The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
Tea & Trumpets Series: The City of Light

Date and Venue Thursday, Mar 16, 2017, 2pm | Orpheum Theatre

Conductor William Rowson Host Christopher Gaze Featured performer Matthew Yep, violin

Programme Weber’s Invitation to the Dance; Rossini’s William Tell: Pas de six; Saint Saens’ Danse Macabre & Havanaise; Debussy and Mouton’s Claire de Lune; Delibes’ Sylvia Suite: No. 3 Pizzicati; Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique: Un Ball

Reviewer John Jane

The second best thing to spending spring in Paris is a concert dedicated to music associated with ‘The City of Light.’ Maestro William Rowson led the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in the fifth concert in the Tea & Trumpets Series for the 2016-2017 season.

The VSO kicked off with Carl Maria von Weber’s Invitation to the Dance. Originally written for piano, it may be the first work in waltz form that is intended for listening rather than for dancing to. The piece has a linear musical narrative that starts with a boy’s request, then a girl’s acceptance, followed by the dance and finally a polite parting.

What does an opera about a Swiss hero written by an Italian composer have to do with Paris? Gioachino Rossini’s opera William Tell was first performed in Paris and for a long time was an enduring success. It was Rossini's last opera, and it highlights his mastery of musical drama. Pas de six is a delightfully airy ballet for six female dancers from the opera’s first act.

What followed next was two diverse pieces from celebrated French composer Camille Saint Saens. The first of which is a tone poem for orchestra written to celebrate Halloween and featured concertmaster-for-the-day Jennie Press. Well, it is kind of spooky – at least in certain parts! Suitably titled Danse Macabre, I found it to be evocative of skeletons dancing around tombstones. The Havanaise is a multi-tempo composition featuring eighteen-year-old prodigy Matthew Yep on violin. The young Mr. Yep exhibits superb technique, blending with the orchestral accompaniment with surety.

Claude Debussy’s Claire de Lune (Moonlight) is apparently one of Christopher Gaze’s personal favourites. Gaze connected Suite Bergamasque’s third and most famous movement to the Robert Service poem “Young Fellow My Lad” in recognition of the hundredth anniversary of the Battle of Vimi Ridge. Originally titled Promenade Sentimentale, its complex harmonies and simple melody of Claire de Lune certainly illustrate Debussy's genius and Maestro Rowson’s interpretive skills.

Hector Berlioz’ Symphonie Fantastique appears for most part to symbolize a psychedelic acid trip. The entire symphony was inspired by the object of his remote infatuation, Shakespearean actress Harriet Smithson, whom he eventually married (they separated after many years of being miserable together). Alas, we only get to hear the second movement Un Bal featuring two harps. It doesn’t quite possess the hallucinatory atmosphere of the first movement.

The orchestra ended the afternoon’s concert with a customary encore of (predictably) France’s iconic Can-Can from Jacques Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld.

© 2017 John Jane