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.


Just Posted

Avid Penhold climber Catlin Hannah’s death a reminder of the dangers of scrambling

Hannah never returned from his Mount Smuts attempt on Aug. 12.

Children, elderly at risk as smoke from distant fires hangs over parts of B.C.

VANCOUVER — Thick smoke blanketing British Columbia communities far from any flames… Continue reading

Trudeau: no apologies for heckler encounter, pledges to call out ‘hate speech’

OTTAWA — Hate speech and the politics of division are creating a… Continue reading

Rocky Mountain House RCMP charge woman with drug trafficking

Rocky Mountain House RCMP have charged a woman with drug trafficking after… Continue reading

WATCH: Medicine River Wildlife Centre opens new playground

The grand opening of the playground was Saturday morning

Police chiefs want new data-sharing treaty with U.S. as privacy questions linger

OTTAWA — Canada’s police chiefs are pressing the Trudeau government to sign… Continue reading

Pope on sex abuse: “We showed no care for the little ones”

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis issued a letter to Catholics around the… Continue reading

Ottawa announces $189M to extend employment insurance for seasonal workers

ESCUMINAC, N.B. — Ottawa has announced $189 million for an employment insurance… Continue reading

Trudeau formally announces he’ll run again in next year’s election

MONTREAL — Justin Trudeau will run again in the 2019 federal election.… Continue reading

Smoke from B.C. wildfires prompts air quality advisories across Western Canada

VANCOUVER — More smoky, hazy air is expected to blanket much of… Continue reading

Anti-pipeline protesters released days before weeklong jail sentences end

MAPLE RIDGE, B.C. — Several pipeline protesters were released from a British… Continue reading

All eyes on Andrew Scheer as Conservative convention set for Halifax

OTTAWA — After a week of internal caucus squabbles, Conservative Leader Andrew… Continue reading

Trump says his White House counsel not a ‘RAT’ like Nixon’s

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. — President Donald Trump insisted Sunday that his White House… Continue reading

Most Read

Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month