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Date 19 and 21February 2005 at 20.00
Venue The Orpheum Theatre

Reviewer J H Stape

 

 

Jeffrey Ryan Violet Crumble Walton Violin Concerto Tchaikovsky Symphonie Pathétique, No 6

Conductor Bramwell Tovey Violin James Ehnes


James Ehnes
James Ehnes

Though Valentine's Day had passed, this concert, at least in part, conjured up candy. Toronto composer Jeffrey Ryan's Violet Crumble is, as he said in his genial introduction, "an hommage to chocolate," inspired by a gooey Australian candy bar. And there was "eye-candy," too, with violinist James Ehnes, almost absurdly handsome, displaying his well-honed talents in the Walton Violin Concerto. But, first and foremost, this was a evening of music, both appealing and great, well played and intelligently interpreted.

Composer-in-Residence with the VSO, Jeffrey Ryan offered a toothsome confection, a twist on conventional programmatic music, with markings such as "luxuriously" and "hypoglycemically." Mostly playful, with the moment of high over-indulgence especially humorous, this piece of nervous energy is also meditation on the nature of pleasure. With sharp shifts in tempo and pulling out all the stops with the deliberate self-indulgence of the confirmed chocoholic, this thoroughly engaging concert opener is the kind of "modern" classical music that seeks to communicate, even seduce, rather than alienate its listeners.

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James Ehnes brought great tonal beauty and assured technique to the fiendishly difficult Walton Violin Concerto, written for Jascha Heifetz on the cusp of the Second World War and not as often played as it deserves. Briskly paced after its opening andante (the last two movements are marked presto and vivace), its demands are notorious, roving from the first movement's closing pianissimi into a neck-break sprint. Ehnes gave a compelling interpretation of material that at times borders on the merely flashy. The taut collaboration between soloist and the orchestra, both on top form, was evident throughout the piece.

Tchaikovskii
Tchaikovsky

Tension-filled and dramatic, plaintive and soul-searching, Tchaikovsky's Sixth Symphony is one of the pinnacles of late-Romantic music. Maestro Bramwell Tovey accorded the symphony a bravura reading, richly detailed and meticulously attentive to structure and dynamics. The music's impassioned lyricism was rendered in delicate shades, while the generous cascades of sound and noble crescendo of the third, Allegro molto vivace, movement were carefully built and controlled, not a mere vulgar thrusting at fortissimo.

The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra shone brightly, especially strong contributions coming from the bass and the brass sections, while the violins, particularly in the raw pain and dark sorrows of the final adagio delivered unstintingly.

2005 J H Stape


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