With the rare instances of improperly-tuned instruments or ill-prepared musicians; for this classical musical addict every concert is a treat. Some, however, have that special amalgam of program selection; faultless techniques, and creative interpretations…last night’s Hamilton Philharmonic presentation was just such a combination. Chopin & Beethoven; pianist extraordinaire Janina Fialkowska, and guest conductor Bernard Gueller made for “An Enchanted Evening”.
The opening work was a short composition by Alberta native Robert Rival entitled “Spring”. This is a highly interpretive work that afforded concertmaster Stephen Sitarski a brief but moving solo motif opportunity.
Somehow, the piece vividly evoked memories of a young (and foolish) Danny Gaisin kayaking down New York’s Ausable River during the early melting snow run-off. The echoing through the chasm; the brief calmness where the river eddies and then the rush of the rapids all were inferred within the music.
Chopin’s glorious piano concerto No. 1 is a must-own piece of the classical repertoire. From its elongated orchestral introduction to the precise challenges that face the soloist, the work is an auditory and melodic delight. Maestra Fialkowska bestows a distinctiveness to every note. Her phrasing and accentuation give a unique and very personal interpretive reading to the piece. The incredibly delicate technique she displayed during the 2nd movement added an even greater warmth and emotion over most versions. The very familiar finale rondo movement was performed by both the soloist and the HPO musicians with composure and complete confidence. Even the usually philistine Hamilton audience refrained from its usual interruptive inter-movement applause. Kudos folks, but alas –short-lived.
The post-interval offering was Beethoven’s 4th symphony and the guest conductor put his own imprimatur on both the piece and the musicians themselves. This was an effervescent and dynamic approach. Conductor Gueller’s overall tempo during the opening adagio was more molto vivace than allegro but this was in no way detrimental – actually quite the opposite. The adagio 2nd was meticulous and quite precise. During the 3rd movement there are opportunities for the flute and brasses to be singled out… nary even a minute technical flaw could be discerned! The conductor’s arrangement was deliberate and demonstrated some creative temporal liberties that made me wish that the work had been taped. Gueller’s animated physical exhortations encouraged the strings to push their own technical envelopes for a highly dramatic allegro finale. This was certainly an O.A.R. ‘Top Ten’ contender event.
Newly appointed H.P.O. artistic director(ess) Gemma New was in the audience. Last night was an opportunity for her to witness the quality, potential & calibre of her newest orchestral challenge.
The next Hamilton Philharmonic concert is scheduled for Sat. October 17th with vocalist Ian Thomas. As this writer and muse will be returning from our Mediterranean cruise at the same time, we’ve (hopefully) enlisted Dr. Joan Heels to assess this event on our behalves. Her familiarity & support of the HPO as well as her musical background should make critiquing almost instinctive.