The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
Tea & Trumpet Series: The Magic of Dance

Dates and Venue Thursday, April 5, 2018, 2pm | Orpheum Theatre

Conductor William Rowson Featured performers Goh Ballet dancers & Sean Gao - violin Host Christopher Gaze

Programme Dvorák’s Slavonic Dances, Op. 72, No. 1 in B Major, No. 2 in E minor; Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Waltz; Lehár’s Gold & Silver Waltz; Brahms’ Hungarian Dances Nos. 1, 3, 10; Rimsky-Korsakov's Dance of the Buffoons; Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker: Waltz of the Flowers

Reviewer John Jane

The Magic of Dance is this season’s fifth and penultimate concert in the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Tea & Trumpet Series. This concert is made special by way of students of the Goh Ballet Academy provide classical dance to two pieces: Delibes’ Coppelia and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

Maestro William Rowson stepped onto the podium to lead the orchestra in a selection of music with its central theme of Dance that included four waltzes. But to start with: a pair of Antonin Dvorák’s Slavonic Dances. Influenced by Czech folk music, the first is a quicker, purposefully exhilarating reading of No. 1 in B Major, the second, No. 2 in E minor having a more pastoral contingency.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s lushly romantic Sleeping Beauty Waltz no doubt deserves to be considered one of the most beautiful pieces of ballet music. Perhaps as much synonymous with Disney’s animated film as it is with Tchaikovsky’s ballet score, the orchestra brings to life the music’s brilliance and overwhelming stimuli.

Franz Lehár’s lengthy Gold & Silver Waltz was commissioned by Austrian princess Pauline von Metternich for her "Gold und Silber" gala in 1902. Lehár’s graceful melody was also used centrally within Lippen schweigen from his operetta The Merry Widow. Introduced with the harp and continued with a strong emphasis on strings, the music has a fine thematic balance. However, at eight minutes long, it is hard to perceive of anyone having the stamina to endure it on a dance floor.

Brahms originally wrote his Hungarian Dances for piano duet. The three dances featured in this afternoon’s program (Nos. 1, 3, 10) are played with a fundamental sense of rhythm by the orchestra that highlights the composer’s rhythmic tensions.

The fourth movement of Antonio Vivaldi’s much loved tetrad of violin concerti that make up The Four Seasons brings seventeen-year-old protégé Sean Gao to the stage. Winter sounds so progressive, it feels like it might have been written in the seventies. The young violinist anchored the variation of harmonic colour that makes this bleak final movement so evocative. The soloist likely didn’t hear what many in the audience heard – that of someone in the audience rudely conducting a conversation on a mobile phone – if he did, he wasn’t distracted.

Supplementary to the published program, the orchestra gifted the audience with Rimsky-Korsakov's Dance of the Buffoons. Excerpted from the composer‘s opera The Snow Maiden, this rambunctious piece features the woodwind section quite prominently, though it has enough colorful moments to include the entire orchestra.

Finally, Tchaikovsky’s elegant Waltz of the Flowers from his Nutcracker. The ballet has pretty much become a de facto Christmas tradition. Maestro William Rowson gives a vivid reading of one of the Russian master’s orchestral chef-d'œuvres.

Host Christopher articulated his role of master of ceremonies with characteristic eloquence.

© 2018 John Jane