Gems of the Romantic Era
PEI Symphony Orchestra
Review by David Malahoff
Lord was the featured soloist in the first half and he delivered captivating music (with the not so captivating title of Concerto No. 4 in C Minor Op.44 for Piano and Orchestra) composed by Camille Saint-Saëns. This complex but musically fascinating concerto had Lord perform passages of melodic beauty highlighted by delicate finger strikes on the keyboard only to shift to vigourous call and answer sections with the orchestra. There were powerful and rapid ascending and descending runs and, at one memorable point, the muscular playing gave way to Lord cocking a single finger to pick out a melody before returning to more deft work from his two hands. Praise too for the exciting, crisp performance from the orchestra.
Lord returned to the stage to perform a solo piece by Louis Moreau Gottschalk a nearly forgotten American composer from the nineteenth century. But not so forgotten in recent years because of the work by Lord to keep the composer’s work alive. Lord played “The Banana Song”—one of Gottschalk’s most popular songs. It was driven by a catchy, almost spunky melody with echoes of New Orleans barrelhouse piano set against the classical piano tradition.
Christina Bouey made two dramatic entrances: Dressed in a deep blue, floor length gown, she was a striking visual image set against the semi-circle of black suited orchestra members. Then, with a quick nod from conductor James Mark, the orchestra began the frosty, opening musical passage from Concerto in D Minor Op. 47 for Violin and Orchestra by Jan Sibelius. Waiting a moment, Bouey then put bow to violin and the room melted with a moving, heartfelt string of notes. Through the course of this demanding concerto, Bouey gave a performance that was technically impressive and emotionally powerful.
The concert began with the PEI Symphony Orchestra playing the Overture to Euryanthe by Carol Maria Von Weber. This was the only point in the afternoon where I found myself drifting and unengaged by what I was hearing. The overture was a broken necklace of musical bits eventually threaded together by an energetic final section.
Contrast that with the opening number of the second half where the orchestra played Overture D. 590 in the Italian Style by Franz Schubert. The massed violins of the orchestra immediately created a pleasing, elegant melody and the whole thing was goosed along by pulsing horns and wind instruments.