VSO: Mendelssohn & Schumann

Date and Venue 7 November, 8pm | Orpheum Theatre

Reviewer Ed Farolan

The beautiful music of Mendelssohn’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Clara Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A minor were highlighted in this programme, with Vancouver favourites Angela Cheng, Christopher Gaze (narrating excerpts from the famous Shakespeare play), and the Elektra Women’s Choir. Maestro Bramwell Tovey conducted.

It was interesting to see the approach taken by this particular performance. The first part started off with Mendelsoson's The Fair Melusine Overture, Op. 32, and there was a break, but not an intermission, where the piano was hauled in for Angela Cheng's rendition of Clara Schumann's Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 7. For a change, we had a female pianist playing a woman's composition. I found quite a big difference hearing a woman's piece--it's smoother, more delicate, and more poetic, in contrast to Mendelssohn's more exuberant and expressive style.

The second half of the programme was something more unique, whereby theatre interfaced with music. Christopher Gaze did a dramatic reaing of excerpts from Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream, while the orchestra played Menelssohn's Op. 21 and 61 of this piece inspired by the Shakesperean comedy. He was 17 in 1826 when he composed this piece which astonished many of his older colleagues for the skill in which he captured the spirit of this Shakesperean play. The 40 or more members of the Elektra Women's Choir under the direction of Diane Loomer, C.M. and Morna Edmundson sang excerpts of the songs of the faeries from Acts II and V of the Shakesperean play, with solos by sopranos Gina Morel and Leah Alfred.

It was an entertaining evening, and the VSO under Maestro Tovey should be commended for its innovativeness in presenting a concert of this type. The piece was dedicated to Douglas Campbell, Gaze's mentor, who passed away last October 6th. Schumann and Mendlssohn celebrate their bicentenary, we were reminded by Maestro Tovey, and November 7th through the 9th celebrate this event through the Goldcorp Masterworks Gold and Belton Symphony programme.

© 2009 Ed Farolan