Music reviews of the finest concerts in Toronto:
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Saturday evening and once again yesterday afternoon, the Oakville Symphony proved to loyal, sold-out audiences that superb leadership and good training in a community orchestra can create totally satisfying musical experiences. Conductor Roberto De Clara provided the musicianship and inspiration, putting together a stellar program entitled Northern Reflections. It was made up of works from countries noted for their harsh winters: Russia, Denmark, Canada and Norway. Nevertheless, it was American pianist Christopher Goodpasture who stoked the fires on this bleak February weekend and sent the audience home buzzing over his electrifying performance.
The Oakville Symphony is made up of members of the Oakville community and includes several precocious students in the orchestra’s Young Artists Program. This core group is augmented by eleven professionals filling key roles. Their musicality and skill was evident in both solo and ensemble playing. Concertmaster Joseph Peleg, principal cellist Jose Shapero and principal oboist Nancy Nelson made especially wonderful contributions to the concert.
The first half of the concert comprised three works that each had an engaging energy under De Clara’s leadership. The Polonaise from the opera Eugene Onegin by Petr Ilych Tchaikovsky, a short well-known crowd pleaser, set the tone. Opening with a trumpet fanfare, the work joyously conveyed the idea of the dance and gave every section of the orchestra, its moment to shine.
Next came a work by a little known composer, Echoes of Ossian Overture by Niels Wilhelm Gade. Beginning quietly, using Celtic folk materials, it grew in intensity to a dramatic climax with considerable bite and wonderful orchestral colour using both tuba and harp to compliment the usual forces.
The third and most interesting work of the opening half was Jean Coulthard’s Canadian Fantasy. In recognition of the 150th year of confederation, De Clara chose to perform a work written by a woman and one which celebrates the arrival of Europeans on Canada’s shores. Music of the earliest French settlers was wrapped around the haunting melody of the Huron Carol. To this listener, the work was a reminder of past struggles and the need to look to a future of inclusiveness and oneness with all who make up our great country including those who come to share its riches.
Review by David Richards
Toronto ON February 6th 2017
Pianist Christopher Goodpasture
Pianist Christopher Goodpasture, Maestro Roberto De Clara and the Oakville Symphony
Pianist CHRISTOPHER GOODPASTURE thrills Oakville Symphony audience with Grieg’s Piano Concerto!
If the first half of the concert was about the orchestra, the second half was clearly a triumph for the American guest pianist Christopher Goodpasture. At age 27, Goodpasture has already set in motion a noteable career having already performed with great musicians in some of the finest halls of North America. Goodpasture took on the monumental Concerto for Piano in A minor by Edward Grieg. The truly virtuosic performance was characterized by a rare combination of strength, energy and sublime musical sensitivity. The blinding speed of Goodpasture's octave and arpeggio work was matched by a heavenly sense of the melodic line. The orchestra seemed to understand that this was a very special performance and rose to the challenge with its best work. The communication between soloist, orchestra and conductor was akin to that of a chamber ensemble.
The spontaneous standing ovations following both performances turned to profound silences as Goodpasture began his encores. On Saturday night it was a gentle Schuman Romance and on Sunday afternoon it was a tender Gershwin Prelude. Both were perfect denouements to wonderful performances.
Pianist Christopher Goodpasture
Maestro Roberto De Clara