Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Performance filled with love, passion

  • Print

Oh, what love can make us do! It can drive us to be our best; it can show us at our worst; but one thing we know for sure -- life isn't worth much without it.

Ardent love was the inspiration for French composer Hector Berlioz, who wrote the majestic work, Symphonie Fantastique, featured in Friday night's Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra (WSO) Masterworks concert of the same name. The object of Berlioz's affection, Irish actress Harriet Smithson, remained aloof to his passion for several years -- perhaps fortunate for music lovers, as this spurned love birthed the drive to compose the 48-minute, five-movement masterpiece.

Conductor Alexander Mickelthwate led the WSO in the epic piece, threaded together with a recurring melody or idée fixe representing Smithson.

It never lets up in its passionate urgency. Berlioz's original program notes began with "A young musician of morbid sensibility and ardent imagination poisons himself with opium in a fit of amorous despair." Not for the faint of heart.

Mickelthwate did not shy away from the unbridled emotion represented throughout, especially in the complex opening movement, Reveries and Passions, with its ever-changing tempi and moods. It was at its best when brass-enhanced, making for an exciting and very grand sound and spectacle. It ended with a touching stillness.

The WSO gave A Ball a wonderful lilting quality, full of motion. The musicians performed with deft precision and seamless phrasing -- you could almost envision the swaying of ball gowns and scurrying of dance slippers. Lovely notes from the harp rang out throughout the movement.

The plaintive English horn and oboe offstage charmingly introduced Scene in the Country -- like two shepherds calling their flocks. We had the feeling the WSO was comfortable with this work.

WSO associate concertmaster Karl Stobbe gave a masterful reading of Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 1 in D Major. Not every musician can step from the ranks to be a convincing soloist. Stobbe proved in spades he has the goods to do just that. Musical, sensitive and technically impressive, he played fearlessly, burning up the strings in the allegro. His intensity and concentration were inspiring. This was a clinic in the art of playing the violin.

Stobbe lent a little playful touch to the speedy scherzo, buzzing right along, attacking with full force -- totally committed. The final movement was stately but light and while not showy, Stobbe is a performer who compels his listeners.

Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin opened the evening, its plentiful oboe solos a wonderful opportunity for the audience to revel in principal oboist Bede Hanley's gorgeous, sinewy playing. Mickelthwate was spot-on with his approach to this satisfying work, finding and nurturing all its subtleties. The WSO showed a big orchestra can indeed be light on its feet.

The concert repeats tonight at 8 p.m.

Concert Review

Symphonie Fantastique

Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra

Centennial Concert Hall

March 15 Attendance: 1118

**** out of five

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 16, 2013 B2

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes


  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.


Make text: Larger | Smaller


Feeling at home at Home Expressions

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A young goose   reaches for long strands of grass Friday night near McGillvary Blvd-See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge- Day 19 - May 23, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • KEN GIGLIOTTI  WINNIPEG FREE PRESS / July 23 2009 - 090723 - Bart Kives story - Harry Lazarenko Annual River Bank Tour - receding water from summer rains and erosion  damage by flood  and ice  during spring flooding -  Red River , Lyndale Dr. damage to tree roots , river bank damage  , high water marks after 2009 Flood - POY

View More Gallery Photos


Should NDP MLAs sign the "pledge of solidarity"?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google