“Russian celebrations”, a superlative HPO evening 1

Review by Danny Gaisin

Once upon a time, there was a thing called a record player. Round vinyl platters could be stacked up, and thus preferent music choices could be enjoyed. The HPO’s director Gemma New somehow was able to select four of this scribe’s favourites. So, if a reader gleans a little bias in the following…please forgive me.
A capriccio is defined as a whimsical or prankish work. Methinks Rimsky-Korsakov interpreted the meaning to emphasize the lighthearted aspect rather than a joke idiom because the work is a pure joy – both to perform and to hear. The H.P.O. gave all its five sections a distinct image

   Chalifour & New performing Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto

and even the first ‘alborada’ dance theme’s reiteration in the third motif was distinctive and melodically stand-alone rather than just a variation. The final melody always touches those of us of a certain seniority as it epitomizes of the old ballroom fandango. The melodic pizzicatos and the work’s requisite thematic progressions were performed somewhat tentatively and some especially delicate harp by renowned Erica Goodman. A slight but noticeable technical slip just added a measure of humanness to what was a rousing and glorious rendering.
Guest soloist
Martin Chalifour has a musical CV. That astounds. He’s performed under most of the celebrated podia and with a repertoire of over fifty works; he also possesses an amazing memory. Performing the Tchaikovsky violin concerto; the man’s virtuosity; sensitivity and most important – flexibility of interpretation gave this reading something so special as to cause this scribe to actually applaud at the end of the first movement. Famous not only for its incredible difficulty to perform, but even for the orchestra & conductor, all three segments had no problem with the major and minor key changes that underscore the movements. The demands of a longish solo riff that if not executed faultlessly, can screw up the entire impression, were totally aced. New conferred emphasis on the moderato aspect of the opening allegro, while Chalifour demonstrated a touch that is both deliberate and detailed. His high quality instrument deserves no less than such a clarity & expression. He and the HPO defined rather than just interpreting the piece. This was a pure delight to hear and witness.
Post-interval, Borodin’s Polovetsian Dances. This 1890 opus was left unfinished by the untimely death of the composer. It was surely ‘Kismet’ that Rimsky-Korsakov had the same attitude and sympathetic style as to seamlessly complete the work. This piece affords a stage for effective metronomic percussion and superior demands on the strings; bowed & plucked.
The final offering was Stravinsky’s ballet ‘The Firebird”.
The suite is background for the convoluted, but happy-ending dance tale. Spoiler alert: – If one remembers Disney’s DUMBO, that person may recall ‘Timothy‘ the mouse, convincing said baby elephant that holding a crow’s feather would enable him to fly…the concept was stolen for ‘Firebird”! As an orchestral showcase, the work allows for technical and cohesive synchronization. The 17th bar with its crashing percussion is only one such solo opportunity ; the harp intro of the birdie theme yet another. All told this is one joyous melodic piece and New’s HPO aced it.
As icing, we were fortunate to have four attractive young ladies as seatmates, all of whom are instrumental students. Then a couple of seniors, both widowed and out on a date. I can’t think of a better choice for an evening out than Angelo & Rebekah’s decision than dining and a concert. Definitely,
our kind of people!

One comment

  1. Thanks Danny for mentioning my name. However, the sentence that follows mentions a musical error and reads in such a way as to infer that the mistake was mine. I just want to clarify that it actually happened elsewhere in the orchestra.

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