Where to start describing the final concert at St. Christopher’s Anglican Church in Burlingtonon Friday night ? First this orchestra has only been performing together for five weeks and these young people are getting more precise and crisp with each outing. They are led by Maestro Boris Brott whose experience, high expectations and good humour has them responding. They also clearly enjoy being led occasionally by Brendan Hagan, the apprentice conductor.
Next has to be the piano, a Steingraeber & Sohne E272 Concert Grand which gave a gorgeous resonant sound in the excellent acoustics of the Sanctuary. These pianos are said to be one of Germany’s hidden treasures and I agree- I have never heard better. Last is our soloist – Anastasia Rizikov who was amazing, but more about her later.
We began the evening with the big Symphony No 4 by Brahms. Brott told us we started with that so we would all stay for the whole concert. This was the final Symphony of Brahms and is assertive and passionate. It begins with longing and nostalgia and rapidly becomes full-bodied with resonant cellos. The second movement is more mystical and plaintive leading into the very well known and grand third movement. It is a boisterous scherzo led by the horns with multiple motifs intertwining. The finale is stately and dark, it is a unique creation of thirty variations on the opening eight bar theme, that is complicated and brilliant but ultimately tragic.
After intermission we heard a work by Malcolm Forsyth, a South African composer and trombonist who immigrated to Canada and played trombone with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra for 11 years. The work is called ukuZalwa – rebirth in Zulu – and gave a really good work-out to the percussionists. The beat anchors this work while soloists on bassoon, flute and harp provide jazzy melodies. Each soloist was required by the composer to rise as they played like they would in a jazz band. The audience clearly liked this work and comments of ‘Wow’ and ‘Wonderful’ were heard near me.
The highlight of the evening was 13 year old Anastasia Rizikov playing Greig’s Piano Concert in A Minor. You read that correctly, she is only 13 years old!! This tiny, young lady managed to get a wonderfully sonorous sound from the piano. She played this very familiar romantic Concerto with surprising maturity and heft where necessary. This is a lovely, dramatic piece, performed by an extremely capable young soloist and backed by a youthful orchestra. Risikov gave us two encores, the first a Spanish air, which was appropriate given the warm temperature in the venue; and variations on a theme by a Ukrainian composer. Both were very difficult and interesting to hear. She is a brilliant young pianist and hopefully will have a long career.
The Brott Music Festival continues (in air conditioned venues!) until the middle of August. Check their website for details.