A clever touch of a musical and arty show

Neither the flu, nor rain, nor Halloween kept a near full-house crowd from attending the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra’s Of Paintings, Prayers and Plays concert on Saturday night.

Neither the flu, nor rain, nor Halloween kept a near full-house crowd from attending the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra’s Of Paintings, Prayers and Plays concert on Saturday night.

And the loyalty paid off with an interesting musical evening at the Red Deer College Arts Centre — with some curious moments.

The concert started out with a vivid RDSO performance of Ottorino Respighi’s Trittico Botticelliano.

As each movement, inspired by a different Botticelli painting, was played by the slightly reduced orchestra, an image of the corresponding artwork was projected onto a screen. This clever touch allowed the audience to directly compare the composition with its muse.

Spring seemed to be ushered in by processional music, as the painting, La Primavera, was projected above the orchestra. Like the artwork, which depicts Mother Nature sowing flowers and the Three Graces doing a graceful reel, the Respighi music similarly conjured abundant nature and warm breezes.

The music turned more mysterious and Middle Eastern in the second movement, based on the painting, Adoration of the Magi. There was a more regal air and gravity to the melody line that was beautifully carried by the woodwind section.

The Birth of Venus, which famously depicts a naked Venus stepping out of a clamshell, inspired a majestic final movement, with its restless musical strains suggesting gusting winds.

The image-laden Respighi piece was a crowd-pleaser — as was the composition that followed it, Bach’s Concerto for Harpsichord.

Neil Cockburn, the English-born guest harpsichordist from Calgary, performed the piece with the RSDO’s string section and the effect was languorous and beautiful.

While the Oxford University undergrad, who also studied at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, U.K., specializes in organ music, he coaxed exquisite notes from the harpsichord, which to some modern ears can sound thin and tinny. Cockburn created crisp, crystalline sounds, whether the ornamental melody was slow and steady, or dance-like. And the result was simply gorgeous.

That would not be the word to describe his second piece — an early 20th-century harpsichord composition by Spain’s Manuel de Falla, who must have been a very unusual man.

As he grew older, de Falla’s devotion to God grew stronger, causing him to abandon earlier folkloric flourishes in his compositions to focus on purity of sound.

His difficult Concerto for Harpsichord, which was well played played by Cockburn and five RDSO musicians, is a complete curiosity — it sounded like Stravinsky in a Baroque wig.

Conductor Claude Lapalme called it “schizophrenic” music, because it’s at once colourful, as well as harsh and dischordant. Parts would fit my young daughter’s definition of “monster music” because of its ominous, tense feel — so perhaps the de Falla piece was a good choice for Halloween night.

But I suspect few listeners were sorry it was only 13 minutes long.

The evening’s final composition, Divertissement, by French composer Jacques Ibert, was played by a reduced orchestra and brought more odd-ball moments.

Originally written, in part, to score a 1920s silent French movie called The Italian Straw Hat, the music parodies, among other things, The Wedding March, the waltz, and parade music. It also contains a Bugs Bunny-worthy chase sequence that ends with prolonged blasts of a whistle — which Lapalme called an “unusual percussive instrument.”

Divertissement is proof that challenging instrumental music doesn’t have to be serious.

lmichelin@bprda.wpengine.com

Just Posted

NDP won’t stop until Trans Mountain is built, says minister

Deron Bilous speaks at Red Deer chamber luncheon

Red Deer officials will allow Calgary to trial alcohol in parks

The result could determine if local rules are relaxed

$25-a-day child care in high demand in Red Deer

Red Deer Child Care Society hopes program will expand

Red Deer city council could provide more clarity around closed-door meetings, says review

Confidential matters were found to be handled appropriately by city

Special lift improves Lacombe patients’ therapy

A new mobility lift is helping physical therapy patients at Lacombe Hospital… Continue reading

Trudeau says politicians shouldn’t prey on Canadians’ fears

The Prime Minister was speaking at a townhall in Ontario

WestJet plane heading to Victoria slides off Edmonton runway, no injuries

EDMONTON — A WestJet plane has slid off an icy taxiway at… Continue reading

Sam Bennett scores twice, Flames beat Red Wings 6-4

Flames 6, Red Wings 4 CALGARY — Sam Bennett scored twice including… Continue reading

Rare ‘super blood wolf moon’ takes to the skies this Sunday

Celestial event happens only three times this century

Fashion Fridays: Inspirational gym outfits

Kim XO, helps to keep you looking good on Fashion Fridays on the Black Press Media Network

Company issues lifetime ban after man jumps from cruise ship

Nick Naydev posted the video last week showing him standing on the balcony of the Symphony of the Seas

Unruly passenger forces B.C.-bound flight to divert to Calgary

Police say charges are pending against a woman in her 40s

Inflation rises as higher airfares, veggie prices offset cheaper gas

Statistics Canada says inflation accelerated to two per cent in December

Canadian tattoo artist inks Toronto skyline on Blue Jays pitcher Stroman

Marcus Stroman found a way to show his appreciation for Toronto when… Continue reading

Most Read