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Brahms & Stravinsky

Date 4 & 6 June 2005 at 20.00 Venue The Orpheum

Reviewer J. H. Stape



Jocelyn Morlock Oiseaux bleus et sauvages Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77 Stravinsky Le Sacre du printemps (The Rite of Spring)

Conductor Bramwell Tovey Violin Nadja Salerno- Sonnenberg


Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg
Nadja Salerno- Sonnenberg

Programming violin phenomenon Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and Stravinsky's blazing Le Sacre du Printemps on the same evening was in the nature of assuring a slam-dunk ending to the VSO's highly successful 2004-05 season.

Sure, there are one Pops concert, one Tots concert, and a Tea-and-Trumpets afternoon to come, but this was the emotional close and highlight to the year's "serious" music. It opened appropriately with two closures and a première: the orchesta through Maestro Tovey giving retirement gifts to principal flautist Camille Churchfield and violinist Ronald Milne, marking, respectively, the end of 29 and 40 years of service with the VSO.

The world première was the CBC commission by Joceyln Morlock Oiseaux bleus et sauvages (Wild, Blue Birds). Morlock's bouncy, mainly joyous piece is, to invoke Aaron Copeland, something like a "Fanfare for the Common Bird" mingled with elements of Gershwin meets Philip Glass. Wholly listener friendly, the brief opener captured the wonder of flight in nature, opening (not surprisingly) with the woodwinds and going on to develop several bold and striking themes as the large orchestra hovered, hestitated, and then suddenly landed. Richly coloured, the piece both charms and stimulates.

Maestro Tovey's meticulous shaping of the long introductory section of the first movement Allegro non troppo of the Brahms' Violin Concerto was a harbinger of things to come, with architechtural detailing of the concerto's large and grand statements preparing the violin's impassioned entrance. And drama, indeed, was the keynote of this sweeping reading by soloist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg and the orchestra, both playing at white heat (aside from a slightly ragged orchestral opening to the second Adagio movement).

 

 

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Salerno-Sonnenberg surely made converts to her growing number of fans offering a gutsy, even risk-taking performance, especially in the first movement cadenza, whose dark intensities came within a hair's breadth of self-indulgence. Clarity of detail, sharpness of outline and simply spellbinding playing were the order of the evening, and the capacity audience were richly rewarded by an in-your-face virtuosity that made this concert warhorse literally bristle and crackle with new ideas.

Igor Stravinsky

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

In the year of Le Sacre du Printemps in Vancouver -- its two-piano version by the Stravinsky got two outings: by Emmanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman in the Recital Society Concert and by Ballet British Columbia -- it was good at last, at long last, to hear the real thing, with andrenalin splashed all over the stage and brimming over into the hall in a bravura performance. Maestro Tovey gave a no-holds-barred reading of razor sharp intensity of this still ever-green statement of Modernity. Boo-ed in Paris at its famous opening night in 1913, the strident attacks and jagged, almost hysterical, rhythms delivered by the gigantic orchestral forces had the audience leap to its feet last evening at the close of a concert that had the mood of a festival performance.

2005 J. H. Stape


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