Review by Danny Gaisin
Attending about 200 cultural events a year, a critic can become jaded; but not last evening. The Hamilton Philharmonic’s “In Remembrance” concert was something unique and singular. Given the recent incidences involving our military and local terrorists, especially here in Hamilton; a tribute was not only meaningful but subjective as we lost one of our own.
The occasion was also round three of auditions for a new conductor. Gregory Vajda has an impressive resumé reflecting analytical acclaim and background. This critic was not impressed.
An auditioning concert is an opportunity and four-um[sic] to display one’s connection with the musicians; the works performed; and the audience. The HPO appeared tense and nervous during the Opening Samuel Barber adagio, and the interpretation itself was performed as though at 32rpm on a 33⅓ turntable.
The guest soloist was Yegor Dyachkov performing the intricate & demanding Shostakovich 1st cello concerto. This young man makes his instrument sound magical. From the opening very brief minuetto the work belonged to the performer. Not surprisingly, the uncultured philistines in the audience started applauding as soon as thee was a break. Vajda played the next 3 movements without pause thus avoiding a repeat disruption. There is a solemn motif in the moderato that was dramatically rendered by Dyachkov leading to a theme utilizing the lowest range of the instrument. Both were aced. The potency and emotion of the 3rd & 4th movements brought on a visceral reception. This is a showcase composition for a cellist; it was thrilling to hear it so technically perfect, & emotionally read. Alas, the audience was offered an encore whose title escapes me. I surmise it was a piece by Gordon Lightfoot; given that it was repetitious; boring; and overly long!
The major work of the evening was Elgar’s iconic ‘Enigma Variations’. Vajda’s interpretation was unimaginative and pedestrian. This audience member failed to tell if he particularly likes the work given that he bestowed no personal imprimatur in his rendering. I did approve of his patronizing applauding-back the audience for clapping between the 14 sections! Maybe we’ll have to write a “Concerts For Dummies” pamphlet to go along with the playbill!
The presentational aspect of the evening was the opening entrance march by the Pipes and Drums of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders, joined by the Regimental Band of our own “RILEYS”. One felt throat-lumps singing ‘Oh Canada’ as they played our anthem. Another emotional moment was hearing the awesome effect of Iadeluca, Portman, and the brass section as they rendered Copland’s dynamic “Fanfare for the Common Man”… dramatic and certainly à propos.
Last night was a special evening for this scribe and his muse. Exactly fifty-two years ago I went on a blind-date with another couple; fell immediately in love and proposed the next night. Terry took three weeks to accept. An H.P.O. concert with a Remembrance Day motif is far more meaningful than sitting through “Judgement at Nuremburg” and for such an opportunity, I’d like to personally thank the generous folks of INCITE; and the Hogarth family of PIONEER ENERGY. Both operations are super corporate members of our community.