Review by Danny Gaisin
The Oakville Ensemble‘s season finale is titled “Majestic”; a referral to both the program and the composers themselves. In spite of artistic director Stéphane Potvin’s claim that Johann S. Bach and Georg Handel were ordinary people; this particular musicologist feels that great composers are ‘special’ and imbued with a God-given talent to make an eternal contribution to humanity. Beethoven’s nine symphonies impress me even more than reading about someone walking on water! (I can hear the shouts of ‘sacrilege’ even without opening our windows!)
The maestro has a most comfortable and intimate manner with his audience. This is no podium/addressees lecture, but rather an informative dialogue about the music, Potvin’s opinions, and most important – his obvious respect and affection for masterful creations. By explaining and then interpreting his selections, listeners; even those of us with some musical background, glean additional insight and thus greater appreciation for the genre.
Bach’s orchestral suite no. 3 in D+ is an A+ creation in five dance-derived movements, two of which possess particularly familiar motifs. Potvin’s reading incorporated a very personal set of tempi that accentuate the melodic nature of some of the cadenzas, while underscoring the more technically challenging roulades. The axiom about familiarity breeding contempt holds no water when referring to classical music…every performance is new and exciting. Last evening was no exception.
The major choral presentation was the Handel ‘Te Deum’ – his paean to the Treaty of Utrecht which ended the wars of Spanish Succession. France, Britain, Savoy and the Iberian kingdoms; all signed off on a bunch of agreements, so there should have been no more European wars after the spring of 1713! To present this ‘majestic’ work; Potvin integrated his choir with the musicians into an orchestral/vocal mix. Even with such an amalgamation, certain vocal flair stood out. Soloist – Erika Bailey possesses a roundness and full-bodied alto-voce right across her range, while soprano Catherine Arcand Pinnette’s voice has all the power, clarity and enunciation of an operatic diva. The tenor voice of Michael Taylor is a delight but is somewhat projectionally soft. Not a biggie considering that Mel Tormé made a successful career out of his ‘velvet fog’ vocal persona. The orchestra members are all technically proficient; however, the exaggerated ‘body English’ by one of the strings is certainly a distraction.
Last night’s concert was recorded in its entirety by COGECO® for future broadcast. Seeing the sound/camera/production crew brought back memories of this scribe’s season as a 5-minute segment titled “Reviews and Previews”, on that TV network’s “Main Street”.
The concert repeats this afternoon at 3:30pm at MMG Parish.