The audience at Roy Thomson Hall was given a special treat last night. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra performed a magnificent program of Beethoven and Stravinsky. Guest Conductor Robert Trevino led the orchestra in one of the most challenging works of the entire repertoire in Stravinsky’s Petrushka (1947) while violinist Karen Gomyo mesmerized the sold-out house with a breathtaking performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61.


To begin the program, the orchestra paid tribute to Canada’s 150th celebration with a two-minute composition by Canadian composer Cheryl Cooney. The work, entitled Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to (a) new era? was co-commissioned by the TSO and the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra. It is a clever and humourous fugue which becomes a paladrome by making an about face at the halfway mark and continuing backward to the end in the same way as the title itself is a paladrome. The deliberate rhythm, oblique musical references and interesting brass and percussive punctuation made for an interesting celebratory fanfare.

Next came the violin concerto. Karen Gomyo is becoming very familiar to Toronto audiences. She was last here one year ago with her piano trio at Koerner Hall. Last night was a welcome return with the TSO. She did not disappoint. The singing tone of her Stradivarius soared over the orchestra. There was an elegance to her ornamentation and an ease to her virtuosity in the jaw-dropping cadenza of the first movement. Her sparkling intonation and control of the highest notes on the E- string were sublime. In turn, she inspired the best in the TSO. The hushed tones of the muted strings in the second movement had a warmth that added to the pathos of the achingly beautiful melodic line. The third movement emerged from the shadows of the second with a joyful rondo - a brilliant showcase for the soloist’s virtuosity. The performance was simply devine!

Gomyo is no stranger to Canada. She moved to Montréal from Tokyo at the age of two and lived in Montreal until she was eleven years of age. Gomyo began violin with the Suzuki method, making her first public appearance at the age of five. At nine, she was a winner in the Canadian Music Competition in Ottawa. When Dorothy Delay gave a master class for Suzuki instructors in Chicago, Gomyo's teacher submitted her name and Karen was among several young violinists selected to perform. In this way, she entered the radar of the famed pedagogue which led to Gomyo's joining Delay's violin class at The Juilliard School. Gomyo then moved to New York (1993), and studied there until 2001, first in the Pre-College division (where she was concert master of the student orchestra while already an active soloist), and then at the college level. In 1997, she auditioned for Young Concert Artists International and became at 15, the youngest performer to be presented in their concert series. At age 35, she is in the prime of a major international career performing with major orchestras in all parts of the world while balancing orchestral work with solo recitals and chamber music performances.

Guest Conductor Robert Trevino and violinist Karen Gomyo sensational with the TSO!

Guest Conductor Robert Trevino;

Photo credit: Jag Gundu

Karen Gomyo, Robert Trevino and the TSO;

Photo credit: Jag Gundu

Review by David Richards
Toronto ON April 2 2017

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Stravinsky’s Petrushka was a real test for guest conductor Robert Trevino as well as the soloists in every section of the orchestra. Trevino introduced the work by explaining the story of the ballet. He was just as at ease at the microphone as he was with the challenging rhythmic complexities of the music to follow. Trevino led the orchestra through a gripping, edge of your seat performance. There were outstanding solos throughout for trumpet, piano, English horn, bassoon, tuba, flute, clarinet and violin and percussion. The music of Stravinsky jumped off the page telling the tragic Russian tale of the puppet with the energy of a dramatic explosion. Both Trevino and the orchestra were brilliant!

Trevino is a dynamic young American conductor who at the age of 34 is as comfortable conducting opera as he is on the symphonic podium. His recent appointment to Music Director of the Basque Symphony Orchestra may keep him from consideration for the TSO position in 2018, but in last night’s performance, there was the kind of chemistry with both orchestra and audience that will be essential for the next Music Director of the orchestra.

The Toronto Symphony Orchestra with violinist Karen Gomyo and guest conductor Robert Trevino will perform today, Sunday April 2nd 2017 at 3:00pm at George Weston Recital Hall. ​