Based on global events garnering outrageous headlines, perhaps a more accurate name of Friday night’s show at Kelowna Community Theatre might have been “From Russia with Love.”
I mean that in a positive way. The only operatives peddling influence on this delightful evening were the musical tacticians in the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra (OSO). Led by Music Director Rosemary Thomson, the OSO presented its “Masterworks IV – Colours of Russia” showcase to a sold-out house. The orchestral compositions were mostly upbeat and invigorating, and according to wife Elaine, the OSO performed at the top of its game. High praise from the boss.
For the record, and I mean this in a humorous Anderson-Cooper-kind-of-way, I don’t believe there were any Trump appointees or KGB agents in the audience. Nyet to spy games, leaks or political tomfoolery. Instead, there was love and admiration in the old barn and the Russians were mostly behind it.
The evening started off with an Ontario discharge. After the Canadian National Anthem, the first composition played was called Eruption. It was commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and supported by the Canadian Government as part of TSO’s Canada Mosaic celebrating Canada 150. The composer was Dutchman Edward Top, described by Thomson as a “millennial who likes heavy metal and Gregorian chants.” That explains the 12-minute piece’s driving rhythm.
Next came the first Russian – Sergei Rachmaninoff and his Paganini Rhapsody. It was highlighted by a piano solo, leading to the arrival of guest artist Minsoo Sohn. He sat down at the Steinway at stage front and thrilled with his 10-fingers magic show. With no sheet music, he deftly marched up and down the keys with virtuoso efficiency. It was impressive enough to deserve the extra-long standing ovation he received at music’s end.
After intermission, there was a poignant homegrown “aw shucks” segue. Thomson introduced Edmund House, he was retiring as Principal Horn in the OSO after 30 years. House shared a few anecdotal stories about his supportive family and the life of a horn player being unseen behind a music stand. Later this summer, he has been invited to be a contributing artist at the 49th International Horn Symposium in Natal, Brazil.
The back end of the show was devoted to Tableaux d’une Exposition (Pictures at an Exhibition) written by Russian Modest Mussorgsky and orchestrated by Frenchman Maurice Ravel. This work has been played the world over and tells the story of 10 art pieces (paintings) being turned into music. The OSO nailed it and earned its own standing O.
Next up for the OSO at KCT will be an April 7 Masterworks V concert featuring Italian Airs & Graces.
Big Finish – according to Thomson, the colours of Russia were displayed in the instrumental sounds and shifting rhythms. I was expecting darker and more ominous-sounding overtures. Perhaps I got the wrong idea by watching too many international spy thrillers?