Victoria Symphony 75th Anniversary Tour

Date and Venue April 3, 2016 at 2pm | Orpheum Theatre

Conductor Tania Miller Featured performer Stewart Goodyear, piano

Program Michael Oesterle's Entr'actes, Grieg's Piano Concerto, Copland's Appalachian Spring, Stravinsky's Firebird Suite

Reviewer John Jane

The audience attending the Vancouver engagement of the Victoria Symphony 75th Anniversary Tour welcomed Maestra Tania Miller’s return to the Orpheum stage with warm applause. Many presumably recall her stint with the VSO between 2000 and 2004, first as Assistant Conductor and then Associate Conductor. Still only in her mid-forties, she still has the same youthful appearance she had when during her time with this city’s orchestra.

The orchestra started with the first public performance of Montreal composer Michael Oesterle’s Entr'actes. An odd choice, considering Entr’acte literally means ‘between acts,’ or in Italian - Intermezzo. Starting like a tone poem, and then cresting into a fanfare, Oesterle’s orchestration is inspired by the spatial techniques of Henry Brant and featured harpist Annabelle Stanley.

Edvard Grieg's Piano Concerto is the first piano concerto ever recorded. Canadian concert pianist Stewart Goodyear has already performed this work on the road as featured artist with Victoria Symphony’s Tour.

Allegro molto moderato, the first movement of the Concerto in A minor, opus 16 is noted for its triumphant piano flourishes and percussive opening bars. The first movement’s opening theme will have sounded familiar to jazz enthusiasts since it was borrowed by Jimmy Wisner for his instrumental adaptation "Asia Minor." There was an impromptu applause break before Goodyear moved on to the lyrical Adagio (second movement) in D-flat major. In his meticulousness reading of the wistful allegro moderato he evoked the pastoral poetry of Grieg’s Nordic heritage.

Aaron Copland’s evocative Appalachian Spring captures the very essence of quintessential Americana. Initially written as a ballet score in 1942, it has since become one of the most inspiring works of pastoral beauty and symbolic of the Appalachians. An interesting element of the score is a melody based on a traditional hymn entitled “Simple Gifts,” though now perhaps more universally known as "Lord of the Dance."

Igor Stravinsky Firebird Suite is the second work in the programme originally scored for a ballet. First performed by the Russian Ballet in Paris a little over a hundred years ago, its story is based on two Russian fairy tales that pit good over evil. The orchestra under the baton of Maestra Miller offers a tuneful and precise variation of L'Oiseau de feu et sa danse and a faithful interpretation of the composer's enduring melody in the Ronde des princesses. The delicate orchestration in the Berceuse (Lullaby) was a joy to listen to after the stimulus of Danse infernale de roi Kachtcheï.

This was a most entertaining concert. The inclusive programme was suitable for neophytes and connoisseurs alike.

© 2016 John Jane