Maestro Roberto Declara and the Oakville Symphony

Soprano Tessa Laengert, Maestro Roberto Declara
​and the Oakville Symphony

There is  good reason that Rachmaninov's second piano concerto was listed by Britain's Classic FM as the nation's #1  favourite classical work in a 15-year summary of its annual Hall of Fame chart. The concerto is a work that takes its audience on an emotional ride from the despair of depression to a 'bring-down-the-house' finale of triumph. In a performance such as was delivered by Goodpasture, De Clara and the OS, it is not surprising that the result was a spontaneous standing ovation.

Goodpasture's performance exuded a depth of artistry. His sense of lyrical beauty in the soaring melodic lines was breathtaking. The virtuosic rapid-fire sections of the work overflowed with rhapsodic emotion. Goodpasture, a native of Los Angeles currently living in New York City is a member of Carnegie Hall's Ensemble Connect, having completed graduate studies at Juilliard, Yale and the Glenn Gould School. This was Goodpasture's second appearance with the Oakville Symphony. In 2017, he performed Grieg’s Piano Concerto with the orchestra.

Oakville Symphony takes its audience back in time to Paris in the early twentieth-century ​

​​by David Richards
T
oronto ON May 5th 2019

The linkage to the concert’s theme became more apparent in the second half. It began with two arias from Puccini’s La Bohème, an opera set in Paris. Soprano Tessa Laengert delivered two distinctly different arias, capturing the spirit of two characters from the opera. The first aria, entitled Si, mi chiamano Mimi, had the character’s warmth and naivety. Quando m’en vo exuded the flirtatious charm of the character Musetta. Laengert’s voice had a supple clarity. Her top notes projected with ease. Her theatricality was evident with the subtle gestures and expressiveness that told the story. Laengert, a graduate of University of Toronto’s vocal performance program has had a variety of operatic roles and solo appearances with choirs and orchestras in her young career. I look forward to hearing her again soon in opera, concert and recital performances. We will be following her career.

Soprano Tessa Laengert; Photo credit: David Kennedy

Christopher Goodpasture, Maestro Roberto Declara
​and the Oakville Symphony

Christopher and  Roberto post-concert; photo credit: David Kennedy

The concert concluded with the ever popular An American in Paris by George Gershwin. His collaboration with the New York Philharmonic in the late 1920s resulted in some of the finest American orchestral music of that era. The orchestra was on full display in this alternately upbeat and bluesy work. With lots of work for percussion, and with solos by virtually every principal player, the orchestra was able to meet the challenges. Standouts included the keyboard percussion, trumpet, tuba, bass clarinet and first violins. Not an easy work to perform with its rhythmic complexities, De Clara and the orchestra created the excitement of a Parisian street scene and the moodiness of a lonely visitor to the city.

The final pair of concerts in the season series of the Oakville Symphony was billed as Musical Paris. And although it might initially seem like a stretch to include the music of the Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninov in such a program, it was as uplifting a season finale as one might imagine. To clarify the connection between Rachmaninov and Paris, Maestro Roberto De Clara explained that Paris was one of Rachmaninov’s favourite cities in which to perform and that indeed his name is still attached to the Conservatoire Russe Rachmaninov founded in 1923 in Paris by Russian émigré musicians. His Piano Concerto No. 2 performed this weekend was no doubt one that Rachmaninov himself performed while in Paris.


​The program could alternatively have been entitled something akin to Glorious Melody for as Rachmaninov once said, ”Melody is music and the foundation of all music. I do not appreciate composers who abandon melody and harmony for an orgy of noises and dissonances.” In this particular program of  music by Rachmaninov, Puccini and Gershwin, some of the most captivating melodies ever written were on full display. No one could have gone home without humming at least one of the famous musical themes while at the same time being moved by the power and sublimity of the music.


The program opened with Rachmaninov’s most famous work, his Piano Concerto No. 2 in C Minor, Op. 18. Written long before he had visited Paris, Rachmaninov was emerging from a deep depression and dedicated the work to his therapist Dr. Nikolai Dahl, who used hypnotherapy to encourage his creative spirit. Pianist Christopher Goodpasture’s opening chords felt to me like a hypnotic trance rising out of the silence of deep sleep. The nine chords, each slightly altered and with a low F between each chord increased in intensity before the warm sounds of the lower strings in the opening lyrical theme that might well have represented the reassuring presence of the composer’s therapist. The concerto shifted emotionally throughout the work from the intensity of virtuosic passages to reassuring expressive themes. Rachmaninov was a master of orchestration. Flute, clarinet and oboe solos rang through with expressive clarity. Brass and percussion created emotional fluctuations.

I always enjoy attending performances of the Oakville Symphony. It’s a first-class example of grass-roots community orchestras that thrive in many of Ontario’s smaller centres with amateur musicians filling most positions and supported by a professional core. It has been Oakville’s good fortune to have the talents of De Clara at the helm for the past twenty or so years building the quality of orchestra with repertoire that both challenges the performers and is rewarding to its perennially sold-out audiences.

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Christopher Goodpasture, Maestro Roberto Declara
​and the Oakville Symphony