by Danny Gaisin
Season 2013-’14 of the Hamilton Philharmonic reflected a procedural change that went against classical tradition. A neat idea – having the major work offered before the interval and the guest soloist on-stage after break was innovative and also proved to be serendipitous. The audience departed with memories of Jon Kimura Parker’s Rachmaninoff; rather than Sommerville’s HPO reading of the Brahms 3rd Symphony!
The tune-up orchestral work was Kati Agócs’ “Shenanigan”, a short work commissioned and premiered by the Hamilton Phil. two years ago. With its flute/bongos opening, the piece is cute but melodically rather easily forgettable. This writer kept staring at concertmaster Sitarski’s en-casted right foot. Stephen; I told you that trying out for the ‘Ti-Cats’ was best left to kickers like Congi!
Brahms symphony no. 3 is and was considered a major contribution to the classical genre. The composer was a strange character who earned serious money; never married but ‘shacked up’ with Robert Schumann’s wife – Clara. Brahms may have been a curmudgeon but his opening allegro movement reflects an innate enthusiastic optimism. The H.P.O.’s reading was technically faultless but uninspired. The second movement was played more andantino than andante, i.e. soporific. This was his 3rd…not his “guten Abend”! A lacklustre 3rd led to a more animated allegro whose effect was to save the entire reading from being totally pedestrian.
Sergei Rachmaninoff’s ‘Variation on a theme of Paganini’ (Brahms also wrote a version!) is an incredible work of composition. The piece has something for every musical taste, and its most familiar leitmotif – #18; was popularized as the passion –melody for the Mason/Shearer/Moorehead blockbuster “Story of Three Loves”. Parker demonstrated different approaches to each of the 24 variants…intense; cynical; serious; then comedic. His tempi were exaggerated (3rd) then creatively pausing for a dramatic effect (16th). His eighteenth had this listener’s hackles electrified and slight tearing in my eyes. This was as definitive an interpretation as I’ve ever heard. The man ACED it from start to finale. Incredibly, his encore choice was by Elfman…wait for it … The “Simpsons” theme!
To emotionally stabilize the audience before exiting, Sommerville chose Berlioz’ Corsaire Overture. Certainly a musical afterthought, but performed by the orchestra with panache and a definitely professional sound.