Review by Danny Gaisin
Gemma New’s Hamilton Philharmonic is of such a critical plateau that even if she’s away from the podium; the musicians are still an “A-Team”. Last night, her conducting mentor, the renowned Quebec native Jacques Lacombe, directed an exhilarating reading of Gluck’s ‘Dance of the Furies’ from Act II of “Orphée et Eurydice” (pronounced Yur rid a sea). In the opera; the dance backgrounds Orpheus & his lyre being hindered in going down to Hades to reclaim his dead wife! The music also appears in the composer’s “Don Juan” opera. This rendering was highly evocative and intense and set the bar at an apogee level for the evening.
The first half’s major work -Beethoven’s magnificent piano concerto #4. The guest soloist was the celebrated Andre Laplante , (also from Quebec) whose interpretations of Maurice Ravel have gleaned critical acclaim. For this scribe, the challenge in listening to the No. 4 was not to hum along, and [b] jot down my notes instead of just listening – enthralled. Soloist, maestro and the HPO musicians displayed sensitivity and power that was balanced with alternating cadenzas of tenderness. There are themes that repeat but each iteration was novel , creative and fresh. The 2nd movement was more andante than ‘con moto’ with Laplante almost caressing each note with emphasis. The performance segued without pause between 2nd & the finale rondo; perhaps because of the elongated applause that erupted after the longish allegro opening movement.
Post-interval, an unfamiliar yet intriguing piece by yet another Quebec er, contemporary composer Jacques Hétu. Entitled ‘Antinomie’. A word definition might be a paradoxical negation of concepts and Hétu’s piece is certainly that. Not for everyone and those seated near us mentioned not running out to their local record store.
Then, Mozart’s Symphony no. 41. Popularly called ‘The Jupiter’ …Holst’s – it ain’t. From the opening allegro the HPO performance was dynamic and played with enthusiasm by the musicians. Consistent concertgoers usually can sense the level of convergence between musicians and podium, (and unfortunately the occasional almost adversarial relationship). But it was pure cohesiveness in interpreting this composition. The 2nd movement was a definitive andante cantabile mirroring Tchaikovsky’s stereotypical work that is the standard benchmark or epitome. The tempo-changing within the 3rd were smooth and flowing while the finale, like the entire work was technically faultless and emotionally spellbinding.
Both conductor and soloist as well as composer Hétu are Order of Canada recipients. It’s a matter of pride to see arts and culture so rewarded; not just sports figures or TV Sit-Com stars! Next Sunday, (Oct. 2 8th, 2pm help celebrate Halloween with a special H.P.O. concert under Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser at Mohawk’s McIntyre Hall…kids &costumes are especially welcome.