DESKTOP
TABLET (max. 1024px)
MOBILE (max. 640px)
Return to Top
Ludwig Van
Toronto Montreal

Concert review: Toronto Symphony's second New Creations concert seriously short of sparkle

By John Terauds on March 7, 2013

Josh Clavir photo
Pekka Kuusisto premieres Owen Pallett’s Violin Concerto with the Toronto Symphony Orcehstra and conductor Carolyn Kuan on Thursday night (Josh Clavir photo)

Three premieres, two remarkable choirs, two conductors, one superb violin soloist and two-thirds of a house at Roy Thomson Hall on Thursday night added up to less than the sum of their parts for the second concert in the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s New Creations Festival.

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds

I left the concert wondering about the strange aversion to melody that has overtaken our culture. I don’t mean something you can whistle on your way to the streetcar stop; rather, I mean the notion of a sustained musical idea with a beginning and an end and a shape.

Listen to just about every genre of singing these days, and musical phrases are short and choppy. To someone who likes long, complete musical thoughts, this choppiness results in unfulfilled expectations.

I had the same reaction to all three pieces of music heard at Thursday’s New Creations programme. They were pieces made up of little melodic fragments arranged in repetition-variation form or piled on top of each other in series of shifting textures.

It was the latter form that opened the concert in Tod Machover’s Sparkle. It was such an overstuffed jumble of fragments played by acoustic instruments as well as electronics that it was virtually impossible to pick up on more than a handful of the composer’s promised quotations of the Beatles and Beethoven.

Guest conductor Carolyn Kuan, making her Toronto Symphony début with this year’s New Creations Festival, deftly handled Machover’s complex traffic-handling and time-keeping demands, and ably guided the orchestra through the premiere of Owen Pallett’s Violin Concerto immediately afterward.

The man we also know as Final Fantasy created a four-movement piece reminiscent of J.S. Bach. The soloist was charismatic Finnish violinist Pekka Kuusisto, who engaged with Pallett’s repeatitive patters with unforced enthusiasm.

It was like hearing fragments of Bach Partitas, with no particular destination in mind. The composer kept the orchestra at arm’s length, leaving it as a backup player to provide a bit of background colour and atmosphere.

I felt a bit cheated by the second movement. Pallett indicates it as a fugue, but I didn’t hear one. I did hear a bit of canonic writing between soloist and orchestra, which is sort of like a fugue’s baby brother.

Much worse was an overall aimlessness in the music. Combined with its repetitiveness, the piece came across as monotonous, a series of patterns looking for a reason to exist.

The second half of the evening was given over to Czech composer Krystof Maratka’s fertile imagination, which had come up with a 55-minute prehistoric cantata titled Vábení: Ritual of Prehistoric Fossils of Man. Music director Peter Oundjian conducted.

The chorus — a remarkably sturdy and nicely prepared group of singers made up of Lydia Adams’ Amadeus Choir and Elmer Iseler Singers — sang a language Maratka had made up, as well. It also made sounds with its hands, feet, other assorted body parts and random toy wind instruments.

The orchestra was, here too, largely reduced to the role of sometimes reticent, sometimes bemused onlooket and physically pushed over to one side of the stage to make room for the singers.

The piece felt interminable, as the composer indulged himself in a seemingly unstoppable stream of little musical tricks. Fortunately, everyone on stage gave a strongly committed performance, making fine sounds throughout.

The audience, which contained a very large proportion of 20- and 30-somethings, appeared to enjoy everything, providing boisterous applause throughout the evening.

To me, despite the wonderful work of all the artists, the musical results were unconvincing. Here was music lacking a core — or perhaps a longer, sustained, coherent thought.

The New Creations Festival concludes on Saturday with the premiere of Machover’s A Toronto Symphony.

John Terauds

 

 

John Terauds

John Terauds

John Terauds, the founder of Musical Toronto, is currently a Divinity student at University of Toronto and a church music director. He joined the Toronto Star in 1988, was the classical music critic from 2005 to 2012, and continues as a freelance critic for the paper. He is the co-author of Roy Thomson Hall: A Portrait, a book written with Toronto Star Colleague, William Littler.
John Terauds
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300
comments powered by Disqus

Ludwig Van Toronto

LEBRECHT LISTENS | Scriabin/Petrenko: A Balance Between Genius And Madness

By Norman Lebrecht on September 29, 2017

Vasily Petrenko/Scriabin: 2nd symphony and piano concerto: "There is much to enjoy here, so long as you don’t expect too much."
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_high_590x300

INTERVIEW | Why Ann Summers Dossena Refuses To Let Your Music Career Down

By Sara Schabas on October 21, 2017

“When you’re out of school and starting a career, is when you need help the most.” Ann Summers Dossena dishes on the importance of supporting your career with a community.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article

SCRUTINY | COC Jump Into The Season With A Spectacular Arabella

By Joseph So on October 6, 2017

"...scintillating in every respect." A not-to-be-missed Arabella opens the Canadian Opera Company season.
Read the full story Comments
Share this article
lv_toronto_banner_low_590x300
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700
lv_toronto_ssb_atf_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_high_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_mid_300x300
lv_toronto_ssb_low_300x300
lv_toronto_tsb_high_300x700
lv_toronto_tsb_low_300x700

We have detected that you are using an adblocking plugin in your browser.

The revenue we earn by the advertisements is used to manage this website. Please whitelist our website in your adblocking plugin.