Some spectacular Tchaikovsky Saturday night
The overflowing parking lot at Hi-Way Pentecostal Church, and the vehicles lining the side street beyond, were indicators of the marvelous evening awaiting those attending the second performance of the Barrie Concert Series on Saturday night.
The promise of a night filled with the spectacular works of Tchaikovsky brought people out in droves and the anticipation was palpable.
The concert opened, not with a work by Tchaikovsky, but with a lovely symphonic poem titled Sea of Blossoms by Canadian composer, Kevin Lau.
Played by the Toronto Concert Orchestra, under the baton of the eminent conductor maestro Kerry Stratton, the piece is an exploration of contrasts, from the delicate opening, which featured flute and triangle, to the expansiveness of the full orchestra and the thunder of the bass drum.
The second piece gave the crowd the Tchaikovsky they had been waiting for. Symphony No. 4 in F Minor is a well-known, classical masterpiece.
Stratton delighted the audience by taking time to speak about each of the four movements, even asking the orchestra to introduce the themes of all but the last before launching into the performance proper.
The first movement opened with a loud and ominous declamation by the brass section. This represents fate and is alluded to through every movement of the work. After a musical journey with many twists and turns, tumbling descending passages, dancing melody over rhythmic timpani and quirky glissandos tossed to and fro, the first movement comes to an end with the reiteration of a final chilling statement in the brass.
The second movement introduced a mood of sadness and reminiscence. A beautiful oboe solo floats over pizzicato strings. More glissandos warble. The music flowed so compellingly that Stratton's hands stilled and he simply let the music happen. The third movement is one of rhythmic energy carried primarily by pizzicato strings whose sounds swell and diminish in wave-like intensity.
Again, Stratton, in tune with the music and the musicians, seemed hardly to lift his baton.
The fourth movement came as a surprise. A boom and a crash launched the orchestra into this gloriously noisy finale, filled with as many cymbal crashes as one could hope to find in a piece of music.
After intermission, Canadian pianist Lang Ning Liu, a graduate of Juilliard with a burgeoning international career, joined the orchestra to give a masterful performance of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No. 1 in B Flat Minor.
From the first crashing chords (juxtaposed with the famous opening theme in the brass) to passages of quiet lyricism and extroverted energy, Liu's playing was both expressive and fittingly spectacular.
The enthused crowd rose to their feet in appreciation of a truly inspirational evening.