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Impressive musical intricacies

Roy Thomson Hall
11/26/2014 -  & November 27, 2014
Igor Stravinsky: Pulcinella Suite – Petrouchka
Franz Joseph Haydn: Piano Concerto in D Major, Hob. XVIII/11
Benjamin Britten: Soirées Musicales, Opus 9

Anne-Marie McDermott (piano)
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Andrey Boreyko (conductor)

A. Boreyko (© Richard de Stoutz)

The one word that sums up this program and its performance under the baton of Andrey Boreyko is “invigorating”.

The concert opened with Stravinsky’s 1949 revision of his Pulcinella Suite, taken from his ballet score of 1920, the work that is regarded as the beginning of the composer’s neo-classical period. The program notes state that he scored it for 33 musicians; there were 50 or so on this occasion, no doubt in consideration of the 2600-seat size of the hall. Despite the weightiness of sound at some moments, the music never lost its all-important nimble quality.

Anne-Marie McDermott, a last-minute replacement for Ingrid Fliter, presented a spirited performance of Haydn’s fun-filled Piano Concerto in D Major. She sparkled blithely through the opening Vivace, then gave due attention to the slow movement’s stately opening followed by its intimate conversation with the orchestra. The concluding rondo was all giddy scurrying - like a cat-and-mouse game. Overall, very exhilarating.

Ms McDermott played an encore: the first movement of J. S. Bach’s English Suite No. 2, at a pace that in less assured hands could be termed “reckless”. This was her TSO debut; a return would be most welcome.

Britten’s Soirées Musicales, consisting of five short sections based on pieces by Rossini, was composed when he was 23. The opening march is a clownish variation on the Soldier’s Dance from Guillaume Tell, while the third section, “Tirolese”, contains more than an echo of William Walton’s Façade, particularly the “Jodelling Song”. As in the Pulcinella, large forces were employed in a lightweight manner.

The evening ended with more Stravinsky: his 1947 revision of the score for Petrouchka, his ballet for Diaghilev of 1911. What always amazes me about the piece is how the conductor and orchestra manage to handle (as they superbly did) the constant eruptions of cock-eyed rhythms. While there were more than 80 players on stage, the sound maintained transparency - never thick or smudgy. Numerous soloists were called upon to take well-deserved bows - I’ll single out just one, the ever-impressive Patricia Krueger on the piano.

Michael Johnson



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