Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 24/5/2012 (3163 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
TALK about going out on a high note! The Manitoba Chamber Orchestra (MCO) saved some star power for its season-finale concert Wednesday night -- violin phenom James Ehnes was the guest artist and conductor for the evening, and a sold-out crowd couldn't have been happier.
Music lovers have been following the Brandon-born and raised Ehnes since he was a teenager and now, at just 36, he has become one of the most successful and busiest masters of the instrument in the classical music world.
He played the well-known Violin Concerto in E Major, BWV 1042 by Bach as his first offering and one was struck immediately by the ease with which he plays. The flow from his body to the bow, then to his 1715 Marsik Stradivarius seems as natural to him as brushing his teeth. He applied plenty of vigour to the first movement, which was taken at a peppy tempo that bordered on hurried. The MCO bustled along, keeping up.
Lovely strains of Eric Lussier on harpsichord added authentic texture to the adagio, with Ehnes giving a romantic touch to the solo line, displaying his pure, opulent tone. But it was the final movement that had the real spark and the satisfying pairing of Ehnes and superb continuo.
Ehnes' other solo work was the lesser known Suite for Violin and String Orchestra by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. It turned out to be a delightful piece, beginning with a light-hearted movement entitled Country Scenery. Ehnes gave just the jaunty reading required to evoke a country path alive with fluttering butterflies and waving grasses. He brought a touch of humour, all the while playing with his signature musicality and warmth.
The folk-influenced Evening in Spring was supremely pastoral, Ehnes' phrases flowing throughout, including demanding intervals taking him to the pristinely sweet uppermost notes. He truly makes his instrument sing. The orchestra sounded rich and full.
In the Summer saw the entire orchestra accompanying via pizzicato, while Ehnes scurried through passages athletically, fingers flying non-stop for the entire movement. Speed notwithstanding, every breathless note was clear and enunciated. This, predictably, wowed audience members, who jumped to their feet in appreciation.
The evening opened with the stirring Meditation on the Old Bohemian Choral Saint Wenceslas by Czech composer Josef Suk. This was our first opportunity to witness Ehnes' conducting prowess and he proved to be sensitive, if not varied in his direction. Despite some thinness of tone in the violin section, Ehnes and the MCO did the work true justice.
Suk's Serenade for Strings was full of pleasing melodies and drama and was played with passion by the MCO. Bravo for some notable performances -- to the cello section for their amazing ability to sound like one instrument, to principal cello Yuri Hooker for opening the third movement with a moving solo, and to concertmaster Karl Stobbe and principal viola Dan Scholz for their solid responding solo work.
Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Westminster United Church
May 23 Attendance: 915
4 stars out of five