Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Planets ---Gustav Holst

Recently I had an invitation from a friend to go with her to a concert by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. Considering the parking debacle of the last time I was at the symphony, we decided to be very cunning, as well as cheap, and use the parking space of a friend who lives in the West End district of Vancouver and has no car at the moment.

While our friend lives a fifteen minute walk from the Orpheum Theatre the plan was to go early, stroll along Robson Street, a quite trendy street for fashion shops and restaurants and find somewhere to eat before going to the Symphony. Good plan except it was freezing cold so we walked briskly past all these wonderful stores in order to keep warm. I was also not aware that this is where all the young Asian people in Vancouver seem to hang out on Saturday evenings, no doubt due to the number of different types of Asian restaurants in the area. Or do you think they might be shopping in the Coach Store, or Gucci or Prada or perhaps Salvatore Ferragamo? They were certainly out in great numbers, in groups of three or four, meandering slowly down the sidewalks and generally impeding our fast pace.

Well we did stop for dinner and finally arrived at the Orpheum in time to check out the program and the concert started not long afterwards.

The first offering I had never heard before, Richard Strauss's Till Eulenspiegel's Merry Pranks, Opus 28 which was a quite charming piece with excellent solos for the French horn and the clarinet.

We certainly had not heard the next piece before, for Equilateral, Triple Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano and Orchestra was being performed for the first time ever, a world première, no less. Since it was being recorded we were asked not to cough, sneeze, rustle or make any noise whatsoever. Right. Certainly not. The Gryphon Trio were the performers of this new piece written by Jeffrey Ryan, VSO's Composer in Residence. This piece I found interesting in parts but I think I would need to hear it again to fully appreciate it. Often the solo instruments seemed to be overpowered by the orchestra although each soloist was given an opportunity to extemporize above the continuum of the orchestral background.

Finally after the intermission came another of my personal favourites, The Planets by Gustav Holst. This orchestral suite consists of seven movements and is the most widely performed composition by an English composer. The range of instruments used for this piece is wonderful, with everything on stage including extra woodwinds, two harps, xylophone, glockenspiel, bells, along with two timpani players. It was a visual delight to watch the percussionist display his talents as well as a sound delight for the whole. Each movement represents a different planet and the last, Neptune the Mystic, featured the eerie voices of the Elektra Women's Choir who performed offstage.

I hope you will enjoy music of the planet I have chosen below. It was not an easy choice on YouTube. Would it be Venus, the Bringer of Peace to a background of images from outer space? Finally I chose a video which showcases more of my loves, both dance and ice dancing. So may I present Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity. You will recognize the music I'm sure, especially around the mid point. The beginning and end are said to be very reminiscent of English folk dance music. Enjoy.

The conductor for the evening was Bramwell Tovey, who has been the very popular music director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra since September, 2000. We are very fortunate indeed to have this English conductor and composer in Vancouver.


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I hope it was warm in the theatre! I'd not heard of the Strauss piece before and will look out for it. I'm not a fan of "The Planets", though. Loved your description of the surrounding area and the atmosphere.

Gledwood said...

one of the planets I particularly used to like... cannot for the life of me remember now which one!

that formation dancing... how on earth do they do it without falling into one another?

hey do you like my tubby new avatar? I can't remember whether I introduced Pandable..?

Jessica said...

I love the planets... I had the opportunity to play the music for in in orchestra when I was in high school... What a gorgeous production!

Lone Grey Squirrel said...

Don't know much about classical music but I do know and love Holst's "The Planets" and of course especially Jupiter. Would have loved to have been there.

Crushed by Ingsoc said...

I have listened to 'Mars' by Holst, and it did exceed my expectations.

Orpheum is a great name for a theatre.

Ellee Seymour said...

How lovely, I wish you lived closer so we could buddy up and go to conerts together.

Josie said...

Omigosh, that must have been so wonderful to hear that in person. I would have had gooseflesh!

I just read your post about the young man with ALS as well. So sad. What a brave young man.

jmb said...

Yes it's fine in the theatre but chilly getting there. We have had snow quite regularly this year,even today, so quite cold.

Hi Gleds,
I like all the planets in this composition. They are pretty good skaters.
I love your new avatar Gleds, looking straight out at us.

Hi Jessica,
I think you always have special feelings for a piece you performed. I love Carmina Burana for I once sang it as a member of a choir and with an orchestra. Mario Bernadi was the conductor, long ago.

You would have enjoyed it the performance then. I'm glad you liked the Planets.

Hi Crushed,
Mars, the opening movement, is great,so full of life and all the brass instruments in full cry.

Hi Ellee,
We could indeed go together. I think you might have a better choice of great concerts where you live so I have to come there.

Hi Josie,
The concert was excellent, the Planets especially well done.
BH was a brave young man and he blogged despite it all until just ten days before his death. We all knew the end was near and it was like keeping a death watch.

Thanks to all of you for visiting and commenting.