RDSO presents night of treasures
Red Deer Symphony Orchestra listeners were invited to “peek into a musical curio cabinet” on Saturday night — and what a diversity of treasures were revealed.
With four soloists and five works on the program, spanning from Mozart to contemporary Canadian composer R. Murray Schafer, the Museum of Curiosities concert at the Red Deer College Arts Centre was so chock-a-block full it ran close to 2 1/2 hours.
Audience members heard eclectic selections, starting with Schafer’s quirky Concerto for Harpsichord and Eight Instruments.
This modernist work with some neoclassical influences, written in Schafer’s student days, was ably tackled by Calgary-based harpsichordist Neil Cockburn.
Schafer’s composition, as anyone knows who heard his Beauty and the Beast piece performed a season or two ago, is not music that lulls you to sleep.
There’s a coiled energy that keeps listeners on edge, waiting for the unexpected.
At the same time, his harpsichord work is not atonal. The various brass and woodwind instruments simply beat their own paths to a loose and meandering whimsical melody.
Since this is a 20th-century tune for a baroque instrument, it’s full of anachronisms.
But Cockburn, an energetic, yet sensitive player, handled these dichotomies beautifully — particularly in the dramatic second movement, which features musical strains that stop suddenly, then repeat.
Unfortunately, the harpsichord was at times drowned out by the other eight instruments.
It might be better, in future, to find a way of mic-ing it.
The next ‘curiosity’ was a bass clarinet concerto, played by Calgarian Stan Climie.
The soloist performed the Josef Schelb work accompanied by 10 chamber musicians on string, woodwind and percussion instruments.
Conductor Claude Lapalme said Schelb was a transient German composer, who due to the winds of war, never got deserved acclaim.
His talent for writing crowd-pleasing pieces was borne out by Schelb’s concerto for the large instrument that stretched from Climie’s mouth to his knees.
Climie’s evocative playing, along with the expressive tenor sounds of the bass clarinet, immediately brought to mind the vivid aural imagery of film soundtracks.
The concerto gradually switches from playful to dreamy, and Climie’s smooth, velvety tones achieved all the required colours on the spectrum.
The concert’s other featured soloists were two talented local musicians who tied to win this year’s Kiwanis music festival.
Violist Bronwyn Kure, a former member of the Red Deer Youth and Community Orchestra, performed the stirring prelude and gallop movements of Vaughan Williams’ Suite for Viola and Orchestra.
Kure is a passionate player who made a fantastic recovery from a brief stumble to deliver these romantic and emotional movements. While the prelude veers towards the sentimental, the gallop moves like a march and has a distinctly Western feel (well, it is a gallop).
Kure, now attending the Victoria Conservatory of Music, built up her viola’s warm, rich tones to a swelling, thrilling finish, earning burst of appreciative applause from the hometown crowd.
The audience was also smitten with pianist Matthew Peavoy, who performed for the second time as a soloist with the RDSO, after previously winning the Kiwanis festival as an accordionist.
In playing the first movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9, Peavoy, a former Red Deer Royals concertmaster, proved to be a fluid soloist capable of bringing out the delicate lyricism of this buoyant composition.
The Brandon University student’s light flourishes were refined and precise, without sacrificing the joy inherent to the work.
It was a memorable performance from a promising young musician.
The RDSO’s final presentation of the evening, of Mozart’s popular Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, was likely the moment a lot of the audience was waiting for — and it was worth it.
The impressive opening movement, performed by about 30 musicians, swings from a light-hearted melody to a louder more urgent one.
It begins like a musical chase and ends up sounding something like a waterfall.
The second movement is gentle and mannered, the third, more forceful and deliberate.
The jubilant symphony ends with an uplifting final movement that earned the orchestra an enthusiastic standing ovation.