Oakville Symphony and pianist Mehdi Ghazi delight the audience in the inaugural concert for a new Steinway Grand
Pianist Mehdi Ghazi, Maestro Roberto De Clara and Oakville Symphony
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I had been looking forward to yesterday’s concert at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts for some time. Not only has the Oakville Symphony been in the midst of its 50th Anniversary Season in 2017-18, but Mehdi Ghazi, a young Canadian artist with a very special and unique background would be on the program performing on the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts' brand new Steinway D piano.
The concert opened with a well produced film of the story of the piano’s fabrication and selection. A team of musicians and orchestra personnel went to New York to the Steinway factory to make the selection, led by President and Co-chair Anna Hewitt, Co-chair Rob Whittaker and Canadian pianist Dr. Penny Johnson.
Yesterday’s program was entitled Vienna- City of Music. It may well have been entitled the Music of Immigrants. Besides Ghazi, the program featured the music of Mozart, Beethoven and Brahms, each of whom immigrated to Vienna and made it their home in adult life.
Maestro Roberto De Clara opened the program with Mozart’s Overture to the Marriage of Figaro, K.492. He knew just how to give this light-hearted overture the energy it needs. He had the orchestra playing with elegance, something not easy to do with such a large group. The sound was well-contained in Mozartian style.
The highlight of the program for me came next. Guest soloist Mehdi Ghazi made the new Steinway sing with a beautiful clear tone in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 15. Ghazi's articulation and melodic lines rang through the orchestra with breathtaking beauty. Both Ghazi and the Steinway lived up to expectations. Rarely is the balance between orchestra and soloist so deftly managed.
Ghazi, an Algerian born pianist began playing the piano at the age of ten. According to a Globe and Mail article dated March 26, 2011, “a civil war between Algerian government forces and Islamic rebels had shut the local music conservatory. Amid the tension and curfews, there was little room for the joys of music.”
According to the same article, Ghazi was discovered by Quebec pianist Alain LeFѐvre when Ghazi was only sixteen years of age. He was practising in his family's modest apartment on a creaky upright with missing keys that his father, a university professor, had bought after borrowing the equivalent of $300.
Since coming to Canada at aged 16 Ghazi has demonstrated many times over an uncommon talent and a work ethic second to none. He is currently completing his doctoral studies at University of Montreal. Yesterday’s performance was that of a mature artist. At age 28, he is ready for whatever musical challenges he creates for himself. Canada is the lucky beneficiary of Ghaza’s immigrant experience.
In the second half of the concert, De Clara led the orchestra in a stirring performance of Brahms’ Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 68. De Clara’s approach to the score brought out both the drama of the first movement and the sublime lyricism of the second. Each of the principal players in the orchestra had significant solos. Particularly impressive were Principal Oboist Nancy Nelson in her haunting solos in the second movement and Principal French Horn, Heath Allen in the uplifting finale. His alpine-like melody rang out as if from a mountain-top. It was in this triumphant fourth and finale movement that the orchestra was at its finest. The tutti sections filled the hall with Brahms’ inspiring magic.
De Clara has a rare gift for getting the most out of the Oakville Orchestra. With members ranging from seasoned professionals to long-time amateurs and young student artists, De Clara has found ways to create programs that challenge the performers while delighting the audience. The Oakville Symphony is clearly a model for community orchestras in Ontario.
Yesterday’s performance was recorded and may be heard on Cogeco’s VOD (video on demand) and Channel 700 on Cogeco. The Oakville Symphony will be performing at the Oakville Centre for Performing Arts on April 7 and 8 in a program entitled Musical Tales with guest Canadian soprano, Vanessa Lanch. For information about upcoming performances go to: www.oakvillesymphony.com
Pianist Mehdi Ghazi
Review by David Richards
Toronto ON February 5th 2018