*Featured Image is of the organ in the Edmonton Winspear Centre by Aaron.
Before the main event’s music starts, the Winspear’s huge hall is filled with disjointed notes as several members of the orchestra practice their parts. As 8 pm sharp comes around, silence encouraged the audience to applaud. Micheal Stern, the conductor, walked onto the stage where the Winspear Centre’s hall is filled with the faces and instruments of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra. Today this orchestra has a roster of 56 musicians bringing the musical works of Anna Clyne, Tchaikovsky & Dvořák.
The program starts with the orchestral composition by Anna Clyne, This Midnight Hour. In 2015, her work premiered at the Théâtre Espace Coluche in Plaisir. Although Micheal Stern admits to preferring to let the music speak for itself, he considered Anna Clyne’s work to be worth a few words as an introduction. The poems This Midnight Hour is based upon, he admits, is “very evocative and has nothing to do with one another”. This Midnight Hour is inspired by two poems by Juan Ramón Jiménez, and Charles Baudelaire. The music is very visual but ambiguous in what the intended narrative is. That’s exactly how the composer intended it. She has her own narrative but doesn’t elaborate. This encourages the audience to create their own narrative making the music even more personal to everyone in the audience.
Stern explains why Anna Clyne’s work was included, as it changes the appreciates of other works. He describes, “We listen to Dvořák differently because of Anna Clyne. And we listen to Anna Clyne differently because of Dvořák”.
The start of this work is inspired by the lower strings of L’Orchestre National d’Île De France in terms of power and personality. With that inspiration, the orchestra starts with a fast tempo, as if it’s mimicking a quickened heartbeat. The tempo and tone shift higher to simulate a sense of panic only to slow down giving the audience a moment of calm only to quicken again.
Throughout the entire piece, the tone, tempo, and range are variable causing the heart to follow along with its own internal beats. Once again, the theme ebbs and flows until just the percussion stays mimicking the hairs standing up on your arm. Visions of being chased, of movements of reprieve and peace only to be hit once again with panic. There’s a long theme of a calming tone where the music echoes only to shock the audience with a sudden percussion hit and feverishly fast frantic playing the percussion continued hard and the violins were consistent.
Before he began the orchestra, Stern warns the audience that, “If at the end, you choose to giggle, you can”, which is a very interesting set up as it preludes to a juxtaposition of how Clyne’s work begins and how it ends. At the end of the work, the audience couldn’t help but laugh at the complete and utter contrast of the final movement.
Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 35, is next to be played. This concerto is structured with three movements; Allegro moderato; Canzonetta: Andante and the Finale: Allegro vivacissimo. This beautiful violin concerto has a primary part for a solo violinist. Ironically, Tchaikovsky is not a violinist. Combined with that fact and the length, scope, and diversity of the piece, it’s been said that it can’t be played. However, Bella Hristova proves those people wrong as she walks out on the stage violin in hand to a roaring applaud.
The first movement is energetic with a high tempo, with a lively meter making it quite beautiful. When the soloist begins playing, she accompanies the orchestra playing a hauntingly gorgeous. This first movement is long and ends in such a dramatic end. Because of the dramatic finale to the first theme, it seems like the end of the concerto but it’s far from it.
The second theme is introduced by Hristova. As she plays, its clear why many violinists consider this unplayable. This is a rather intense piece for the violinist’s hands and skills. When the soloist plays with the full power of the orchestra it’s immense and powerful. Combined with a Tutti (when all the orchestra plays) it seems to fill the entire concert hall. To contradict the first theme, the second movement of Tchaikovsky’s violin concerto is a canzonetta and is much softer. However, it’s less of a contrast and a bit more lyrical. It’s thought that the second more calm theme is a purposeful break for the violinist.
The final movement is quite powerful and fort. This powerful and passionate movement causes a creative form of tension. The concerto ends with a very powerful and abrupt end launching the audience into a standing ovation.
Turning to Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No. 7 In D Minor, Opus 70, this is the final piece of the performance. The symphony includes the compositional pieces including Allegro maestoso; Poco adagio in F major; Scherzo: Vivace — Poco meno mosso; and Finale: Allegro. All combined creates a beautiful orchestral symphony.
First performed in London in April 1885, this symphony starts the first movement rather sombre and dark. It’s in D minor the music is very rather dark. The main theme, however, is rather fragmented with what sounds like many notes without harmony. Instead of sounded disorganized, this piece starts with a kind of restless mystery. Waiting on the edge of their seats, the audience is eager to know more about where Dvořák’s work is heading.
A second softer lyrical theme of the second main theme of the first movement sweeps in creating a more harmonic theme of the previously fragmented pieces. It’s not so much a contrast as a continuation and addition to the first theme. The development was a repetition of the main theme but more unified in a way yet still rather unsettled. This movement ends with quiet softly held chords creating an enchanting theme. The third movement is a beautiful and energetic folk dance, called a furiant. The contrasting trio of the dance form is very slow and deliberate.
The final theme is the same as the main theme but in a major key. That aspect itself makes it heroic, allowing the piece to be an adventurer’s journey from minor to major keys.
With the work and talent of Micheal Stern the conductor, Bella Hristova the violin soloist, and the musicians of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, composers such as Anna Clyne, Tchaikovsky & Dvořák will never be forgotten.
Program for Edmonton Symphony Orchestra Tchaikovsky & Dvořák — Conducted by Michael Stern at the Edmonton Winspear Centre The Walter Kerr Theatre, Edmonton. Playbill, 2019.