November 4 Concert Review

The concert was performed in the beautiful Theatre at Brentwood College School in Mill Bay. It started with the performance of Swim, a new composition by Cassandra Miller, commissioned by the Victoria and Vancouver Symphony Orchestras. Dr. Miller spoke to us before the piece was performed and explained the thought process that led to this very attractive piece. She was imagining Robert Schumann swimming in a cool lake, rather than the Rhine. In fact the piece is dedicated to her mother, a lake swimmer. Anne Carson’s poetry also provided inspiration.

Based on a short excerpt from Schumann’s Rhenish Symphony, Dr. Miller weaves the chords in and out, reflecting the motion of a swimmer enjoying the cool clarity of the lake. She chooses different pairs of instruments to pass the music between, so at one time it is the principal violin players and another time the flutes. I was amazed at how the conductor, Maestra Bovell, was able to have the musicians play so quietly that only the great acoustics in the Brentwood Theatre made them audible even from the back row of the balcony. In fact, it was only because I could see who was playing that I could then detect the sound. It was magical. I thoroughly enjoyed Swim and would love to hear it again.

Swim was followed by Alan Liu, the young and very talented Chinese Canadian guitarist, playing Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. This has become the quintessential guitar concerto. Mr Liu started strongly before the orchestra led by the flute was brought in as if summoning us to a corrida. The first movement is marked Allegro con spirito and spirited it was. There are many myths and stories about the genesis of Rodrigo’s second movement, but for me it has always been the most soulful guitar music of all time and Mr. Liu played it with gentle passion.

The rollicking third movement brought us to the intermission with Allan Liu getting a well-earned standing ovation. After the intermission, Kalena Bovell, the Panamanian- American Maestra, introduced herself and explained that she had persuaded the VSO to feature Beethoven’s seventh symphony rather than the third as they had originally requested. She felt that the lighter, more dancelike seventh was a better balance with the first two pieces, and she was right.

I have always felt that the seventh continues the pastoral theme of the sixth symphony, and this was a great a great fit with Swim and Rodrigo’s concerto. Maestra Bovell had the orchestra really jumping as she conducted with great vigour, and her conclusion of the rollicking fourth movement brought the audience to a roar as they  leapt to their feet.

Having watched a lot of world cup rugby, where the commentators always pick “the man of the match” had me wondering who I would pick as the man of the match. It was the principle flute. He showed amazing versatility through all three pieces, from the ethereal playing in Swim to almost falling off his chair in the last movement of  Beethoven.

A great evening with a strong performance under the baton of Maestra Bovell, whom I hope we will see again, as I felt the orchestra reacted well to her guidance.



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