Monday, March 29, 2010

The most fun ballet title to say ever: Petroushka!

This past Friday brought with it another Master's Series concert with the ESO, and therefore another delightful night of music. Otherwise, it was a pretty ordinary night. We ate dinner at home and walked down the Winspear, with just enough time to hand in our subscription renewal for next year before taking our seats. Since I'll be returning to full time work in May, we ordered several other sets of tickets as well, which I mentioned in my last ESO concert post. When it comes time to leave Edmonton, I hope we will find ourselves in a city with another good symphony orchestra as I very much enjoy our regular attendance of live classical music. I think it good chance we'll be able to meet this condition where ever we go next, as KW, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal are on the top of the list.

Friday's featured musician was a classical guitarist by the name of Manuel Barrueco, who according to the program is "recognized internationally as one of the must important guitarists of our time." Sadly, I can't say I'd heard of this fellow before, although there's a good chance I've probably heard him in a recording on the CBC. There's no denying that Mr. Barrueco is a gifted musician...but let me get to that in a moment.

The first selection of the evening was Ancient Airs and Dances, Suite No. 2 by Respighi. Almost the full orchestra participated the Ancient Airs and Dances, including 4 hands at the harpsichord, with the occasional spell off of one of the musicians to the celesta (featured prominently in the last performance). This was quite an interesting piece in that, although premiered in 1924, the first movement was written in a baroque-style with lots of short, pizzicato notes; however, by the time the fourth came around, the rhythms were syncopated and the playing more legato. Interestingly, Andrew preferred the first movement, while I enjoyed the fourth the best. Overall, it was a delightful selection and my knee was bouncing throughout to the light, dancing music.

Once the Respighi was complete, most of the orchestra left the stage, leaving a small selection of strings and the harpsichord. Vivaldi's Guitar Concerto in D Major, RV 93, originally began as a piece of chamber music, hence why the small ensemble. Mr. Barrueco, joined the ESO for this selection, and as I noted above, was simply wonderful. The second movement is perhaps the best known of this Concerto, and I certainly recognized it within a few bars. The Concerto was a lovely piece and over far too quickly (it's only 11 minutes in length). After much applause from the audience, a scene change was made to add more orchestra members for the final piece of the first half, Folias by Roberto Sierra, a present day composer. Actually, Folias, was written for Mr. Barrueco and was only premiered in 2002. To be honest, I liked the Latin flavour of the guitar part, but I didn't much care for the underlying orchestration. I felt at times like the composer wasn't too sure what kind of sound he was trying to create with the orchestra and I thought it detracted from the music. Regardless I still appreciated and enjoyed the playing of Mr. Barrueco.

The second half of concert was taken up by a performance of Petroushka by Stravinsky. Again, a huge orchestra was required for this work, including 2 tubas, several trombones, a bass bassoon (at least that it was I'm assuming it was), a piccolo and a small army of percussionists. I was rather excited to see Petroushka on the program as I have a copy of it on CD (I think it may have actually been one of my first classical music CDs). This ballet is full of sound bursting from the orchestra. It's bright and exciting, and Bill (as Andrew and I like to refer to conductor William Eddins--as if we knew him) was all over the conductor's stand coaxing the orchestra through the dance. At the end he leaned back against the rail of the stand as if exhausted. We learned later that this was his first time conducting Petroushka. I would love to see the ballet if the chance arose. I saw Firebirds several years ago performed by the National Ballet and recall the costuming was full of colour. I imagine that Petroushka would be much the same.

All in all, another wonderful night at the ESO. Our next outing isn't until May, after our trip.



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