The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
VSO@Home on YouTube

Date April 30, 2020 at 7:30pm

Featured musicians Bogdan Dulu, Piano, Nicholas Wright, violin, Henry Shapard & Charles Inkman, cellos, Beth Orson, oboe Andrew Mee, french horn Julia Lockhart, bassoon Michelle Goddard, clarinet

Program Johann Sebastian Bach’s Air on the G String; Jacques Offenbach’s Movement de Valse, from Duo for two cellos, Op. 52, No. 3; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds

Reviewer John Jane

This was the second streaming event in the VSO@Home series. A music performance format that allows members of the VSO to play for an audience while restricted to public performances due to the current pandemic. Maestro Otto Tausk, who also provides an introduction, used the opportunity to introduce the newly recruited principal cellist Henry Shapard.

Shapard is only just 21, making him one of the youngest principal musicians in a major orchestra. He is the former principal cellist and assistant conductor of the Yale Symphony Orchestra. He has a twin sister, Serena, who has also played the violin with the same orchestra.

Though not scheduled to start with the VSO until September, he decided he would ‘hit the ground running’ by collaborating with Concertmaster Nicholas Wright in a virtual recital of Bach’s Air on the G String. Whilst essentially a duet, the popular piece is actually seen and heard with four components. Wright played both first and second violin parts and Shapard played the parts required of the cello and viola, remote from each other and at different times to be assembled later.

Originally written as Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, it’s difficult to even imagine that the work is around three hundred years old. The duo brought out the feature that I have found most compelling about Bach; that is how much his music has insinuated so frequently in many modern works. I think I must have heard "A Whiter Shade of Pale" a dozen times before hearing Air on the G String for the first time. Aside from being titillated by the subtitle, I was struck by how similar it was to the rock song. Of course, it was Procol Harum who had borrowed from Bach.

Following Henry Shapard’s two virtual duets, members of the VSO wind section and guest pianist Bogdan Dulu are seen performing Mozart’s Quintet for Piano and Winds in a chamber recital recorded earlier this year in Koerner Recital Hall. In his introduction, Maestro Tausk mentioned that Mozart himself considered the work his “best piece.” Certainly, the make-up of the ensemble was considered at that time avant-garde. The structural interplay between piano and winds and the agile tempos allow the composer’s euphonious melody lines to flow freely.

© 2020 John Jane