Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
Tea & Trumpet Series: THE PROMS!

Date and Venue May 17, 2018 at 2pm | Orpheum Theatre

Conductor Bramwell Tovey Host Christopher Gaze

Featured performers Jessica Tovey - violin and Emmeline Tovey mezzo-soprano & storyteller

Programme Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No.5 in G major, Violin Concerto in E minor, Elgar' Enigma Variations

Reviewer John Jane

The Henry Wood Promenade Concerts, affectionately referred to in Britain as “The Proms” are presented by the BBC annually at London’s Royal Albert Hall. The season of concerts typically end with the Last Night of the Proms which affords the British the opportunity to wear their collective patriotism on their sleeves.

It’s fitting then that Maestro Bramwell Tovey steps onto the podium to conduct the final matinee concert of this audience friendly Tea & Trumpet series, in this, his last season as music director. In a concert simply titled THE PROMS the Maestro takes the audience on a trip to the Royal Albert Hall to hear some of his personal favourites.

Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No.5 in G major was an excellent curtain raiser. The orchestra played with an organic sense of rhythm with the strings shining throughout. Maestro Bramwell Tovey clearly knew what he wanted from this work.

After eighteen stellar years leading the orchestra, Tovey should be forgiven a little nepotism. Especially, when his two daughters are gifted with such musical talent and stage presence as Jessica and Emmeline Tovey. It was older sister Jessica first up as the violin soloist performing the first movement of Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor. The young Ms. Tovey is not as outwardly passionate as her father, but she played the piece with confidence and natural eloquence. There was never the slightest danger of her not nailing it.

Next, it was Emmeline’s turn. She delivered a lyric poem by William Butler Yeats titled The Wild Swans at Coole. She then joined regular host Christopher Gaze in introducing Elgar’s Enigma Variations through the retelling of the story of Sir Edward Elgar’s creative process in composing the work at his home in Worcestershire, England.

Maestro Tovey’s reading of Elgar’s chef-d'oeuvre had authority, passion and the charming sense of spontaneity that the composer would have intended. The arguably most popular variation, that of the elegiac Nimrod, was composed as a homage to his friend and publisher August Jaeger. The listener may pick on rhythmic and melodic reversals strongly influenced by Beethoven. There is a central theme of “love and friendship.”

It has become customary at these matinee concerts that the audience doesn’t leave without hearing an encore. What more appropriate for a Proms inspired repertoire than Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No.1 in D major.

There were many in the audience that would be seeing Bramwell Tovey holding a baton on the Orpheum stage for the last time – save for a possible return as a guest conductor – they demonstrated their appreciation with a standing ovation.

© 2018 John Jane