Review by Judith Caldwell
The Brott Summer Festival’s High Tea with Giampiero was presented at the Royal Botanical Gardens on Sunday. The National Academy Orchestra and clarinetist Giampiero Sobrino offered a very full and satisfying program. It began with a work by Montreal composer Allan Belkin titled ‘Night Passages’ which did carry the listener along fascinating paths, with intriguing surprises- as promised. It was tonal, harmonic and reminiscent of traditional European works and received emphatic applause.
Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto (one of my personal favourites) is one of those rare works where all three movements are equally well known and loved.
The NAO opened with exactly the right blend of delicacy and precision, and from there I knew we were in for a treat. Sobrino has an impressive CV and has played with many major orchestras both in America and Europe, and he made the Mozart sound effortless even though it is notoriously unforgiving. He elongated some of the phrasing in the gorgeous Adagio movement which added to its melancholy beauty, and the trills in the joyful third movement really sounded like laughter. After intermission and High Tea (complete with scones, jam and cream) the NAO performed Symphony No 4 in D minor by Robert Schumann. His wife Clara, a musician herself, said the D minor was ‘composed from the depths of his soul’ and it does have a dark and thoughtful beginning. Composed in the usual four movements, fast-slow-dance-fast, it was played today without breaks and works well as a whole, as principal themes reappear throughout the work and gives it coherence as it moves from somber contemplation to confidence and finally a rousing ending. The members of this year’s NAO are handling the huge repertoire extremely well and sound like a very mature orchestra. The final offering was a piece of extreme virtuoso clarinet-playing performed masterfully by Sobrino, who appeared to be enjoying himself.
Rossini’s ‘Introduction Theme & Variations’ was written when he was 18 and has been popular ever since. Its perky theme challenges the clarinet to articulate clearly. Then the variations get progressively longer and more complex – and more challenging. By the end the soloist, orchestra, and the audience were all totally involved with the music and the spontaneous standing-ovation was well deserved.
For future BROTT/N.A.O. concerts; check out their advertisement on page one of The ONTARIO ARTS REVIEW