David Bui
Photo cortesy of Bucharest Competition

The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
Tea & Trumpets Series: European Postcard

When & Where Thursday, February 1, 2024 at 2pm | Orpheum Theatre

Conductor David Bui Host Christopher Gaze

Programme Dukas' La Peri: Fanfare, Rossini's Italian in Algiers: Overture, Mendelssohn's Fingal’s Cave: Hebrides Overture, Mozart's Three German Dances, Bizet's Carmen: Suite No. 2 -Marche des Contrabandiers, Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 (allegro con brio), Haydn's Cello Concerto #2, Sibelius' Finlandia.

Reviewer John Jane

It’s appropriately rousing to begin an afternoon concert with a fanfare, especially one as big, bold and brassy as Paul Dukas' Fanfare for La Peri. Dukas was apparently, one the most self-critical composers and even went so far as to destroy much of his work before he died. The fanfare was essentially written for the brass section, and is heard before the ballet begins. However, just like this afternoon, it is frequently performed as a stand-alone work.

Maestro Bui’s interpretation of this operatic overture is both articulate and spirited. Gioachino Rossini's Overture to The Italian Girl in Algiers seems to start quietly, but soon enough, we are treated to the sparkling allegro featuring the woodwind section. If the overture sounds a little formulaic, don’t blame the orchestra; Rossini had a habit of composing his overtures after everything else was complete.

Felix Mendelssohn's Hebrides Overture is certainly evocative of the rugged north-west coast of Scotland. The work was inspired by the composer’s visit to Scotland, where he was particularly impressed by the natural acoustics of Fingal’s Cave on the island of Staffa. It begins and ends quietly with lilting strings, but quickly develops into a robust hummable melody. The orchestra’s treatment of the overture was exquisitely shaped, bringing out all the textures of the score.

Most of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's German Dances were likely written whilst he held the position of Imperial Chamber Composer in Vienna. Since his primary function was to compose music for the court dances that were held in the Ballrooms of the Imperial Palace. The textures are light and transparent enabling the percussion to be heard. The one we heard today was the delightfully named Die Schlittenfahrt (Sleigh Ride) generally heard over Christmas.

By way of introducing Georges Bizet's Marche des Contrabandiers from Carmen, host Christopher Gaze recited the lyrics to Allan Sherman’s parody “Camp Granada.” Had Mr. Gaze elected to sing the lyrics, the audience may have recognized the tune of Dance of the Hours from La Gioconda - not from Carmen.

In performing Joseph Haydn’s Cello Concerto Hob. VIIb: 2, the orchestra welcomed to the stage guest soloist sixteen-year-old Carl Tan. The young Mr. Tan is currently a student with the VSO School of Music. He certainly demonstrated excellent technique in the expression of the solo passages. While there have been a number of cello concertos attributed to Haydn, this is one that he almost certainly actually wrote.

As the musical spokesman for Finland’s covert nationalism, Jean Sibelius wrote his chef d'oeuvre Finlandia, a symphonic poem, in 1899, but then went to the trouble of revised it the following year. It commences with pompous brass and percussion before going for a boisterous melody that gives the piece a notable military air.

The orchestra also performed the first movement of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 5 as part of it’s advertized program and concluded the afternoon with an encore performance of Jacques Offenbach's Galop Infernal from his operetta Orphée aux Enfers, better known as The Can-can.

© 2024 John Jane