Old Scientist: Nope.
JMB: Mozart and Tchaikovsky. Are you sure?
Old Scientist: OK. That's different.
The Vancouver Symphony Orchestra is on tour at the moment so last Saturday night, filling in, the National Arts Centre Orchestra performed in the Orpheum theatre under Maestro Pinchas Zukerman. Yes, that same Pinchas Zukerman, one of the world's great violinists as well as long time Music Director of the NACO.
The opening short piece was a contemporary one, Infinite Sky with Birds by Alexina Louie, very fast with the brass being the focus, with support from the strings and woodwinds. I quite enjoyed it however the Old Scientist muttered later if that were on a CD he would skip it. Sigh!
But next followed the Mozart Concerto for Violin and Orchestra No.3, with Zukerman playing the violin and conducting the orchestra. One of a series of five violin concertos it was written by Mozart at the tender age of nineteen years. While not my favourite violin concerto, that would have to be the Mendelssohn, a much more dramatic piece to my mind, it is indeed a very beautiful work and to hear it played by Pinchas Zukerman was a very special treat.
If it please you, here is the Adagio, the second movement played by the great Isaac Stern. This is considered one of the most beautiful sections of any violin concerto ever written. A very old slightly flawed rendition due to age but beautiful none the less.
Sometimes it is a pleasure to just go and enjoy pieces that are very familiar to you, to just relax and let the music envelop you. While the Mozart soothes you with its beauty the Symphony No. 5 of Tchaikovsky fires you up with its passion and its energy. One of several symphonies in which Tchaikovsky explores the theme of Fate, his Fifth Symphony is more evocative of the distant rumble of a funeral march, as the clarinets intone a low and somber theme. As the symphony progresses, the theme returns in various guises, sometimes wistful, at other times imposing, but the general motion is toward an increasing mood of optimism, until, in the finale, Tchaikovsky transforms his Fate theme into a triumphal march.*
Here is the very famous French Horn solo from the second movement with that oh so familiar theme towards the end.
As we were walking back towards the car, the old scientist said, "The first time I heard that symphony live was at the Sydney Town Hall with Kiril Kondrashin with the Stalingrad State Orchestra. The brass were just wonderful and the woodwinds too." What? How long ago this was, since he left Australia in 1957, but he still remembers the experience. I have no idea when I first heard this. Do you? He certainly was impressed.
A lovely musical evening it was, somewhat dimmed by the fact that there was a hockey game plus a football game on that evening. All three events seemed to conclude at the same time with the result that it took me 65 minutes to travel from my parking space on the sixth floor of the parkade to the ground floor booth to pay the parking fee. My poor passengers had to listen to me complain bitterly about people returning to cars on the lower levels long after we did but managing to exit before us because kind people let them into the line of cars. To add insult to injury, when there are hockey or football games on they double the usual parking fee. Next time I think I will take the bus!
*Elizabeth Schwarm Glesner