Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Another romantic night at the ESP...I mean, ESO

Friday night was our second concert of the 2011-2012 Masters series. Again, we're really enjoying our new seats in the loges. We walked to the Winspear (as it was probably one of the last warm nights of the year) and then took our time getting up to our seats. Had we been sitting in our old, centre of the aisle seats, we would have had to crawl over many pairs of knees before getting to our spots. Now that we're in the loges we can arrive at almost anytime (as long as it's before the first piece begins, of course). This concert comprised of three pieces, two twenty-first century compositions (one by Malcom Forsyth, the second by Peter Meechan--who was visiting Edmonton and present at the concert that night) and Rachmaninoff for the second half.

I think Andrew and I both felt a bit so-so over the Forsyth--for which a part of me thinks I should feel bad about because this was his final composition before he died. It's not that it was bad, but it was just okay. A Ballad of Canada is a combined orchestra and choral work (the voices were provided by the Richard Eaton Singers) and was co-commissioned by the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra and the National Arts Centre Orchestra. This piece was broken down into five movements, which represented different geographical areas of Canada, or different historical time periods. It started off in the North with a tribute to the Northern Lights. There's a specific sort of sound that composers create when the depict the Lights, or stars, etc with lots of tremelo strings and it was the case for this piece as well. The second section, which I remember distinctly commemorated WWI with heavy drums and brass to simulate the feeling of being at war--it certainly was effective. After that much of the rest of the piece ran into each other, with many discordant bits from the orchestra, while the lyrics sung by the choir were based on a series of poems. As I said, the Ballad was all right, but it hasn't really stuck with me three or four days later.

The second piece, Apophenia, was inspired by the idea that you can listen to Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon, while watching the Wizard of Oz and the music will match the action. If you think from this preliminary description that the piece was probably a bit frenetic, you're right. It was frenetic in an interesting and exciting way. The piece was highly rhythmical, and featured Edmonton native Jens Lindemann on solo trumpet--rather on four solo trumpets. Yeah. It was pretty impressive, he had to switch trumpets between movements. As a string player I can only imagine the breath and embouchure control required to successfully play this piece. It was, as the program reads in several places 'fast and furious.' As I explained to one of my co-workers, I'm not sure I so much enjoyed this music, but more appreciated the skill required to play it. The range of tones produced by the trumpet, the complex rhythms and the speed were all pretty impressive. Before I move on, I must complement the drummer. He put on a phenomenal improvised drum solo during the third movement.

Finally, Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Opus 27. According to the program notes, Rachmaninoff's first symphony was a flop, so when the second symphony premiered he decided to conducted it himself. Whether that was the charm needed or not, it seems to have worked. The second symphony is beautiful--although massive, running more than fifty minutes long. Apparently after the premier Rachmaninoff made cuts to the manuscript, which were retained for a long time. At some point (I don't know when) orchestras began playing the whole work, which is what we heard on Friday. After the lively first movement, someone from the audience shouted out 'Play it again,' which garnered a dirty look from Bill, who already seemed fatigued from the work of conducting. When we reached the third movement of the symphony, I thought to myself, this music is the sound romance, pure and simple. Not tragic romance, not Romeo and Juliet, or Healthcliff and Catherine, but successful, happy romance like Elizabeth and Darcy, Jane and Edward, or Weasley and Buttercup. It's warm and soothing, a bit dreamy, and well...romantic.

We won't have another Masters concert until the new year. In the mean time I'll have to bide my time with a couple of upcoming Canadian singer-song writer concerts.



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