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The National Arts Centre Orchestra

Date: 10 November 2004 at 20.00 Venue: Orpheum Theatre

Reviewer: J. H. Stape



Conductor Pinchas Zukerman | Cello Amanda Forsyth

Alexina Louie "Bringing the Tiger Down from the Mountain II"| Mozart Haffner Serenade | Brahms Symphony No. 1



Pinchas Zukerman

The NAC's British Columbia tour is one of those occasions when the best linen is brought out, the silver polished, and the warmest of welcomes laid on. And rightly so, for this was a guest stint that could not have been better. Pinchas Zukerman's impassioned playing in the Haffner Serenade and the powerful rendering of Brahms first symphony will linger long in the aural memory.

The highlight of this special concert, under the sponsorship of the Vancouver Symphony, was, indeed, a robust, scrupulous reading of the Brahms that was, by turns, restless, vivid, and commanding. From the throbbing opening notes of the allegro to the majestic finale, this music, tugging at the heart strings, was conveyed with intelligence and taste.

The NAC's sound was big, even brash, and Zukerman confidently conveyed both the symphony's urgency and its more inward, even poignant moments -- the charming woodland scene painting of the allegretto, for instance -- with an effortlessness and skill that left the audience clamouring for more. (The encore was "more" indeed: the third movement of the Brahms fourth.)





Mozart's "Haffner Serenade," or rather the four of its eight movements we were treated to (why only those?), got a no less zestful, solidly conceived performance, with Zukerman now and then laying down his baton to take up his violin, for a gilt-edged contribution. The orchestral "sound" was a trifle large, not quite as idiomatic as in the Brahms, which nearly carried away almost all that had gone before it.

Maestro Zukerman turned back into world-reknowned violinist played flawlessly, his creamy tone giving to NAC Tour Poster Mozart a slightly Romantic and rousing touch that spilled over into the orchestral playing. This kind of music is the NAC's original home turf, but the orchestra seems not only larger in terms of the number of seats but also "larger" and more "European" in sound. A darker, more layered and more and complex sound emanated from the string section (in particular).

The opening piece for cello and orchestra was edgy, discordant music, full of technical landmines, reflecting the alienation and dissonance of the modern temperament. Cellist Amanda Forsyth rose to the fiendish demands made on her, masterfully conveying the sense anger and mystery that Louie requires both of the soloist and orchestra. Deliberately uningratiating, Louie's piece none the less stimulates ideas. Talk about a full menu in a mere five minutes duration!

2004 J. H. Stape