Vancouver Symphony

Delius, Elgar, and Mendelssohn

Dates 11 and 13 March 2006 at 8 pm and 12 March 2006 at 2.00 pm Venue Orpheum Theatre

Delius "On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring" Elgar Violin Concerto in B minor, Op. 61 Mendelssohn Symphony No. 3 in A minor, Op. 56, "Scottish"

Conductor Kazuyoshi Akiyama Violin Corey Cerovsek

Reviewer J H Stape

This musical tour of the British Isles opened with a quiet, somewhat wistful evocation by Delius, passed through central Edwardian territory, and closed in the majestic crags of the Highlands, with a bold and vigorous reading of the Scottish symphony. Conductor Emeritus Kazuyoshi Akiyama gave laser beam focus to colour and texture throughout this well conceived and tightly focussed programme.

And then there was Corey Cerovsek. Almost absurdly handsome, his is a charming stage presence. No mere pretty boy, however, he brought authority and passion in equal measure to his dazzling rendering of the Elgar violin concerto (1910) from its boisterous opening to its devilishly difficult finale. This confident and spacious music, written on the grand scale, runs the gamut from soulfulness to bravado, and intense and risk-taking playing characterized Cerovsek's approach.

If Akiyama's tempi seemed slightly brisk, particularly in the Andante movement, the shaping throughout was convincing and a scholarly approach eschewed in favour of a pulsing, vivid conception.The work itself meanders a bit especially in the third movement where one idea after the other is picked up, toyed with, and then dropped. And it is here, particularly, where Akiyama's approach paid off, while Cerovsek who plumbed the fragility and vulnerability elsewhere delivered a robust and warm choclatety tone that gleamed, particulary in the cadenza, delivered with a Paganini-like brio.

The spring that Delius evoked was, by contrast to the brilliant sunshine of a Sunday afternoon, was reluctant to emerge, even the cuckoo tentative. This most English music suggests heavy banked low clouds and a pale, melancholy sun. The orchestra shone in evoking this moody landscape, and the clarinet (the cuckoo) ought to have been invited to take a solo bow.

Mendelssohn can figure even more frequently on VSO programming. Earlier in the season there was an exquisite performance of Elijah, and in this series of concerts we were regaled with a rousing yet supremely tasteful rendition of this powerful late Romantic symphony.

Toe-tapping melodies and brisk, stormy moments make for a deeply satisfying whole that leads to a majestic climax, the brass section performing with characteristic aplomb and precision, and the violins bright and impassioned.

Maestro Akiyama conducted enthusiastically drawing out a highly dramatic performance of singular intensity, with strong features and shimmering colour after shimmering colour. If the Scottish Tourist Board ever wanted for a musical advertisement, this would fit the bill. If, as has been said, Scotland is one of the world's most beautiful countries -- about four days a year -- Maestro Akiyama rendered Mendelssohn's more utopian vision so convincingly that we now are now sure the sun in its glory rises in the Hebrides every day.

© 2006 J H Stape