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Bellows & Brass

Date 7 February 2005, 8pm Venue Centennial Theatre, North Vancouver

Reviewer: John Jane


 

 

 

 

Conductor Tania Miller Featured Performers Guy Few - trumpet/piano; Alain Trudel - trombone; Joseph Petric - accordion


Bellows & Brass

With only its brass section and two percussionists, the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra welcomed North Vancouverites with Aaron Copland’s Fanfare to the Common Man. Brooklyn-born Copland championed "American" music, embracing jazz and folk music rather than rejecting the genres as non-classical. Maestra Tania Miller and the orchestra’s vigorous interpretation demonstrated this composer’s ability to say much with the fewest notes.

Laurier University Professor Emeritus Boyd McDonald’s technically challenging Triple Concerto for Bellows & Brass and Orchestra was premiered in this evening’s concert. (and in Saturday’s performance at the Orpheum) The piece was written expressly for Bellows & Brass, the trio of trumpet/piano player Guy Few, trombonist Alain Trudel and Joseph Petric on the most under appreciated of instruments -- the accordion. Each artist is featured in solo, duet, and trio settings, with Few playing both piano and trumpet, sometimes simultaneously, a talent he demonstrated with astonishing confidence.

It is a little unusual for artists to give an encore in the first half of a concert, but the trio obliged with a compelling performance of Argentine Astor Piazzola's Tango, Oblivion.


 

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The entire orchestra was in place for the atmospheric suite from Leonard Bernstein's only film score, On the Waterfront. Starting with a solo french horn, the VSO captured the mood of New York and the struggle of the longshoremen, as Bernstein probably envisioned for the film. This sweeping film music was stirringly conducted by the energetic Ms Miller.

Samuel Barber's Adagio for Strings amply demonstrates that some of the greatest ideas are essentially simple ones. Originally written as the second movement of a string quartet in 1936 but later arranged for string orchestra, the piece is packed with emotional intensity yet is also profoundly listenable. The VSO’s recording was used as the 1986 film Platoon's signature orchestral theme and is heard throughout the film as a recurring motif.

By contrast, the second premier performance of the evening was Vincent Ho’s frenetic, overly complex On the Edge of Infinity. Commissioned by the VSO for the 2010 Olympic Games, Ho’s work borders on the frenzied to the extent that one of the cellists appeared discomposed.

The concert concluded with another Bernstein work. From the first note of the Prologue to the last note of the Finale, the Symphonic Dances from West Side Story is possibly the best orchestral suite ever written and received full treatment. Matched in energy and dynamism as Jerome Robbin's incredible choreography, the music provides the spirit of hope for the future and a feeling that better things will come.

2005 John Jane

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