Saturday, November 19, 2016

TSO: Thursday, November 3 2016

Roy Thomson Hall with CN Tower 
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra shared another lovely afternoon with me and John. What an interesting concert!

Conductor James Gaffigan is considered by many to be the most outstanding young American composer working today. Having heard him conduct these fascinating pieces from the 1920s, it was obvious why.

The first piece, La creation du monde, Op. 81, was composed by Darius Milhaud in 1923 for the Swedish Ballet. It has as its theme, African myths around the creation of life. Milhaud adopted the same orchestra as used in Harlem by jazz musicians: seventeen solo instruments. In the music, there is the feel of jazz, but in a classical setting. This gives the piece a modern sound, and must have been appropriate for the ballet.

The second piece, Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op 26, by Sergei Prokofiev, was composed in 1921. This is an intricate work, highly complex, modern in idiom, but acceptable to the layperson's ear. It is the most popular of Prokofiev's concertos. Canadian pianist, Jon Kimura Parker, was the soloist. He is an accomplished performer, and did not disappoint. What a musical treat it was, to hear him play this concerto! He was given a much-deserved standing ovation.

The third work was by Dmitri Shostakovich: Symphony No. 1 in F minor, Op 10. Composed in 1924-25, it begins in a light mood, but the last two movements are much darker. This darkness is softened by expressive solos from different instruments. Apparently Shostakovich was in a depressed state of mind when he wrote the final two movements. The final effect was to achieve a balance between all four movements. This piece, too, received a standing ovation.

The concert program was deliberately chosen from music composed in the 1920s. At that time, this music was considered outrageous, and avant garde. Now, almost one hundred years later, it sounds wonderfully modern and fascinating. The audience was privileged to hear this music played by an orchestra of the international standard of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, and led by a conductor who encouraged it to play its best. The conductor is vital to a good performance by any orchestra, even one of the high standard of the TSO. The musicians of the orchestra must have enjoyed playing as much as the audience enjoyed listening to them.

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