The 9th; the N.A.O.; & the BPAC: smashing! (almost) 15

Review by Danny Gaisin

Listening to Beethoven’s greatest composition – the 1824 Ninth Symphony in D-minor is just over an hour’s worth of undeniable ‘time well spent’. It has everything; melody, tempi, creative instrumentation, imagery, poetry, and vocals…hence “The Chorale”.  I have about four different versions in my musical appreciation room, i.e. finished Basement! It always seems to project something new. The opening 2013 Brott Festival presentation managed to add another dimension.

The NAO; choirs & soloists amazing the BPAC audience

The NAO; choirs & soloists amazing the BPAC audience

After a brief introductory work by Oakvillian Charles Demuynck (reviewed O.A.R. 11/28/’10) titled Alerion; the Festival’s artistic director, having advised the audience that the first two movements would be performed then an interval; followed by the final two movements post-intermission.  Brott’s rationale was logical, rational and should be made a continued format.    The allegro with its intricacies, codas, and science is of sonata form and notated as poco maestoso, meaning decorous or regal (a style heavily utilized by John Williams). Brott’s reading was deliberate and totally void of any gratuitous tweaking. The 2nd or scherzo was treated with lilt and effervescence… almost rushed but with effectively exaggerated pauses. By this point, the analytical part of my cerebral cortex shut down…I was just another enthralled listener. The 2013 NAO is as solid as they come…strong strings, almost faultless brass, superb winds and dynamic percussion. And this is just out of the starting gate!
Break for intermission and a chance to scrutinize & evaluate the new Burlington Arts Centre. Acoustically, there are no dead-spots nor any visual-obstructing projections. Reverberation is at a minimum and the seats are a tushy’s delight. However, the actual sound is sterile with all the warmth of a padded recording studio. On advice of the Centre’s house-staff member Brian, we moved to the balcony…big difference.
Only problem – the BPAC is located in Burlington with all the baggage that entails!

Back to LvB & NAO. The third movement – adagio is a showpiece for the strings and they performed faultlessly, exhibiting no strain or outward signs of over-concentrating or tenseness. Even the podium contributed some body English for emphasis. Then; the finale- the chorale itself with its endemic 5-dozen-note coda; Schiller’s poem and Beethoven’s additional prose. I’m obviously somewhat familiar with the work, but last night – a novel imagery. As the celli re-introduced the theme, I found myself thinking of a small leak in a dam. Then; as the basses & viola joined in– a trickle. With the addition of the strings it became a torrent and once the full orchestra was playing – a musical deluge! The Arcady Singers under Ron Beckett and the Festival Choir under Stephane Potvin were fronted by soloists Lesley Ann Bradley, mezzo Michele Bogdanowicz; David Curry-tenor and Geoffrey Sirett’s powerhouse baritone. Riveting, hackle-raising and utterly engrossing, the entire “mishpocha” aced the 9th earning a “10” from this judge; from my muse; from our seatmates and from the audience itself.
We hoped to meet the concertmaster, Johann Sebastian Roy of the McGill Chamber Orchestra… it, along with the MSO was where your humble scribe started his jottings 52 years ago! Maybe next time.
Herr Ludwig added the following line [among others] to Schiller “alle menschen werden Brüder” …we can all drink to that!


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