COC Orchestra Chamber Group playing Mozart's Quintet for Clarinet and Strings K581
(l. to r.) Marie Berard, Sandra Baron, Francis Kefford, Bryan Epperson, James Shields (Photo: Tracy Kay)
by Joseph K. So
Tribute to Richard Bradshaw
Debussy: Syrinx (Douglas Stewart, flute)
Puccini: Crisantemi (Marie Berard, violin; Sandra Baron, violin; Francis Kefford, viola; Bryan Epperson, cello)
Mozart: Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, K. 581 (James Shields, clarinet; Marie Berard, violin; Sandra Baron, violin; Francis Kefford, viola; Bryan Epperson, cello)
Introductions by Johannes Debus, COC Music Director and Scott Irvine, Tuba
Sept. 27, 2011 noon
Among the many legacies of the late COC General Director Richard Bradshaw is the excellent orchestra which he was instrumental in shaping over the many years of his tenure. Hidden in the pit, we often take these marvelous musicians for granted. When Bradshaw was alive, he made a point of having orchestral concerts - often with singers though not always - that give these terrific musicians who normally toiled away down in the nether regions an opportunity to shine on stage. The tradition of putting on these enjoyable concerts at George Weston Hall or Glenn Gould Studio is unfortunately a thing of the past, but it doesn't have to be! Hopefully this new COC Orchestra Chamber Series will signal a return - however modest - to showcasing our talented orchestra. The current COC Music Director Johannes Debus was on hand to introduce the concert, followed by Scott Irvine, principal Tuba, who reminisced touchingly about Bradshaw, and announced the beginning of the new Chamber Series.
The program began with a Debussy solo piece, Syrinx, played by Principal Flute Douglas Stewart. (Irvine told the audience that Pelleas et Melisande was Richard's favourite opera) Playing from a landing on the stairs, the sound magically filled the airy space. This was followed by Puccini's Crisentemi, with its theme the composer later recycled for an intermezzo in Manon Lescaut. I heard this piece played last season by a reduced Toronto Symphony Orchestra. That was lovely but hearing it as a quartet is a totally different experience, the poignancy of the work greatly enhanced in an intimate arrangement.
The centerpiece of the concert was the Mozart Quintet for Clarinet and Strings, K.581. One of the most melodically inspired piece Mozart ever composed, the musicians played it divinely, allowing the inherent elegance and nobility of the work to shine through. I must single out the terrific clarinet of James Shields, the new Principal Clarinet of the Orchestra. Listening to the magnificent first movement with its awe-inspiring melodies, to my surprise I had a lump in my throat, thinking to myself - surely this is music of the angels! With only three pieces, the concert was unfortunately a little short, as there was no encore. It's totally understandable since the Orchestra was extremely busy with Iphigenie and Rigoletto running simultaneously. Let's hope this auspicious beginning is the first of many chamber concerts to come.
Labels: COC Orchestra Chamber Series, Concert_Review, Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre, Tribute to Richard Bradshaw