Review by Judith Caldwell
The 2015 Brott Summer Music Festival opened with a varied program of 20th Century music including a Mozart Violin Concerto and a very rarely-heard Bruckner Symphony played by the director’s NAO ensemble. This is the only professional apprentice/mentor orchestra in Canada and hundreds of gifted graduating musicians audition for the 50+ places each year. The successful candidates have the opportunity to play a huge repertoire in a brief few weeks. It is an intense and unique program.
This evening opened with a 1945 Oskar Morawetz composition, Carnival Overture.
The piece was conducted by this year’s apprentice conductor – Janna Sailor. It was a very lively opening to the season and gave all the orchestra players, especially the harpist, a good workout and was great fun to hear. The name of the piece was given to it by Sir Ernest Macmillan prior to its premiere in Montreal and being very appropriate – it stuck.
Olivier Thouin was the soloist in Mozart’s Violin Concerto in A Minor, ‘the Turkish’. This is the concerto wherein Mozart gave more responsibility to the orchestra rather than simply being a backdrop to the soloist. There is a lot of interplay and Thouin and the NAO musicians clearly enjoyed it. The first movement establishes the virtuosity of the violin, the second is pensive and delicate and the third and final movement is a buoyant and charming minuet where the interplay is most marked. The ‘Turkish’ flourish at the end reflects the then craze for the exotic. Everyone concerned appeared to enjoy this work, especially the audience.
After intermission Brott congratulated those of us there for being the ones willing to brave the Bruckner. Anton Bruckner was much maligned by the critics especially the influential Eduard Hanslick who hated Bruckner; Wagner; including the ‘new German school’ and heaped scorn on all of them. Bruckner was a mild-mannered church organist and lacked the ego necessary to ignore his critics. That said; his work is long and could probably benefit from some editing. He does have lovely long melodic lines, but sometimes they seem to wander aimlessly – especially in the lyrical and tender second movement. The entire work reminded me of a fox hunt with the fox repeatedly going to ground until the horns sounded the renewed chase and the entire orchestra responded in hot pursuit. This was a piece which required a lot of stamina, especially from the brass section, and it was beautifully played by this young and eager group of musicians. Next Thursday the orchestra will perform Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony as part of the “Viva L’Italia” concert at the Burlington Performing Arts Centre.