Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

  Weber, Wagner, Liszt, Beethoven

Conductor: David Lockington. Soloist: Richard Raymond, Piano.

Performed at The Orpheum Theatre, 11 February 2001

Roll over yourselves, Beatles. In its lushness and solidity German Romantic music is simply overwhelming. Its aspiration, grandness of gesture, and intense and dramatic lyricism have an Alpine clarity and character of splendid challenge that continues to attract musicians and audiences alike.

David Lockington's charming, self-assured introductions to each piece in this concert in the "Musically Speaking" series set up a warm relationship with the audience before the first notes were played. Witty, incisive, never merely chatty, his remarks brightly illumined essential facts in a way that was interesting without being teacherly. They put the banal programme notes--the evening's only truly sour note--completely to shame.

Lockington's baton was no less magical, evoking fine playing from all sections, urging on the strings to excel. The rapport between him and the orchestra was palpable from the opening bars of Weber's sprightly Overture to Der Freischütz to the barely controlled euphoria of the Allegro vivace close of Beethoven's Symphony No. 8. Disciplined joyousness, however, never for a moment risked raggedness.

The evening turned out to offer three appetizers–very choice ones, to be sure, but appetizers nonetheless--before reaching the main course. And what a main course it was. The intensity of the Beethoven simply swept away all that went before it. Uplifting, inventive, and playful by turns, this piece allowed one to glimpse into sheer genius.

Lockington carefully shaped his tempi, resisting overdrive in the first fast movement to pull out all the stops in the headlong rush of the final one. In a symphony lacking a slow movement, there was still no lack of variety in the relentlessly energetic orchestration.

That Beethoven remained the evening's highlight--a dazzling Matterhorn amidst lower peaks-- is not to place the other finely played pieces in the shade. Indeed, the programme offered as rich fare as could be wished. Lockington's move to place the Beethoven alone after the intermission was in every sense a good move, giving the kind of thoughtful pacing to the evening that was everywhere evident in his attention to orchestral detail.

Richard Raymond brought steely fingers, metronomic exactitude, and dynamic virtuosity to the single-movement Liszt Piano Concerto No. 2. The broad sweep and dramatic qualities of the music were offered up unstintingly. Raymond's idiomatic control appeared effortless. Particularly notable was the superb accompaniment of principal cellist Lee Duckles, whose burnished tones melted into Raymond's music-making in the sections inwhich piano and cello share a chamber like moment in this mainly big sound warhorse.

The overture to Weber's first opera set a tone of joyousness that ran throughout the evening, and was quietly present in the calm, dreamy Siegfried Idyll, a birthday present from a doting Richard Wagner to his wife Cosima (Liszt's daughter). The strings again showed their mettle, the delicate shades and tones receiving their full due, caressingly brought out by Lockington's direction.

What more could one want from so well ordered and so generously conceived an evening? Nothing on that particular night, but more Beethoven in the future, to be sure. And it would be a double pleasure to have Maestro Lockington become a frequent visitor to the Orpheum's podium. --J. H. Stape