Review by Ailine Hess
The Hamilton Philharmonic closed its season last evening, April 16, 2016, with an audience pleasing finale of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony in f minor. The concert was conducted by Eric Paetkau, a guest for the evening. Maestro Paetkau is regularly the Music Director of the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra and is the Founder and Music Director of group of 27, a Toronto ensemble. He has wide experience in leading Canadian ensembles and his musical strengths were amply exhibited in last night’s concert.
The programme opened with a performance of Elgar’s 1892 Serenade for Strings in e minor.
The core string section was enlarged for the Tchaikovsky and it was this enhanced string section that performed the Elgar. It is usually played by a chamber group and the intimacy that’s created by a smaller group was lost but the sound was rich and romantic, suiting the Serenade. It’s a three movement work. The first movement, Allegro piacevole, opens with a rhythmic motif leading to a sweeping melodic material that was warm and rich with effective dynamic contrasts. The slow movement, Larghetto, gave the individual sections of second violins, violas, and first violins a chance to play the lush melodies with a lovely quality. The pastoral third movement, Moderato e maestoso, closed the work with the rhythmic motif of the first movement and again beautiful melodic material.
The second work on the programme was the World Premiere of a Trumpet Concerto. The concerto was composed by Composer in Residence, Abigail Richardson-Schulte in a co-commission of the H.P.O. and group of 27. The work is in three movements but they were not listed in the programme. The trumpet soloist was Michael Fedyshyn, principal trumpet of the H.P.O. The Composer in Residence position allows for continual composition of new music for the ensemble and wonderful opportunities for the composer and performer as soloist and member of the orchestra. Fedyshyn played with great skill both melodically and technically. Each of the three movements highlighted a different member of the trumpet family. The trumpet in C played the first movement, the flugelhorn the second, and the trumpet in C and cornet the third. Each has its own timbre with the flugelhorn having the roundest sound. This work highlighted timbre in many different ways from the ponticello (playing near the bridge) of the strings to the mallet percussion instruments. Chimes, xylophone and orchestra bells were alternated effectively and often played with the harp creating very interesting sounds
Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony in f minor composed in 1878 closed the programme and the regular season. The first movement opens with the brass section in what would be a fanfare if it were in a major key. The minor key gives it a feeling of gloom which is pervasive in the first two movements. The first movement was highlighted with beautiful solo playing by principal clarinet and bassoon. A five-note descending pattern was played through the woodwind family giving an unsettling feeling. This motif returns later in the symphony, sometimes more than five notes, and in its last presentation is ascending. Tchaikovsky writes of this symphony, “Deeper and deeper the soul is sunk in dreams. The third movement, Scherzo, breaks this feeling with the opening pizzicato section. This part is pure fun but difficult for the strings who performed with zest. The last movement, Allegro con fuoco, is a crowd pleaser’s dream. It allows everyone to play technically yet with abandon. However, for this critic, I prefer almost any other symphonic work. The opening of the symphony with the brass section is repeated in this movement and is perhaps the best moment of the movement. It was a strong closing for a successful season.