Vancouver Symphony

Jamie Bernstein and the Extreme Orchestra
Conductor Ken Hsieh Narrrator Jamie Bernstein

Date 18th March, 2 pm Venue Orpheum Theatre Reviewer Heidi Hoff

There are many books and CDs available to help you teach your child about the inner workings of an orchestra, but there’s nothing like seeing and hearing it explained live. The audience at the Orpheum Theatre was treated to a rousing lesson on tempo and dynamics by none other than Jamie Bernstein, daughter of legendary conductor, Leonard Bernstein.

The VSO really had a chance to shine in this Kids Koncert by having soloists and particular sections accompany Jamie’s commentary. The show opened with a rousing rendition of the last movement of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony. What better way to showcase an orchestra working together. Jamie then segregated the orchestra to illustrate the characteristics of tempo and dynamics by speeding up slow parts and slowing down faster ones.

Every example was effectively illustrated and went beyond the simple fast and slow. Fast and quiet, loud and slow and the extreme difficulty of playing slowly were all punctuated with well known pieces like the Adagietto from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony and the finale to Stravinsky’s Firebird.

While the orchestra portion of tempo and dynamics was well put together, I felt that the explanation went well beyond the comprehension of the four to ten-year-olds that it was meant for. It reminded me of a university lecture, with Bernstein constantly referring to her pages and pages of notes that she read from. While Bernstein made for an animated lecturer, the presentation of the subject matter needed to be simplified a little more since it was a Kids Koncert after all.

© 2007 Heidi Hoff