The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra
Tea & Trumpets: Northern Lights

Date and Venue Thursday, April 25, 2019 at 2pm | Orpheum Theatre

Conductor William Rowson Host Christopher Gaze Featured performer Kristofer Siy, percussion

Program Halvorsen’s Entry March of the Boyars, Sibelius’ Valse Triste & Finlandia, Grieg’s Holberg Suite Op. 40, Nielsen’s Masquerade Overture and Rosauro’s Concerto No. 1 for Marimba

Reviewer John Jane

Maestro William Rowson and Host Christopher Gaze guided the season’s penultimate concert In the Tea & Trumpets Series. What better source of a repertoire than a selection of music celebrating Scandinavian masters and what better way to kick off such a musical feast than the welcoming Entry March of the Boyars by Norwegian composer Johan Halvorsen. With an ample set of percussion parts and bold brassy passages, the score evokes the haughty standing of the Russian Boyars in central Europe.

Next, the first of two of Jean Sibelius’ signature works. Valse Triste was originally written for the play Kuolema and later (the mid-eighties) performed as a ballet suite choreographed for the New York City Ballet. Though short in length, the work encompasses both melancholic and nostalgic elements.

Edvard Grieg’s Holberg Suite, Opus 40, or to give the piece its full title From Holberg’s Time: Suite in the Olden Style, the warm meditative texture makes it ideal fare for yoga studios. The orchestra served up three of the five movements heard in its entirety.

Carl Nielsen’s atmospheric overture is broadly acknowledged to be one of the finest symphonic intros. As host Christopher Gaze pointed out in his lead in remarks, the Masquerade Overture was written a full year after the opera. The orchestra managed to convey all of Nielsen’s characteristic melody lines.

The concert main feature had to be Ney Rosauro’s Concerto No. 1 for Marimba performed by musical prodigy and multi-instrumentalist Kristofer Siy (pron. See). The dexterity required for the marimba seems suited to the young musician. His agile performance makes him truly fascinating to watch. To many sitting in the audience, the marimba may just look like a larger version of a xylophone, but the differences go much further, with the former having a more tuneful, warmer sound. Siy performed roughly half of the entire concerto that contains dense rhythmic patterns, alternating between four mallets and two.

For those less familiar with the music of Sibelius, the name Finlandia might represent a vodka from Finland made from glacial spring water. However, Jean Sibelius has often been considered a musical spokesman for Finland’s covert nationalism. His chef d'oeuvre Finlandia, a symphonic poem, commences with pompous brass and percussion before charting the rollicking melody that gives the piece certain a military air.

The orchestra concluded the afternoon’s concert with an intended encore: Edvard Grieg’s The Last Spring, one of the Elegiac Melodies.

© 2019 John Jane