Review by Danny Gaisin
To musicologists; the term ‘romanticism’ refers to the evolved compositional style of the late 18th and 19th centuries. The label derives from the noun meaning optimistic, idealized or subjective. The music reflects on nature, chivalry and even mysticism in formats that are usually dissonant and chromatic with a definitive virtuoso requirement. The OAKVILLE CHAMBER ORCHESTRA’s decision to stage a concert totally within the aegis meant enlisting an artist of such a skill level as to meet the prerequisite. Cellist Rachel Mercer is just such a performer.
The concert opened with Elizabeth Raum’s contemporary Sir Gawain and the Green Knight suite. A five-part work that highlights the major episodal events in the tale; the chapter supposedly describing the seduction of the knight by his host’s wife can only be described as boring. The rest of the composition is a fine practice-piece for the orchestra but auditorially unremarkable. Not so the following work. Borodin’s ‘notturno’ . Director Charles Demuynck arranged the work as a dialogue with the 1st violins playing the melody with the V-2’s reprising as counterpoint. The tempo and phrasing surprisingly raised no emotional hackles, even with this scribe mentally reciting Wright & Forrest’s ‘Kismet’ lyrics. “Dawn’s promising skies, petals on a pool drifting; imagine these in one pair of eyes…and this is my beloved”. Or “Strange spice from the south; honey through a comb, sifting. Imagine these on one perfect mouth… and this is my beloved. The poetry is music just being narrated and definitively ‘romantic’.
Vivaldi’s cello concerto in D is a short work (slightly longer in performance than a slow reading of Mercer’s playbill biography!), and the lady faultlessly aced its performance. She is an emotional performer who appears to have the ability to discern the composer’s intent and focus. Her 2nd offering was Nin Chan Ka’s “Soulmate”, a dirge-like composition that seems to stick with the instrument’s D & A strings. Her performance: – marvellous; the work itself: – soporific.
The highlight of the concert had to be Telemann’s “Don Quixote” suite and it was arranged and performed with aplomb including an upbeat; almost “cool” motif. The fourth and sixth movements were especially effective as was the descriptive VII that reflected the subject’s fevered mind. Elgar’s Serenade for Strings was the finale presentation.
To again quote Wright & Forrest; classical music should always be an experience. It is “All that can stir; all that can stun…all that’s for the heart –LIFTING”. Even a modest performance is way better than just about anything else – besides food, clothes, shelter & romance!