Monday, November 30, 2009

Beethoven and Wagner in one evening

I'm playing catch up a bit here. I have no good reason to have not blogged earlier, except that I didn't get around to it. On Friday night, Andrew and I went to our regular Friday Night Master's concert at the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. It's the first one in a while. For some reason there was no concert for the Master's series in October, so it felt like we hadn't been to the Winspear in eons. We made a nice evening of it, stopping at the Blue Plate Diner for dinner before heading to the show (it's conveniently located on route). I finally tried the veggie burger (good, but definitely not trying to pretend to be meat, which some veggie burgers do) and Andrew had the Indian platter (which was actually an appetizer, but offered ample food for a meal).

We arrived at the Winspear with plenty of time to spare and took our seats early, as we're dead centre and wanted to avoid having to crawl over too many people. We had lots of time to read over the program, which contained a number of intriguing facts about the guest conductor and preformer for the evening, as well as the pieces on the program. For example, the guest conductor, Mr. Eri Klas was once a junior lightweight boxing champion in his native Estonia. You don't find too many conductors who have that kind of experience on their resume. Musically, Mr. Klas also holds a number of awards, posts with orchestras and operas throughout Europe, and an honourary doctorate. It's not surprising that the orchestra sounded good Friday night. Katherine Chi was the guest pianist. It floors me the age that some professional musicians held their first recitals. Ms. Chi? She was nine. At nine I was maybe playing The Happy Farmer. At present she's working on her doctorate at the New England Conservatory of Music.

So, the music. During the first half of the concert the ESO presented Beethoven's Concerto No. 5 in E-flat Major, Op. 73, also known as the Emperor's Concerto. I think it's a fairly well known piece and if I could hum a few bars you might recognize it. It's the third movement that's best known, I think. I've definitely heard it on the CBC before. Mr. Chi was excellent, as to be expected. It also astounds me that soloists can lock such extensive pieces of work into their memory like that. Almost forty minutes of playing all by memory. I can't even manage a simple 3 to 4 minute song. The audience clapped for sometime after the piece concluded (although no standing ovation).

The second half of the show brought an orchestrated version of Wagner's Die Meistersigner von Nurnberg. Apparently this was Wagner's only opera that he did not base on myth or fairy tale. The orchestra grew significantly in size for this piece (Beethoven included only a small section of woodwinds, maybe a trumpet, I don't recall). For Wagner, it was close to full complement including 3 trumpets, several trombones, 2 tubas (although played by the same person), as well as a harp and a large percussion section. I liked the orchestration of Meistersinger von Nurnberg. I found it very flowing and relaxing at times, then exciting and lively at others. Again, the audience seemed appreciative of the orchestra and Mr. Klas. This was the first time the ESO preformed the arrangement.

Our next trip to the ESO won't be until January, but I expect it will be quite the show. Beethoven again, with his ninth symphony, Ode to Joy.



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