Review by Sylvie Di Leonardo
While many musicians may find themselves rehearsing The Nutcracker this season, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra found themselves performing other works by Tchaikovsky earlier this week at Roy Thompson Hall. While only one of the pieces performed was intended to debut in the theatre, this evening’s program was as drama-filled as the Russian composer’s life.
There exists no formal record of the chronology of the piece, the Overture for Hamlet conjures images of love and loss. One cannot help but recall the sweet melancholy of Ophelia when listening to oboist Keith Atkinson.
The T.S.O. members in a formal photograph
Opening the program with this piece set the tone for an evening that, while devoid of script, would showcase some of Tchaikovsky’s most theatrical pieces.
The piano concerto, often heralded as one of the composer’s most complicated and imaginative, was executed with great passion and virtuosity by pianist Lukas Geniusas, who made his Toronto debut during the second piece. The highlight of Geniusas’ talent was his seamless transition from the bold, break-neck allegro to the second movement. Supported by operatic demeanor of the woodwinds, this piece was all at once uplifting and unsettling. After three standing ovations, Geniusas treated us to a solo encore to steady our heartbeats prior to intermission.
During the fifth symphony, we were haunted by the looming brass fanfare from Tchaikovsky’s fourth. This symphony is the ultimate in cathartic fifth symphonies (Sorry, Beethoven)—the end of the second and arguably most recognizable movement continuously begs the question of victory or defeat at every turn. As the trombones and bassoons struggle for dominance over the strings and woodwinds, one cannot help but wonder which way it will turn. The waltz is more conversational, though, and it distinctly thematically links the second movement with the fourth movement—which, while light on percussion, remains percussive and resolute as thunder at the end of a storm.