La Scena Musicale

Friday, 18 June 2010

Beethoven rules at TSO season finale

By L.H. Tiffany Hsieh

A man two seats away shouted "Bravo Beethoven" into the auditorium. A moment earlier, another man nearby jumped up with his hands in the air, the way Swiss soccer fans did when their team beat Spain in the FIFA World Cup earlier this week.

Victory. Such was the joy generated by Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D minor, the Choral performed by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra with soloists and the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir.

In their final program of the season, music director Peter Oundjian and the TSO are throwing a three-night bash of the mighty Beethoven Ninth, which contains one of the most well-known and beautiful melodies known to mankind.

On the second night (June 17), a handsomely dressed Toronto Mendelssohn Choir was glorious and the four soloists — soprano Marianne Fiset, mezzo-soprano Michele Losier, tenor Frederic Antoun, and baritone Brett Polegato — were enchanting. 
The overall ensemble work between the four was exquisite despite difficulty hearing Losier's voice at times.

Oundjian and his players were ecstatic and outstanding throughout, with timpanist David Kent, who by far has the sexist part of the entire piece, stealing the limelight in the first two movements.

It's hard for the Beethoven's gigantic Ninth not to receive jubilant applause, but the TSO gave it such a riveting interpretation it felt like Christmas.

The symphony was proceeded by the composer's earlier Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, Op. 19. Toronto pianist Stewart Goodyear's thundering fingers and crisp articulation highlighted the work's humble being among Beethoven's five piano concertos. The playfulness of the showy third movement was matched perfectly between orchestra and piano. Not a step was missed.

Not sure if it was intended, but the Steinway sounded a bit underwhelming as it didn't produce the kind of richness one usually can expect from a modern concert grand. It almost sounded like a fortepiano, but not like a fortepiano.

That being said, when the music is this good, it almost doesn't matter what instrument it's played on.

That's right. Bravo Beethoven.

The TSO's third performance of the Beethoven Ninth takes place on June 19. Show time is 11 p.m., with a post-concert party to follow.

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