Review by Judith Caldwell
The two winners of the Oakville Chamber Orchestra’s Youth Concerto Competition headlined the final OCO concert of the 2014/2015 season and it was certainly a grand send off to the season. The winners were Tessa Laengert, soprano, and pianist Marko Pejanovic. The concert began with the orchestra playing Symphony #5 in B-flat major by Franz Schubert. Those of us who have seen ‘Amadeus’ are used to the idea of Antonio Salieri as a miserable, jealous man, but he was really quite generous in his praise for his student, Schubert.
“He can do everything, he is a genius. He composes songs, masses, operas, quartets, – whatever you can think of.” The B-flat major Symphony shows he was right. It is very familiar because it is immensely popular and the OCO played it with sensitivity and understanding, especially in the second movement Andante con moto which was rich and full, with excellent texture and blending.
Ms. Laengert then offered four very different songs which showed off her considerable vocal range. She is a lyric soprano and sang from both the light and full lyric repertoire beginning with ‘Frere, Voyez’ from “Werther” by Massenet, which Maestro Demuynck said was a little ray of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy opera. This was followed by ‘Endless Pleasure, Endless Love’ from Semele by Handel; a shamelessly sensual Baroque offering. Then my personal favourite – Rusalka’s ‘Song to the Moon’ by Dvorak. I have always felt this should be ethereal and flowing and have sometimes heard it belted out to the detriment of the music. Not so today, Laengert showed sensitivity to the music and if she didn’t quite move us to tears, it was close. She rounded out her offerings with Musetta’s ‘Quando Men Vo’ from La Bohème by Puccini and her Musetta would definitely have made Marcello sit up and take notice. This is a young, very talented soprano whom I am sure we will hear again in the future.
After intermission Pejanovic treated us to Piano Concerto No.1 in E Minor by Frederic Chopin. This is another well-loved piece in three movements. It begins quite dramatically with the Allegro Maestoso and the orchestral lead-in is quite long before the soloist finally joins in. Watching Pejanovic play is a joy, his fingers seem to ripple over the keys and his playing looks deceptively effortless. It was unfortunate that the lady in front of me spent most of this movement trying to take a photo with her cell phone before deciding the light was not good – her behaviour was quite distracting. The second movement is the Romanze Larghetto which is Chopin at his ‘heart on the sleeve’ romantic best and Pejanovic displayed a very mature expressiveness which blended beautifully with the orchestra. The final Rondo – Vivace was playful and lilting but there were times when the soloist and orchestra were not as closely on tempo as they had been during the rest of the piece. Luckily those times were brief and all together it was a truly satisfying concert. Artistic director Demuynck has made a very positive contribution to the OCO and I look forward to their next season.
For information on the 2015/16 season- go to the O.C.O. advertisement in this newspaper.