014

Starting the 14/15 Season with the TSO

Saturday night I attended my first concert of the  TSO season.  As Peter Oundjian explained, he decided to open the season with a program to showcase the orchestra, ie: no special featured soloist.  It was titled Arabian Nights.

The evening opened with one of my favourite pieces, which never fails to conjure up images of Torvill and Dean in my mind...yep, it was "Bolero".  Snare drum player John Rudolph was moved to a place of honour in the centre of the orchestra, rather than remaining at the back in the percussion section.  The orchestra started so quietly it was hard to tell that the piece actually had started.  It took a moment for people to stop fidgeting and strain their ears for that familiar beat.
Torvill and Dean Bolero Program
I've seen the TSO perform this before, but it's such a great piece to watch being played.  There are still times when I'm looking around asking myself, what instrument is that?   The extra saxophone player had the quickest instrument swap completing the melody on one sax then switching to the soprano sax and picking it right up again.  "Bolero" grows so subtly and smoothly that by the time it gets to the end it's just a fantastic climax.

The second piece was another I'd heard before, but really like.  As I hear it more the other sections are starting to grow on me, but I still love the finale.  This was 1919 suite of "The Firebird", shorter than the other suite Stravinsky also wrote from the ballet score.  As Mr. Oundjian said in his introduction it has the same pull to your feet as the Bolero.  I was more inclined to get to my feet after Bolero, but perhaps that's just a personal preference.

There were multiple player switch-outs in the winds and brass for various pieces.   It was nice to see a lot of familiar faces in one evening.  Congratulations to the newest brass player, Steven Woomert, winning the Associate Principal Trumpet position and replacing his father Barton who retired last season.

"Scheherazade" by Rimsky-Korsakov, the teacher of Stavinsky, closed the program.  This piece seems to be programmed often, yet I've never gone to see it.  This time though it was accompanied by two others I new I liked, so there was no doubt it wouldn't be a great evening of music.  Concertmaster Jonathan Crow played the violin solo sections beautifully.  The very high note near the end, that slightly misplaced could have been very cringe worthy, was of course perfectly placed and sustained.  In all the pieces there were brief solos in the sections which I always enjoy.  An arrangement of the third movement, "The Young Prince and Princess" I've played before in quite a small ensemble.    It was thrilling to hear that theme as it was meant to be, played by 30 violins in perfect pitch.  "The Sea" section of the final movement is so cool.  I had no idea what the section was called but was thinking, wow this really sounds like the sea.  Kudos to the crash cymbal and bass drum players.  Timing the wind up and impacts seems like it could be pretty stressful.  Having not read the program, but knowing that it was somewhat based on the 1001 Nights, I was sucked into a story through music.  It doesn't get any better than that.

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