The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
Tea & Trumpets: From the New World

Date and Venue Thursday February 28, 2019 at 2pm | Orpheum Theatre

Conductor William Rowson Host Christopher Gaze Featured performer Da-Wei Chan – Violin

Programme Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance Op. 46, No. 1; Silent Woods (Waldesruhe); Carnival Overture; Humoresque & Symphony No. 9: From New World Symphony (excerpts) + Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor

Reviewer John Jane

From the New World is the fourth concert in this season’s Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Tea & Trumpets Series. This concert mainly focuses on the epic compositions of Bohemian-born composer Antonin Dvorák.

Dvorák’s popular Slavonic Dance Op. 46, No. 1 was selected as the curtain-raiser. Many will hear this work as Dvorák’s response to Brahms’s Hungarian Dances which has had a number of successful outings in concert halls. The rousing opening makes quite an impression and as Opus 46 progressed I found it difficult to keep my feet still. Dvorák’s supple rhythm is nicely articulated by Maestro William Rowson.

Antonin Dvorák’s sleep inducing tone poem Silent Woods (Waldesruhe) features the orchestra’s principal cellist Janet Steinberg. Composed in the late nineteenth century Silent Woods for Cello and Orchestra was originally composed for four hands at the piano. The object of the piece seems counter-intuitive – that is to assimilate a sense of silence using sound. Steinberg achieves this through delivering a seamless, evocative rendering of serenity.

Dvorák’s Carnival Overture is the second of a triptych of concert overtures intended to portray impressions of what the human spirit might undertake. The work does in fact convey a high-spirited festive carnival setting, particularly in the joyous beginning. An oboe and flute duet provide an affecting tranquil middle section, before the entire orchestra ends the piece with a boisterous climax played with bright colour and vitality.

By way of a delightful pause from the music of Dvorák, Max Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor features eleven-year-old musical prodigy Da-Wei Chan. The Bruch concerto is certainly compelling. The third and final movement Allegro energio is exactly as described - a passage to be played with strong articulation and accentuation. This was young Da-Wei Chan’s debut performance with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and despite his physical stature, looked as if he deserved to be there, playing the finale with clarity and precision. It was eleven years before Bruch composed Concerto No. 2, but couldn’t repeat the magic.

Back to the music of Dvorák: Humoresque is a song cycle and is the seventh of a set of eight humoresques that Dvorák composed. It’s instantly recognizable by its bright melody lines. The piece was used in a 1946 film of the same name and played by violin virtuoso Eugene Fodor.

The final selection in the advertized repertoire was Symphony No. 9: From New World Symphony. Inspired by the music he listened to in the Unites States from his three year stay there as director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City, the work has an authentic ‘Americana’ feel. Maestro Rowson and the orchestra generated a sense of excitement that was transmitted to the audience while playing with warmth and flexibility. It’s interesting to note that astronaut Neil Armstrong took a tape recording of the New World Symphony along for the Apollo 11 mission.

© 2019 John Jane