Review by Danny Gaisin
The Oakville Chamber Orchestra is starting it’s 35th year; concertmaster Aleksandar Gajic begins his 2nd decade with the ensemble, and maestro Charles Demuynck has held the podium almost forever. Like every forward-thinking musical organization, looking ahead means nurturing the musicians that will follow and the O.C.O. has always made such actions its mandate.
The Queen Elizabeth Park Cultural Centre does suffer from poor acoustics and the Yamaha may be a little tinny but the talents of four young (as in 2 x age14 & 2 x19 year olds) made such problems minuscule.
The afternoon started with J J Bui performing the Mozart Piano concerto no. 12’s allegro (opening) movement.
This young man started his musical education at age 5. Years later, one can notice his sophisticated light touch and technical maturity.. The allegro is thematically repetitious; almost a series of variations but Bui’s interpretation added creative pausing that contributed to the work’s drama. Only critical suggestion, tone down the Glenn Gould-style posturing.
Ukrainian born Mariya Orlenko chose two movements from Mozart’s piano concerto No. 20. This familiar work (a personal favourite) has a 2nd movement ‘romanze’ who arpeggio finale is a delightful ending but only if performed faultlessly. Orlenko aced it as she did with the rondo 3rd. It was this movement where she displayed an intuitive courage to incorporate her own interpretive phrasing. This was a tender and creatively dramatic reading. Her performance style portends a long and successful guest-soloist career.
The third soloist was Jerry Yuan a percussionist who performed the contemporary composer Ney Rosauro’s Concerto for Marimba & strings. This was an unknown (to this scribe) work but fascinating piece to both hear and witness performed. Both the instrument and performance style evoked the late Peter Appleyard with whom the muse and I were acquainted. Yuan demonstrated extreme concentration and the necessary focus & energy playing such an instrument requires. Slight in stature but a dynamo technically, he is a serious professional. Personally, he’s also a very humorous young man.
The final offering was by violinist Yu Kai Sun who performed the renowned meditation from Massenet’s opera ‘Thaïs’. This exquisite intermezzo occurs in Act II to cover a scene change where the monk confronts the eponymous heroine. With a subtle piano counterpoint before the full OCO accompanies the work, the audience received the full impact of Sun’s maturity and intensity. It was difficult not to quietly hum this recherche theme. Then, a diametrical 180 degree change of pace…Saint-Saëns composition for his friend Sarasate. This work is a staple of violin performers as its difficulties afford a showcase opportunity for virtuosity. Coupled with its vibrancy and numerous tempi changes,; certainly a high hurdle but Sun aced it.
Displaying very young talent is always a good thing, but there is another less acknowledged benefit. Performing in front of a critical audience instead of just family or classmates, lets the potential artist experience the harshness of the actual workplace and thus may help one decide between teaching, orchestral participation or the demands of a solo performing career. I couldn’t think of a more positive way of spending my Sunday than what I experienced today.