Review by Danny Gaisin
It’s autumn. School’s back and so are the musicians & conductor of the Hamilton Philharmonic. The opening concert was eclectic in selections… brief old standards, a premiere composition and an orchestral interpretation of a dramatic ballet. Interestingly, the connection between two pieces is esoteric and somewhat convoluted, unless one is familiar with ancient Greek fables.
The opening work was Dvořák’s ‘Carnival Overture’. One of a triptych, this work is well-known and two seems the only one of the three to be performed. Maestra Gemma New gave the piece a forceful yet touching rendering that offered the clarinets and violins the opportunity to demonstrate the familiar syncopation that is a hallmark of the work. It was an exuberant welcome back.
The major pre-interval work was a new commissioned composition by Abigail Richardson-Schulte. Based on the ubiquitous tale of a mermaid and a fisherman, the story has endured countless interpretations including the always re-seeable ‘SPLASH’ with Tom Hanks & Bo Derek. This HPO rendition is titled (naturally) “The Mermaid and The Fisherman”. Technically, an Olympic-sized pool of effort went into the work. The vocal challenges, and lyrics by Phoebe Tsang reflect intense labour and creativity. But, it also seems as though both were trying too hard. The solo-ing by principal trumpet Michael Fedyshyn whose horn represents the fisherman is so repetitious as to become tedious. Technically, he’s faultless with a range and tone the equal of those men who led me to pick up a B flat horn back in the fifties (Parker; Gillespie; Davis; Spanier James; Ferguson &’Bix’). The ‘Moira’ character was sung by soprano Stacie Dunlop and the lady is an amazing vocal talent. Her diction, projection and vocal cords made her a perfect fit for the job. Unfortunately, all this scribe came away with was a ’Fishing for Dummies’ or a ‘How to prepare Salmon’ beginner’s course. Alas, those seated near us all agreed with our impression.
After intermission, an aural and visual experience. Claude Debussy’s “Syrinx”. The name has two connotations; the first is a medical ailment of the spine; the alternative reference is to the mythical lady desired by Pan in a certain ancient Greek tale … see below.
The music is usually performed on solo flute separate from the orchestra and Gemma New had her principal flautist Leslie Newman spotlighted in a loge section overlooking stage left. Immaculately done and at 3 or so minutes, way too short. Then the tone poem ‘LUONNOTER’ by Sibelius which is a Finnish alternative earth creation that definitely ain’t Genesis. Coupled with projections of lakes, river and birds, and a Finnish narrative again sung by Dunlop, this was a multi-sensory event.
The major and eponymous part of the whole evening, Maurice Ravel’s ballet music to ‘Daphnis et Chloé’. The suite portrays the love affair of these two whose relationship is affected by Pan and indirectly by the aforementioned ‘Syrinx’; hence, the connection.
This suite is is three motifs and fortunately no breaks for philistine audiences who should know better, to applaud. The work was performed in a more dynamic interpretation than usual and was exhilarating. The elaborate crescendos illustrated the superior technical and emotional heights to which New’s HPO musicians can rise. Maybe not WORLD-Class, but definitely NATIONAL-Class and methinks it’s time the organization should start recording stuff for us aficionados to buy and keep.
Next concert is Oct. 19th with works by Mozart & Mendelssohn.