Review by Judith Caldwell
Last evening the Brott Music Festival presented one of those extraordinary concerts that made one glad to be an audience member who witnessed such finesse. The N.A.O. played achieved a new level of excellence so far this season and soloist, Valerie Tryon was brilliant.The concert began with Elgar’s’ Enigma Variations. It is a set of fourteen variations and is among his best known works.
Ben Kepes, this year’s assistant conductor led the orchestra for the first half of these & then Maestro Brott took over.Throughout the orchestra sounded crisp and certain of itself especially in the variations #2 and #9, the glorious swelling and profoundly moving Nimrod. I know most people say Elgar is quintessentially British and so he is in Pomp & Circumstance, but the Enigma Variations are much more visceral and universalist and this orchestra picked up on that – it was an emotional ride.
Next, a Canadian composer, Srul Irving Glick, and a composition commissioned for the Hamilton Philharmonic by a ‘slightly’ younger Boris Brott and first performed in Hamilton, entitled “Psalm”. It began quietly with just the harp and built into a complex, rousing full bodied piece that must have been difficult to play but was wonderfully satisfying to hear.
The finale to the evening was the Grieg Piano Concerto #1 – the only one he wrote. It was the first Piano Concerto I became aware of as a teenager & remains one of my favourites. I was briefly employed as a page-turner for a pianist learning this piece, so it is very familiar and I thought I knew what to expect. What we received however, was so much better than that… an orchestra that played with understanding, flexibility and liveliness and a soloist who played the notes and delivered the emotion and obviously enjoyed the whole process. Everything went right & it showed. Afterwards Maestro Brott took the unusual step of telling us what an extraordinary performance we had just witnessed.
Ms. Tryon gave us an encore – she just tossed off a lovely rendition of Liszt’s Lieberstraum! This writer was glad to have been there.