Stellar strings make for an enchanted evening.
The Sinfonia Toronto. (Submitted Photo)
Hi-Way Pentecostal Church filled to capacity the night of April 9 with an audience eager to hear Sinfonia Toronto and solo violinist Brian Lewis.
The “all string” program was being offered as part of the Barrie Concert Association concert series. Both Sinfonia Toronto, an ensemble of 13 virtuosic string players conducted by Nurhan Arman, and Brian Lewis, have performed in Barrie before, so anticipation of an exceptional evening was high. The audience was not to be disappointed.
Maestro Arman is a world renowned conductor who has thrilled audiences throughout Europe, in Asia, Central America, Canada and the United States. Under his baton, Sinfonia Toronto has taken brilliant Canadian talent on tour to the world. Lewis, a tenured chair at University of Texas and an Artistic Director at Juilliard, also performs internationally to critical acclaim. The combination of these wonderful artists with a program of great compositions made for a truly stellar performance.
First on the program was Theme and Variations by Russian composer, Alexander Glazunov. Sinfonia Toronto performed standing up, the women in jewel toned evening gowns, the men in concert black.
The hymn-like strains of the theme morphed with each variation to become whimsical, dance-like, adventuresome in turn. Next was the forward-looking Grosse Fugue by Beethoven. The dramatic opening, punctuated by perfectly synchronized moments of silence, quickly unfolded into jagged rhythms, seemingly at odds, in a kind of controlled chaos.
The movement slowed, became more sinuous, before building again to an agitated climax. Music of Mozart came next, with Lewis joining Sinfonia Toronto on the stage. Rondo for Violin and Orchestra K 269 brought a sense of lightness and wit after the edginess of the Grosse Fugue, created a charming conversation between the solo violin and the string chorus.
After intermission, the program became even more exciting with a performance of Elements for Solo Violin and Orchestra by contemporary composer, Michael McLean. In the movement Earth, the orchestra created a rich landscape of sound over which the solo violin could eloquently soliloquize.
The exquisite fade into nothingness at the end was one of the most mesmerizing moments in the concert.
Fire was fast and furious, evocative of the roaring and crackling of flames. The long, ethereal sounds of Air reminded this listener of the wayward shimmers of a wind chime, while the final movement, Water, frothed and bubbled with the clarity of a lively stream. The artistry of the performers was nowhere more evident than in how powerfully the evocation of the elements was communicated.
A long standing ovation solicited the addition of a piece called Hot Canary. Charming, humourous, and very impressive, the piece allowed the audience to wrap up a wonderful evening with a delighted laugh.
Sandra Ruttan is musician and music teacher