Review by Danny Gaisin
Occasionally, (rarely) I imagine that the stars align themselves just to insure a bonus to the life of one Danny Gaisin. Last evening’s Hamilton Philharmonic concert was one such instance… my favourite symphony; a cherished violin concerto; and a class ‘A’ soloist to perform that opus. Add in a talented conductor; and the result – a melodic banquet. We had to check the calendar to see if perhaps it was my birthday! It wasn’t; just plain good fortune.
The concert opened with the premiere of Abigail Richardson-Schulte’s ‘A Canadian in Paris’ composition. Dedicated to our local Art Gallery, the playbill included copies of those works by William Blair Bruce, the composer used as her inspiration. A bucolic piece that bears resemblance to compositions by D’Indy and Vaughn Williams, it is creative; visceral & certainly a perfect beginning for a pastoral evening.
Charles Camille Saint-Saëns was an amazing individual. Started learning music at age 2, giving performances three years later. He composed 5 symphonies; 13 operas; 100 choruses & a ton of concerti. He also found time to fight in the Franco-Prussian war; travel, and take apart mechanical toys to analyze and improve them! We were fortunate to have the pleasure of hearing his violin concerto No. 3 performed by the renowned Martin Beaver. The soloist was more technocrat than melodic during the opening Allegro; i.e. more Stern than Rieu. He seemed almost robotic and unemotional but that changed diametrically during the magnificent andantino. His reading was lyrical, the HPO winds’ counterpointing highly effective. The famous A & E string solo ostinatos were faultless, while the third movement was forceful yet unstressed. The HPO musicians under its guest conductor seemed fully attuned (pun intended) to both the podium and the violin.
Post-interval, Beethoven’s 6th – the Pastorale.
According to Merriam-Webster: – pastoral, adj. (a) relating to the countryside or lives of people therein. (b) not urban (c) pleasing, peaceful & innocent.
The composition’s five movements mirror everything fine about an idyllic summer. The opening movement is an allegro that the composer called for ‘ma non troppo’ – or not too much so. Interrogating maestress Gemma New post-curtain, as to why she seemed to rush the movement, she explicated her interpretation as showing the anticipatory attitude of the composer to escape the stress of the city… interesting; and certainly a valid approach. New also emphasized the celli and bass responses to the violin melodies. She imbued a delicate and affectionate interpretation throughout the incredibly listenable andante 2nd; having the winds emphasize with creative embellishments. The oboe leads were faultless as were the superb winds that mimic the sounds of the country.
During the tempestuous IV, the HPO timpani had the audience checking that the umbrellas were still under the seats, so viscerally did they interpret a summer storm. It seems as though the H.P.O. is bi-polar; rigid and formulative in both production and physical posture under one conductor, then relaxed, inventive and relishing under a different podium. Last night, we witnessed the latter and the audience response mirrored the musicians. If Gemma New is the epitome of the standard we can expect from auditioning conductors; selection will be a difficult choice.