Friday, April 1, 2011
Niagara Symphony wraps up Masterworks season this weekend
It's hard to believe, but this weekend we are already at the final Masterworks concert of the current Niagara Symphony season. It seems hardly possible we're so many months removed now from that gala opening to the season back in October, when Music Director Designate Bradley Thachuk took to the podium for the first time after winning the competition almost a year ago. Bradley is still only with the orchestra part-time, of course; next season he will spend much more time with the Symphony, although even then, according to the new season brochure, he won't be conducting all the performances. Still, his presence is being felt as the orchestra appears to be responding to his conducting style already this season. Reading some of the FaceBook posts from members of the Niagara Symphony earlier today, I can see there is much anticipation of this Sunday's concert, as those who posted comments genuinely appreciate the talents of Conductor Laureate Uri Mayer. With good reason, too. A couple of seasons back when the Niagara Symphony was scrambling to fill the post on a concert-to-concert basis following the untimely departure of former Music Director Daniel Swift, Mayer stepped in and conducted a solid, more-than-respectable concert that clearly reminded both orchestra and audience members alike what a fine conductor he is. This time out, I think both sides are anticipating the return visit from Mr. Mayer as a very special homecoming to an orchestra he led so many years ago. The programme includes the lovely and too-rarely heard Danse Villageoise by French-Canadian composer Claude Champagne. It was recorded several times many years ago on LP, but I have not seen a recent recording of it for some time now. It is a joyful, rustic dance full of colour and spirit. The concert concludes with the equally evocative Symphony No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 56 by Felix Mendelssohn, the one known as the "Scottish" Symphony. I don't even remember the last time the Niagara Symphony tackled a Mendelssohn work at all, let alone one of his symphonies, so this will be a treat. In the middle, featuring Niagara pianist Blair Salter, will be the Mozart Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467. This is a wonderful concerto in and of itself, not even taking into consideration the so-called "notoriety" of the famous Adagio movement. If you have not seen the movie Elvira Madigan, which came out about 1968 and used this movement in a pivotal scene in the movie, well, you'll just be enjoying the music on its own considerable merit. I recall at the time both the movie and this particular movement stirred up quite a bit of interest, and ever since the Piano Concerto has been tagged "Elvira Madigan," at least unofficially. There is no shortage of recordings of the concerto around today, with the most famous of all being the actual recording used in the film, released by DGG with pianist Geza Anda. It is still in the classical catalogue after all these years, and in fact I will have that recording along with several others for sale at the concert on Sunday afternoon at the Sean O'Sullivan Theatre at the Centre for the Arts, Brock University. Of course, I'll have the Mendelssohn Scottish Symphony, too, along with a host of other great recordings for you to buy. Just look for my table in the lobby both before and after the concert, as well as at intermission. Can't make it to the concert but want the music anyway? Drop me an email either through the website (www.finemusic.ca) or directly at email@example.com and and I will be sure to reserve a copy of either work for you. Tickets are still available for the concert on Sunday afternoon, although the latest word from the Niagara Symphony is paid attendance is at more than 87% of capacity this season, and that is music to the ears of everyone connected with the Symphony after several lean years as management went through several upheavals. But that is all behind us now, the orchestra is sounding good, and there is a new-found optimism amongst its members that they have finally turned the corner. Subscriptions for the next season are already available, of course, but if you only need tickets for the remainder of this season at the moment, call the Brock box office at 905-688-5550, ext. 3257 and book your tickets for Sunday afternoon. or the final Pops! concerts in early May. See you at the Symphony on Sunday! April 1st, 2011.