The Vancouver Symphony

Conductor: Yannick Nézet-Séguin
Piano: Lucille Chung

Weber: Overture to Der Freischutz
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466
Beethoven: Symphony No. 2 in D Major, Op. 36

Venue: The Chan Centre for the Performing Arts
Date: Friday, 18 October 2002, 20.00

Reviewer: J. H. Stape

From the Sturm und Drang of Weber's overture to Der Freischutz to the closing resounding chords of Beethoven, this Telus-sponsored concert in the Premiere Series was an evening of hearts worn on the sleeve. Under the energetic baton of Nézet-Séguin, making his debut with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, this veritable introduction to the late Classical and the Romantic periods was accompanied by balletic gestures and youthful exuberance from the podium that--whatever its occasional boffo showiness--milked rich, sensitive, and consummately polished playing from the orchestra, giving an edgy excitement to the evening's fare.

The hoary concert chestnut Weber's Overture to Der Freischutz proved, as an appetizer, an almost overly rich acoustical feast. Maestro Nézet-Séguin obviously revelled, with an irrepressibly Gallic enthusiasm, to the task of building the dramatic tension and then releasing it in a exploding tsunami of emotion. Apart from some raggedy edges in the brass section, this rousing crowd-pleaser received a deft, idiomatic performance.

It isa pity to note, however, that the crowd being so amply pleased was disappointingly thin. The orchestra's sound in the hall's gratifying, bright acoustics deserved much, much better at the hands of the city whose name it bears. The trek to UBC's nighttime wasteland remains perhaps simply too laboured an undertaking, for, sad to say, the handsome and stylish Chan stands in solitary suburban splendour, ill-served by public transportation and wholly without ancillary amenities.

Lucille Chung's note-perfect and lovingly shaped version of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 should alone have drawn savage breasts to be charmed. The first and third movement cadenzas were dazzling in the colouring and flawless elegance. This was vivid, stylish, and convincingly lyric playing, and Chung gave an unstinting display of her masterly pianism. The spot-on balance between podium and soloist brought nuance and finesse to this very familiar piece.

The "big" sound of the first movement of Beethoven's second symphony proved no challenge to an orchestra in its stride and raring to take off, with the brio in the marking observed precisely to the letter. Indeed, the marking could just as easily have been "con gusto." The string section shone particularly, bringing a shimmering sound to the Larghetto second movement, and a creamy, delicate finish to the scherzo. The headlong drive to the climax, if just the slightest bit troppo forte, closed a concert that was wholly satisfying, both in its individual details and overall achievement.

© 2002, J. H. Stape