Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

Conductor: Christopher Warren-Green Flute: Camille Churchfield

Mozart: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525 Bach: Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor, BWV 1067 Vivaldi: The Four Seasons

Dates: Friday, 20 December and Saturday, 21 December, 20.00
Venue: Chan Centre for the Performing Arts

Reviewer: J. H. Stape

Not exactly "seasonal fare," this concert's well-known crowd-pleasers are so frequently played that their lustre and sheen can, at times, seem dim. To hear these masterworks for string and continuo in the bright acoustics of the Chan Centre, conducted with brio, and played with energy was to hear them fresh and crackling. The concert also offered a chance to hear an appropriately scaled-down VSO explore a repertoire unsuitable for the Orpheum's vastnesses.

Mozart's charming Eine Kleine Nachtmusik was given a flawlessly idiomatic performance, with dynamics carefully observed. Tempi were brisk, the second movement (romanze) delicately rendered, and the rondo taken at frenetic pace that nonetheless avoided raggedness. This stylish opening suggested the evening's keynotes: attentiveness to small details and overarching conceptions that were convincing and polished.

Scored for solo flute and strings, Bach's Orchestral Suite No. 2, received a stirring performance. The orchestra's principal flautist, Camille Churchfield, offered agility and control that were formidably displayed, nowhere more so than in the literally breathtaking finale of a suite made up mainly of a series of high spirited dance movements. In common with the rest of the works on the programme, there was no academic search for period performance values, but a vivid interpretation of the past through the prism and soundscape of present-day instruments and musical values.

It is hard to believe that the four concerti making up Vivaldi's Four Seasons were neglected for well over a century, achieving enduring fame for their composer some hundred years after his death. Now overly familiar, the work received a lovingly detailed and colourful performance by the VSO, with deft and energetic fiddling by Christopher Warren-Green, who took the frantic lines head on with the aplomb and winning showmanship of a Paganini at full tilt.

Strong attacks and brightly evocative playing made for a crisp reading of this now beloved piece. Nervous energy characterized the orchestral work in the allegro movements, and the thrusting energy of the famed presto of "Summer" (L'estate) was positively resin-devouring. The largo movements of "Spring" and "Winter" were intense and nicely shaped, and the concluding allegro shimmered and glowed.

The Chan's bright acoustics facilitated this toothsome musical feast, highlighting the talents of the orchestra's string section in music earlier than is the Symphony's bread-and-butter. In the absence of a chamber music orchestra in Vancouver, more small-scaled concerts of this kind at the Chan would be a welcome addition to what is already a richly varied musical scene.

© 2002, J. H. Stape