N.A.O. & the Brott Festival, version 26.0 2

Review by Danny Gaisin

In business and especially the computer world, innovation usually means some unforeseen problems that require ‘tweaking’; think Microsoft’s VISTA™. With an annually recreated ensemble such as the National Academy Orchestra, one would expect that the early concerts would lack cohesion or any semblance of professionalism. Not so, for the past few years, the Brott Festival sound was proficient right out of the starting gate. 2014’s 27th incarnation is no exception…great from the get-go.

The N.A.O. & ARCADY conducted by Brott

The N.A.O. & ARCADY conducted by Brott

Last night’s opening concert featured works by Mozart performed by the NAO musicians as well as the choral group ARCADY. A new composition by Arcady’s creator Ron Beckett began the program followed by the celebrated ‘Jupiter’ symphony No. 41. Conductor Brott (O.C.; O.O.; & now O.Q.!!) read the inaugural allegro with a somewhat rushed vivacemente rather than Mozart’s notated vivace. He was more lyrical and dramatic with the andante cantabile 2nd movement.          Brott then turned the podium over to apprentice Ben Kepes for the two subsequent movements. The menuetto third with its ¾ tempo was formulaically performed in a fashion that was technically faultless but unimaginative. There was no sense of his imbuing a personal imprimatur on the presentation… perhaps, opening night jitters. However, his rendering of the finale molto allegro with its numerous motives and fugue-theme plus the repetitive codas was the reverse. One felt this was result of his affinity, comfort and familiarity with this iconic classical treasure. He aced it!

Ben Kepes and his NAO harem!

Ben Kepes and his NAO cohorts!

Post interval, Mozart’s Requiem, again with Arcady and talented soloists Gabrielle McLaughlin’s faultlessly operatic soprano and tenor Christopher Fischer whose endearingly slight tremolo and pure diction is outstanding. For this work, they were augmented by alto Jennifer Modolo & Michael York (not the actor) whose baritone reverberated across the acoustically delightful Burlington Arts Centre.

Speaking of the BPAC, this was this writer’s first formal visit and some personal observations may explain a slight bias about the evening. First, we needed rescuing in order to leave the parking area and be led into the actual Hall. Then, a rather wearisome hang-about in the lobby instead of having the doors open earlier. This was especially tiring for some of us older folk whose legs DO easily fatigue. Then, the surprisingly regimented front-of-house staff that seem to have no independence of thought, somewhat like their counterparts at L.A.’s Disney Hall but without the automatic weapons! Finally, I was chastised by the Style Police for wearing white sneakers. They were finally & officially approved as ‘proper’ by audience member Hermann Proper. The next concert is at BPAC June 27th with guest pianist Arthur Ozolins.
As an aside, let’s hope that the audience will remember Brott’s caveat about applause between movements – DON’T!!!!



  1. Perhaps it hasn’t occurred to you that those of us in the orchestra, who have spent years acquiring a high level of technical and artistic skill on our instruments, might object to being described with a word traditionally used to denote a group of prostitutes or kept women. Please remove or change the caption on the second picture. We are an orchestra, not a “harem.”

  2. Hello Mr Danny Gaisin,
    Thank you for your positive critics of Ben Kepes, at the Brott Festival. I was at the July 24th concert, and it was just truly magical.
    Can you write about the forthcoming concerts also?
    Confidentially, I am the dad of Ben Kepes, so I am not exactly just a neutral bystander.
    I appreciate your nice comments on Ben.
    Could we have more of it? only if he deserves it !
    With best wishes, George Kepes, Montreal.
    E-mail: George@tensorfiber.com

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