RDSO closes season in style

It was a big, cymbals-crashing, kettle drum-booming finish for the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra’s season on Friday night at the Red Deer College Arts Centre.

It was a big, cymbals-crashing, kettle drum-booming finish for the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra’s season on Friday night at the Red Deer College Arts Centre.

You’ve got to hand it to Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky for really knowing how to wrap up a composition — in this case with his famous, grandiose Great Gate of Kiev theme from his Pictures at an Exhibition.

You’ve also got to credit the RDSO for knowing how to make a grand, end-of-season exit. About 80 musicians, both from the RDSO and guest musicians from the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, crowded onto the stage to create some colourful noise with Mussorgsky’s great work, which describes an 1874 posthumous exhibit of pictures by visual artist Viktor Hartmann.

With this monumental piece, Mussorgsky proved it’s possible to describe visual art with music — even though it’s kind of like dancing about architecture.

The combined orchestras performed Maurice Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s piano composition and created a vivid listening experience. It started with an overture depicting people walking through a gallery, continuing with a sinister passage describing Hartmann’s sketch of a gnome-shaped nutcracker.

A famous saxophone melody took listeners into Hartmann’s picture of a troubadour singing at a castle. More scenes were aurally painted: of lively play in the Tuileries gardens in Paris; of a Polish oxcart rolling along to the sound of a tuba; of a chirpy ballet featuring whimsical chicks still in their shells.

Midway through, a more dramatic tone was set by the string section, contrasting portraits of a rich Jewish man and a poor one.

The composition became stormier and gloomier, describing a marketplace dispute and a walk through the Roman catacombs. Then it turned into a grotesque march, reflecting Hartmann’s drawing of a Slavic folkloric witch.

Mussorgsky’s piece concluded in triumphal, percussive tones that describe Hartmann’s grand design for a city gate that was never built. Cue the gongs, the drums, the cymbals, the horns — and ultimately an ovation for the orchestras’ expressive rendering of a unique work.

Although the RDSO audience was somewhat depleted, those who didn’t choose to instead watch the Red Deer Rebels play a Memorial Cup game, were up on their feet applauding.

The concert started in less imposing, but no less descriptive style. RDSO music director Claude Lapalme premiered his original composition, Under the Domes of San Marco, performed by RDSO musicians.

Lapalme imagined all the great music performed in this Venice landmark, from the Renaissance to the late Baroque period. His piece references — or as Lapalme put it “generously pilfers” — from the works of several composers, especially one of his favourites, Claudio Monteverdi.

Chimes reminiscent of church bells started the piece. Snippets of various melodies faded in and out — almost as if someone walking though St. Mark’s Basilica heard ghostly echoes of music from various eras. Sometimes these tunes collided and created dissonance. The composition slowed and nearly faded away, until a fragment of familiar violin melody was faintly heard once again.

Although this work required more of listeners than most of Lapalme’s more melodious arrangements, the compelling composition received a warm audience reception.

The descriptive theme was carried on through a third piece on the program — French composer Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Pygmalion excerpts. Lapalme said these were “written to delight.” The stately overture, gracious ballets, a sedate minuet and a lively tambourin, certainly delivered on this aim.

With such a memorable season-closing show, RDSO listeners will eagerly anticipate the seven concerts lined up for 2016-17.


Just Posted

Schizophrenia a misunderstood illness, an Alberta expert says

Schizophrenia Society of Alberta campaign kickoff features TSN’s Michael Landsberg in Central Alberta

WATCH: Collecting coats and donations from drivers in Red Deer

Central Albertans made donations to keep children warm and neighbourhoods safe from… Continue reading

PHOTO: Fall Harvest Festival in Red Deer’s West Park

The West Park Community Association hosted the Fall Harvest Festival near West… Continue reading

Man dies in Hwy 2 collision near Ponoka

A 46-year-old man is dead following a three-vehicle collision on Hwy 2… Continue reading

Canyon Ski Resort aiming to open Nov. 10

The finishing touches are being put on Canyon Ski Resort trails just… Continue reading

WATCH: Blackfalds Fire teaches families about fire safety

An open house was held Saturday in support of Fire Prevention Week

Canadians widely unaware of accomplishments of famous women, poll suggests

TORONTO — The organization behind Canada’s Heritage Minutes says provincial education systems… Continue reading

Five things about what’s legal and what’s not in Canada’s new pot law

OTTAWA — Canada’s new law legalizing recreational cannabis goes into force on… Continue reading

4 men killed in shooting at child’s birthday party in Texas

DALLAS — An argument at a toddler’s birthday party in South Texas… Continue reading

German bus crashes on Swiss highway, 1 dead and 14 injured

BERLIN — A German bus crashed into a metal post on a… Continue reading

4 days after storm, large swath of Panhandle suffering

MEXICO BEACH, Fla. — Crews with backhoes and other heavy equipment scooped… Continue reading

Immigrants face hurdles to prove abuse by US agents

HOUSTON — Within hours of being booked at a Border Patrol station… Continue reading

Unicorns and pipelines: Notley and enviro-activist square off on Trans Mountain

EDMONTON — Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, with her arch pipeline foe sitting… Continue reading

A year into #MeToo, survivors’ stories resonate online and off: experts

Jenny Wright remembers scrolling through her social media feed a year ago… Continue reading

Most Read