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Oakville Symphony turns a concert into a ‘friend-fest’!

Violinist Leslie Ashworth, Maestro Roberto DeClara

and Oakville Symphony Orchestra

It was with good reason that last night’s concert by the Oakville Symphony Orchestra at Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts was entitled Musical Friendship. Friendships of all kinds are to be celebrated, but when they are rooted in a deep love of music from early childhood and developed through to adulthood, they are very special indeed.

Violinist Leslie Ashworth returned to the stage with the Oakville Symphony Orchestra last night for the first of two concerts this weekend. She has been associated with the orchestra and its Music Director Roberto De Clara since her early teens. She performed Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto five years ago with them. Now in her final year of undergraduate studies at the Royal Conservatory’s Glenn Gould School, she is a mature artist and a budding superstar. Her career will no doubt be watched by all those in attendance at the concerts this weekend. She wowed the sold-out audience with her virtuosic playing and her deeply soulful musicianship.

It was fitting that De Clara programmed the concert to highlight the theme of friendship. The first half was given to Leslie Ashworth and Anton Dvořák’s Violin Concerto in A minor, Op. 53. Following intermission, the orchestra performed Johannes Brahms’s Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 73. The friendship of Dvořák and Brahms in many ways paralleled that of Ashworth and De Clara. It was Brahms who recognized the genius of Dvořák and gave him the funding, opportunities and introductions that set his career in high gear. DeClara has been a mentor to Ashworth since childhood providing performance opportunities such as last night’s concerto.

Ashworth took full advantage of the opportunity. She performed as an artist with insights into the Bohemian musical stylings and displayed skillful technique in the virtuosic arpeggios, double stops and delicate harmonics. She has a fluid bow arm that allows her to give full expression to the lyrical moments. She gets a beautifully warm tone from the lower registers of her 1696 Albani violin along with an intensity of sound in the dramatic moments. The work is a violinist’s tour de force. There was scarcely a moment in which she was not playing.

Ashworth is indeed a musical phenomenon. She is not only a violinist. She holds an A.R.C.T. diploma in piano, plays viola in chamber groups, is a composer, studies jazz and is most recently a published music reviewer. As impressive as she is musically, she has always been community minded. She founded and runs Suite Melody Care which encourages young, talented musicians to perform in local hospitals, long-term care facilities and retirement homes. For that she won the Governor Lieutenant Governor’s Community Service Youth Award. Who wouldn’t want to be friends with Leslie?

The orchestra, for its part demonstrated once again that it is one of the finest community orchestras in the country. Amateur musicians are bolstered by professional principals, OS Young Artists and guests where necessary.  Especially noticeable for me was the work of the winds. The horn, flute and oboe principals were outstanding. They each had moments of brilliance.

In the second half of the concert, the orchestra really showed its finest colours. For over forty minutes and through four movements of Brahms’s 2nd Symphony, the orchestra played with emotional commitment. It can be excused for a few ragged moments because overall the beauty of the sound and the quality of the playing were the lasting impressions. The opening call of the horns and the answer by the woodwinds followed thereafter by the first violins set the high standard for the performance. I was particularly taken by the beauty of the second movement Adagio and the brilliance of the Finale played with a full dose of ‘con spirito’.  

The Oakville Symphony Orchestra will next perform on Saturday May 4th and Sunday May 5th at the Oakville Centre for the Performing Arts. American pianist, Christopher Goodpasture will return to perform Rachmaninoff’s beloved Concerto No. 2 with the orchestra.  Soprano Tesa Laengurt will perform Arias by Puccini and Charpentier.

​​Review by  David Richards
oronto ON March 31st 2019