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Esther Yoo (violin solosit), Karina Canellakis (guest conductor), and the TSO
Photo Credit: Jag Photography

Karina Canellakis and Esther Yoo create magic with TSO

Opening yesterday's concert with Mozart’s Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492, she demonstrated that she was all business. Waiting an extra moment for the hall to become silent, she got the orchestra’s attention and immediately jumped into the light-hearted, fast-paced spirit of the music. The orchestra responded with an enthusiastic performance of the short work, setting the table for the feast of great music about to unfold.

​What followed was no less than one of the great violin concertos in the orchestral repertoire with 22-year old American-Korean prize-winning violinist, Esther Yoo. Yoo has already performed with major European orchestras and recorded with Deutsche Grammophon. By taking on Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 35, Yoo was stepping into the shoes of every great violinist of the past century. The work is at once a showpiece of virtuosity for the soloist and an emotional roller coaster that doesn’t let up through each of its three movements. Yoo had all the artistry to create a memorable performance. She and conductor Canellakis were in perfect syncronicity throughout. Yoo's cadenzas were breath-taking. Her melodic playing was soulful. She responded to all the virtuosity that this giant work demands. The orchestra responded with energy and beautifully expressive playing.

Violinist Esther Yoo

Photo Credit:  David Richards

Guest Conductor Kanellakis

Photo Credit: Todd Rosenberg

Each of the concerts of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in this new season has sizzled with star-power and great symphonic works. This weekend marked the first of the Light Classics series at Roy Thomson Hall and once again there was excitement in the air. Two young guest artists on the cusp of major international careers joined the TSO in a programme that was designed to please. Along with the young sensations and the great music of Mozart, Beethoven and Tchaikovsky, the orchestra pulled out all the stops.

Karina Canellakis has at a young age excelled both as a conductor and virtuosic violinist. While a member of the Berlin Philharmonic she was singled out by none other than its Music Director Simon Rattle to pursue a spot on the podium back in 2004-2005. However, conducting started much earlier for Candellakis. At the age of 12, encouraged by her father, a conductor himself, she began taking lessons in score-reading and conducting classes in her home town of New York City. After graduating from the Curtis Institute with a degree in violin performance, she went to Juilliard to study conducting. Major awards and guest appearances soon followed. Having completed two years as Assistant Conductor in Dallas, she is taking her craft to major halls across North America and Europe.

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For me, it was in Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 in B Flat Major, Op. 60 that Canellakis and the orchestra achieved the high-point of the concert. The work is the least performed of the Beethoven symphonies, and yet it is a masterpiece that sparkles. Written in a short span of about a month as the result of a commission, its joyful spirit is uplifting. Following the tension-filled introduction, it explodes with exuberance. Each of the woodwinds was remarkable in their solo and ensemble passages. The entire orchestra seemed inspired by the conductor. The result was magic. In this listener's opinion, Beethoven's 4th symphony is a work that deserves to be performed more frequently. There is no doubt that audiences will demand to see more of the inspired conductor Karina Canellakis. Let's hope that the début performances of Esther Yoo and Karina Canellakis is not their last with the TSO.

The TSO will next perform a program of Grieg, Bartok and Dvoŕák with the sensational pianist Yuja Wang and guest conductor Krzysztof Urbański  on Thursday October 13 and Saturday October 15 at 8pm.

Review by David Richards
Toronto ON October 9th 2016