Review by Judith Caldwell
One has to hand it to Boris Brott; he certainly knows how to put a concert together. This reviewer was not at all sure about a concert with aerialists – would they add to the program or distract? Initially, in Felix Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night Dream Suite they did distract, but later added so much to Tales of the Netsilik that they even seemed necessary to the storytelling. The evening opened with Janna Sailor conducting the N.A.O. in Engelbert Humperdinck’s Overture to Hansel & Gretel,
an opera which began life as music for his sister’s verses to be sung at a family Christmas party. Much later they were made into an opera. This was so good the lady two rows in front of me decided to video it with her smartphone until a neighbour stopped her *(see note below). Next the audience heard Mendelssohn’s four-movement Midsummer Night Dream Suite. The interpretation –faultlessly performed and creative with the scherzo a totally delightful standout. The aerialist here seemed unnecessary and a bit alien in a symphony concert.
The next piece was Raymond Leudeke’s “Tales of The Netsilik” narrated by Chief Ava Hill of the Grand River Six Nations. The two aerialists appeared for ‘How We Know About Animals’ and were an integral part of the story telling. Chief Hill did a brilliant job of narrating the Inuit stories and her voice plus the music & the visuals all combined in riveting storytelling. This was the stand-out in an excellent night.
After intermission, Maurice Ravel’s “Ma Mere L’Oye”, a set of fairy tale music originally composed for two pianos performed by young performers. The NAO is comprised of young musicians, so even though we got the orchestral version, the age range was as Ravel wished. Typically, this deceptively simple music is apparently fiendishly difficult to play, but the NAO polished it off in grand style.
The final piece was Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Suite. One does not fully realize how glorious the music IS when watching the ballet; due to the distraction of the dancers The White Swan’s Pas de deux with harp, violin and cello was charming, the ethnic dances were like a travelogue. The waltz finale was grand, expansive and the aerialist added just the right touch. On the way out audience members were heard remarking that this year’s NAO is really, really good. Their final concert is next Thursday, Aug. 13th.
* Note to the cellphone video-er: Courtesy- not scofflaw behavior & arrogance should be practiced not only at a concert but anywhere one is out in public! It’s the Canadian way!