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Dates 26 and 28 February at 20.00 and 27 February 2005 at 14.00 Venue The Orpheum Theatre

Reviewer J H Stape



Britten Peter Grimes: Four Sea Interludes Elgar Cello Concerto Strauss Romanze for Cello and Orchestra Beethoven Symphony No. 8

Conductor Bramwell Tovey Cello Raphael Wallfisch


Bramwell Tovey
Bramwell Tovey

Balanced, provocative programming, a hallmark of Maestro Bramwell Tovey's five-year reign as the Vancouver Symphony's Music Director, was a vivid feature of this pairing of works. The illuminating juxtapositions brightly showed off the orchestra's range, and as full houses and a varied audience proves The Vancouver Symphony continues on its roll.

Selecting a high point from this concert would be an impossible task. The impeccable playing of cellist Rapahel Wallfisch and the sheer visceral power of Beethoven's 8th Symphony excitingly brought to life by Maestro Tovey were on a par.

The four "Sea Interludes" from Benjamin Britten's 1945 opera Peter Grimes found the orchestra not quite warmed up, the violins rather sharp in the lyrical opening of this impressionistic piece and the colours perhaps somewhat overly bright. Playing and interpretation were happier in the later two interludes. Peter's brooding personality and the forces of nature and destiny that overwhelm him were conveyed with equal effectiveness, and his final violent alienation from his society was given full value.

 

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Sir Edward Elgar' Cello Concerto (1919) offered ample opportunities for Raphael Wallfisch to display his diamond-edged, simply dazzling, technical skills. Drawing out extreme tonal beauty from his 1717 Stradivarius, Wallfisch gave a dark, plummy account of this melodious piece, sung out, as it were, full-throatedly. Portraying the long sunny afternoon of pre-war England, it also depicts the clouds of war. Wallfisch played with a gusto and sense of idiom hard to second even in a time of great cellists.

Raphael Wallfisch
Raphael Wallfisch

Richard Strauss's Romanze was given an equally deft and compelling performance, Wallfisch capturing both the youthful exuberance and gloriously lyrical features of this delicately intense, highly rewarding piece only returned to the repertoire in 1986, having been secreted away for decades by the dedicatee's family.

Pleasures abundant already, there was almost a surfeit, with Beethoven's 8th Symphony receiving a rousing, con brio performance. The almost mischievous Allegro scherzando was followed by a broadly parodic minuetto movement, brash and over-emphasized, as Beethoven obviously wished, making this tour de farce, the "Clodhopper's Minuet." Maestro Tovey caught the rapid tempi and teasing gestures of the final Allegro vivace, exploring the largeness of Beethoven's conception and the music's sheer physicality, as if the composer had caught the throbbings of the human heart. The orchestra played as a single individual -- a virtuoso aware of being on top form.

2005 J H Stape


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