The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
Tea & Trumpets Series: Making Overtures

Date and Venue Thursday, Feb 16, 2017, 2pm | Orpheum Theatre

Conductor William Rowson Host Christopher Gaze Featured performer Joshua Tromans, piano

Programme Wagner’s Die Meistersinger Overture, Reznicek’s Donna Diana: Overture, Strauss‘ Gypsy Baron: Overture, Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Intermezzo, Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in E minor, von Suppé’s Light Cavalry Overture

Reviewer John Jane

Making Overtures is the fourth concert in the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra Tea & Trumpets Series. This concert focuses on the orchestral compositions that have far outlasted the operas that they once introduced.

The rousing orchestral opening of Richard Wagner’s Die Meistersinger Overture was selected as the curtain-raiser. At nearly ten minutes duration, it’s long for an overture – but then, Die Meistersinger takes around four and a half hours, and is among the longest operas commonly performed. The strong percussion and brass fanfare at the end could easily identify the piece as a finale.

Emil von Reznícek’s Donna Diana: Overture is the popular overture to his three-act opera, Donna Diana. Everyone knows the Overture even if they don't know where it comes from. It has figured on pops programs, used in commercials and was the signature tune for an old radio program. Carefree flutes and woodwind outbursts incorporate bright and airy touches as much Reznícek’s catchy rhythms.

Maestro Rowson serves up an authentic reading of Johann Strauss’ Gypsy Baron Overture. This is one of Strauss' most scintillating overtures that wins over audiences with the melodies that await them in the operetta itself. The overture begins with the rhapsodic music that evokes Hungary. There are passages within the piece that I found reminiscent of polka music.

Frédéric Chopin’s Piano Concerto No. 1 of course, is not an overture, but it does provide a showcase for Tsawwassen prodigy Joshua Tromans. The notoriously difficult concerto is not renowned for having an aesthetic exchange between soloist and orchestra, but Chopin’s exquisite writing for the piano is perfect for a musician of young Tromans’ talent. His reading reveals emotional refinement and romantic instincts rarely seen in a twelve-year-old.

The final selection of the afternoon, Franz von Suppé’s Light Cavalry Overture is another example of a classical “one-hit wonder.” It’s definitely one of the most conspicuous pieces in classical music – within a certain framework anyway. The instantly recognizable rhythmic element of the cavalry theme is truly evocative of galloping horses. Von Suppé’s entire operetta Leichte Kavallerie (Light Cavalry) is hardly ever performed anywhere today, but for anyone who has attended a military tattoo, the piece is distinctly considered as having a life all its own.

© 2017 John Jane