08 October, 2008

Concert Review: Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Saturday, Oct 4, 2008
Toronto Symphony Orchestra/Ute Lemper/Peter Oundjian
Carnegie Hall

Let me state from the outset that this was a fantastic concert. I went in for the excellent programme and got more than I thought I would.

Weill's "The Seven Deadly Sins" had been treated by many people, including my favorite Marianne Faithful (the old one, not the pretty one), and has become Ute Lemper's calling card. This concert demonstrated why. Her lean voice was strongly amplified but it was clear Lemper had the full measure of the words, though I feel Eva Meier, wife of the German Council in HK, was even more magnetic as a chanteuse, judging from an RTHK performance. I had never heard of the male vocal ensemble Hudson Shad, but the quartet performed most admirably (they are Lemper's regular partner in this work). The orchestra accompanied well.

The excellent first half whetted the appetite for the second, but no one was prepared for the titantic performance. Peter Oundjian was the very fine leader of the Tokyo Quartet but he seems an even better conductor. Conducting in big and clear gestures and without histrionics, he did not wear his heart on his sleeve and build things up methodically. With an iron grip on rhythms and a flair for punctuation, various transitions were exceptionally well delineated and dynamically well graded. Many readings of the 11th symphony just fizzled out after the "massacre". Not here. The adagio that ensued was perfectly molded in the strings, which played like one instrument, with fastidious counterpointing. That held the attention, but what was most remarkable was the last movement, which he negotiated without a blink, all the way to a resounding and resolving climax.

The orchestra was terrific. Strings were in unison. The brass growling. The percussion had frightening quickness and ensembleship. Weakest were the sometimes subdued woodwinds. It's the precision of the whole that won the game, and I don't believe I had heard better balance and speed in the percussion and that helped deliver power to the thunderous moments.

For an encore, Nimrod from Elgar's Enigma Variations was played in an understated fashion.

The New York Times reviewed it. From my front balcony (half way up the hall) seat there wasn't a problem with shrillness.

No comments:

Post a Comment