Saturday, 2 June 2012
Yo Yo Ma and TSO in a Deeply Moving Elgar Concerto
by Joseph K. So
Toronto Symphony Orchestra
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Peter Oundjian, conductor
Yo-Yo Ma, cello
Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky / Night Music: Voice in the Leaves
Sergei Rachmaninoff / Symphonic Dances, Op. 45
Edward Elgar / Cello Concerto in E Minor, Op. 85
If I may allow myself a rhetorical question - is there another classical musician more beloved in Toronto than Yo-Yo Ma? Based on the sustained thunderous ovations he received on Wednesday, the first night of his two appearances in Toronto, the answer is a resounding 'no'. In my forty years of attending classical concerts in Toronto, I've seen many great artists with huge and fiercely loyal fan bases, from Pavarotti to Domingo to Bartoli. (I'm using singers as examples simply because their fans are particularly rabid) But the response from the audience on Wednesday surpassed them all. After the conclusion of the Elgar cello concerto, the hall erupted into a virtually complete standing ovation that lasted many minutes. The genuine affection from the audience to those onstage was palpable and the love was returned to the audience by Ma himself. It wasn't just applause for a job well done, but a heart-felt appreciation of an artist who is in his absolute prime, someone who has embraced Toronto and has returned time and again to our fair city to make joyous music. Yes, a Yo-Yo Ma concert is always something special.
The program opened with a highly evocative piece by Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky, a composer from Uzbekistan. It was commissioned by Ma himself a dozen years ago and has been featured in performances of his Silk Road Ensemble. It lasts only 16 minutes, but to my ears the extraordinary sounds created by the small group of instruments (solo cello, flute, clarinet, percussion, harp, piano, violin, viola, bass and a previously recorded singing voice) evokes powerful imageries of nature and humans in its midst. The subtle rise of the Uzbek lullaby and the way it's weaved into the musical patterns was magical. This soft-grained work was followed by Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances, a piece that appears as brash, forceful, aggressive, driven, and even in a way artificial, aesthetically in stark contrast to the Yanovsky piece. Oundjian drew galvanizing torrents of sound from the Orchestra. To be honest, I don't think the two works go together very well.
After intermission came the heart of the concert - the sublimely poignant, autumnal cello concerto by Elgar. Ma has had a long association with this piece. It was mentioned by Oundjian that Ma played it in his first TSO appearance in 1979. The Elgar was a favourite of the great British cellist Jacqueline du Pre, and it's well known that when she became stricken with multiple sclerosis in the 1970's, she did the supreme gesture of leaving her Stradivarius Davidoff to Ma. Her studio and live recordings of the Elgar are considered among the very best in the catalogue. Her playing is characterized by a certain "heart on sleeve" emotionalism that is extremely touching. To my ears, Ma's playing of this piece, however wonderful even in the earliest days, has gained a depth and a profundity of understanding that only comes with the passage of time. On Wednesday, his every inflection, accent, phrasing, placement of rubato etc. was eerily reminiscent of du Pre herself, except Ma was even more emotional, more exaggerated. The tempo was very, very slow. The piece lasts about 26 minutes, but I checked my watch and I thought it was very close to 30 minutes all told. Some would call this playing self-indulgent or maudlin and sentimental. Not in my book. Yes, it took me awhile to adjust in the beginning, and then I was totally drawn into the music. It was a deeply moving experience, something that one only experience on rare occasions in the concert hall. I am so glad last Wednesday was one of them.
Wednesday, 30 May 2012
CMIM chant 2012 – Début de l’épreuve quart de finale
Sunday, 27 May 2012
Austin Symphony and Conspirare Partner to Present Psalm Settings by Stravinsky and Bernstein
|Maestro Peter Bay|
Photo of Peter Bay by Marita
This Week in Toronto (May 28 - June 3)
The good news this week is that one of the most spectacularly gifted and beloved of classical musicians, cellist Yo Yo Ma, is once again returning to Toronto. He is soloist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in Elgar's Cello Concerto, an exquisitely poignant and autumnal work. Ma has had a very long association with this piece, and his interpretation, while wonderful from even his earliest days, has deepened with the passage of time. I find myself tremendously moved by his playing of this masterwork. Other pieces on the program are Voices in the Leaves for cello and orchestra by Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky, a composer from Uzbekistan; as well as Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances. TSO Music Director Peter Oundjian conducts. Performances on Wednesday May 30 and Thursday May 31 7:30 p.m. at Roy Thomson Hall. http://tso.ca/Home.aspx
Another orchestral concert of interest is Toronto Philharmonia Orchestra on Thursday May 31 8 p.m. at Weston Hall, Toronto Centre for the Arts in North York. Czech pianist Boris Krajny, who has family in the Toronto area, is making a welcome return to play the Grieg Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 16. Also on the program is Murray Schafer's Cortege, and Beethoven's Symphony No. 3. Toronto Philharmonia's Music Director Uri Mayer conducts. http://www.torontophilharmonia.com/
Now that the COC spring season is history, there are still reasons to go the the Four Seasons Centre, as the Free Noon Hour Concert Series is still going on. No singing, but a very interesting event is the 2012 preview of the Toronto Summer Music Festival at the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre at noon on Thursday, May 31. There are many wonderful artists visiting this year. Of particular interest to opera fans is the appearance of the great Canadian baritone Gerald Finley. He will give a recital and masterclass. Pianist Andre Laplante is the headliner of the opening night, and the Borodin String Quartet is coming to play a program of Russian music. And there are many other gems in this year's Festival program, which you'll hear about from Artistic Director Douglas McNabney. The centerpiece of this one-hour preview is a performance of Ravel's Piano Trio by Geistrio, a young Canadian chamber group. And it's free! Be sure to line up an hour ahead to ensure a seat. http://coc.ca/Home.aspx
Russian Andrey Baranov Wins 2012 Queen Elisabeth Competition
The six unranked laureates, in alphabetical order are Ermir Abeshi, Marc Bouchkov, Nikki Chooi, Dami Kim, Josef Spacek and Nancy Zhou.
> Watch their performances in the competition site's online video archive.
> List of prizes