Toronto Symphony Orchestra…under Gemma New! Reply

Review by Danny Gaisin

The Enterprise has its ‘Trekkies’; Jimmy Buffett has his ‘Parrotheads’; Taylor followers are ‘Swifties’ and Grateful Dead are the deadheads! Now is perhaps the time for fans of the HPO’s Gemma New to have a groupie nickname. A substantial number of Hamiltonians; including a full highway cruiser busload of enthusiasts made the QEW trip to Roy Thomson Hall to listen and applaud Ms. New’s first time at the podium of the TSO.
Toronto considers itself a World-class city and naturally, its eponymous musical assemblage should be world-class too. It definitely IS.
Under Sir Andrew Davis, and his predecessor Peter Oundjian , its stature and recording accomplishments rank with the best.

Gemma New at the podium

Review by Danny Gaisin
Ms. New opened her concert with Richardson-Schulte’s “GO”, a paean
not to the Metrolink system but rather to the emotions felt by an Olympian at the start of a footrace. The anticipation, heartbeat; countdown and starting gun are all represented musically in the brief but effective and impacting composition.
Mozart’s Concerto in C Major for flute, harp and orchestra has special meaning for this scribe. B.T. (before Terry) Ronnie was the most important girl in my life. We were like siblings but without the rivalries. Whenever she had a day, evening or date that was unpleasant; we’d sit in my living room and listen to a special LP or 78rpm recording of classical music. This was one of those special few’s. The three movement work was performed by a reduced TSO (25 musicians) with two of the orchestra’s principals as soloists. Flautist Kelly Zimba and Heidi Van Hoesen Gorton – harp, are superb musicians and their renderings of each of the three movements were of such respect, faultless technique and tenderness as to have deserved record for CD collectors. Every note was cherished and was especially notable during the end of the opening allegro where the soloists performed sans orchestral counterpoint or background.
The andantino 2
nd movement was (and is) is a personal favorite and the TSO rendering actually raised the neck hackles and arm hairs leading to a teary-eyed emotional response. The movement was not just performed…its was adoring and idealized. The familiar finale rondo was treated with kindness and a full range of musical emotion.
Post interval, the full symphony orchestra presented Shostakovich’s 5
th symphony. Like another 20th century dictator, Stalin thought he was an artistic and cultural maven, so creativity was slanted towards NOT offending the czar. The work reflects such limitations in that similar to the so-called Worker’s posters, and even the USSR’s flag depicts another definition of Utopia. The imagery is Dostoevsky-ish and somewhat bleak evocative of the Steppes and maybe even subtly the Gulags. New’s reading was understated, yet she gave emphasis to the plucked harp-notes that were overly elongated. The result was very effective. Then, the militaristic tattoo – triumphal and with Shostakovich’s almost endorsement of the “Internationale”. This work affords solo opportunities especially for the concertmaster, pizzicato riffs and especially the bassoon cadenza melodic reprieve.

The TSO and its musicians seemed comfortable with both New’s podium style and interpretations; a compliment to both their professionalism, especially to her innate manner of management without adversarial attitude. Small wonder that our own HPO members and Hamilton subscribers are so enthralled with her. Madame, you are a true credit to ‘The Hammer’.

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