Vancouver Symphony Orchestra

Beauty and Romance: Rachmaninoff and Dvorák

Date and Venue 12, 14 February 2011, 8pm | Orpheum Theatre

Conductor Bramwell Tovey, Feaured performer Sarah Davis Buechner

Reviewer Melanie Ewan

This past Valentine’s Day, I found myself at the sold out performance of Beauty and Romance, performed by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, with special guest and classical concert pianist, Sarah Davis Beuchner. The orchestra began the evening with Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty Waltz, followed by Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in C minor, Op. 18, and finished with Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 in E minor, Op. 95, From the New World.

Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty: Waltz, was a wonderful beginning to the evening, as its romantic air allowed the audience to be shifted in to the world of beauty within music. The VSO created an impressively visual melody, arousing images of gowns swirling around a ballroom and fairytale love.

Rachmaninoff’s piano concerto comprised of three movements. It began with a heavier, more melancholy quality than the waltz, reminding one of a great and passionate love riddled with intrigue and deception, followed by a more youthful sounding movement, with a bittersweet yet tender edge to it. The final movement was more playful and powerful than its predecessors, accentuated by short dynamic notes; emotional and joyous in one. In true Romantic style, this piece evoked an array of emotions, and was rewarded with a roaring ovation.

Following the intermission, the VSO played Dvorak’s symphony. This four part symphony began like the unfolding of a book of tales, ranging from whimsical and passionate, to dark and bold. The second movement transitioned the audience in to a serious yet beautiful and melodious story, featuring a wonderful string bass soli, while the final two movements, which moved at a quicker pace, imparted a sense of anticipation, purpose and excitement. One of my favourite elements of Dvorak’s symphony is its unique use of silence, reminding the audience that this natural state is just as important within a melody as the notes themselves.

Beuchner, who accompanied the orchestra for the Rachmaninoff piece, is a brilliant musician and international piano prizewinner. While she currently works at the University of British Columbia in multiple roles, she has also presented lectures and master classes around the world. Watching Sarah play, you feel completely immersed in the passion of a mastered art.

Overall the precision and talent of the performers on this evening was inspiring. It was the perfect end to a rainy Valentine’s Day in Vancouver.

© 2011 Melanie Ewan