Dates and Venue 9 and 11 June 9 @ 8pm and 10 June @ 2pm, Orpheum Theatre

Adams The Chairman Dances: Foxtrot for Orchestra Prokofiev Piano Concerto No. 3 Marc Baril Of Ice and Men (VSO Olympic Commission/ World Premiere) Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique

Conductor Bramwell Tovey Pianist Yefim Bronfman

Reviewer Ed Farolan

Yefim Bronfman, one of the great musicians of our day, returned to the VSO playing the three movements of Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 with energy and intensity. The audience was on its feet cheering him for his rendition of the difficult Prokofiev concerto.

In an interview filmed earlier and projected on the double screens, Bronfman was telling Tovey how nervous he was and if he could help him. In his wry wit, the Maestro quipped: "A cup of tea would help", but the Jewish Russian retorted "Something more than that". This brought laughs to the audience. He was nervous because of what he referred to as that "bad boy Prokofiev" who was some kind of a rebel when he was going to school at the St. Petersburg conservatory, and he was going against the grain in his compositions.

The VSO season finale included other items in its program: The Chairman Dances, a Foxtrot for Orchestra composed by John Adams, the opening piece. This was followed by Prokofiev's Piano Concerto No. 3 in three movements: Andante Allegro which prompted bravos from the audience because Bronfman stood up and bowed right after finishing this section (which he shouldn't have done so). Wiping his brow with his sweat-soaked handkerchief, he later offered it to Tovey who politely said no. The second movement was Theme and Variations followed by Allegro ma non troppe. Again, the audience shouted bravos to this charismatic Jewish Russian (now an American citizen).

Tovey then did a few introductions which pleased the crowd. There is something human about Tovey, because he also dabbles in jazz, thus making him a more laid back kind of a person. He started the evening with his witty "What a balmy evening!" (But it was raining cats and dogs outside.) Then he introduced the world premiere of the VSO Olympic Commission of Marc Baril's Of ice and men, a short piece depicting ice skating. Baril came up onstage and took a bow after the piece was played.

Right after the intermission, Tovey announced the retirement of Don Adams (Timpani) who served with the VSO for 50 years. He did his little speech, and again, the audience stood up, perhaps in awe that someone could stay working in the same job for half a century.

The second half was an epic rendition of five movements of Berlioz's Symphonie Fantastique. This was a magnificent piece, but the audience was getting tired (as it was almost 22.30h) and ready to retire for the evening. After the show, I happened to meet on the skytrain going back home some of the orchestra players, violinists Therese Kirczenow and Assistant Principal Violinist Jeanette Singh, who gave their personal impressions of Tovey and Bronfman and their experience with the VSO. It was interesting to get insights on the VSO from the inside.

It was a long evening, but an entertaining one. It's been a while since I've attended a classical concert and it was good to go once more and listen to the magnnificent VSO under the able direction of Maestro Tovey.

© 2007 Ed Farolan