VSO performs Gershwin, Feb. 6, Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver
– by Mike Herle
“Welcome to a non-Olympic event!” Bramwell Tovey’s opening greeting drew instant applause and laughter. And, in the spirit of fun and games, Maestro Tovey would continue to amuse and entertain throughout the evening.
Well, long may you run, Bramwell, because you are not only extremely talented but exceedingly fun.
I first saw the Maestro with the Mostro a few years ago doing his “Inspector Tovey” thing at a VSO children’s concert, where he “investigates” orchestral instruments – much to the curious delight of the children. It was a gas – he made the symphony funny!
Which is not to say there wasn’t some seriously good playing going on. At the packed Orpheum Saturday night, VSO principal trumpet Larry Knopp was also featured. His performance of Canadian Scott Good’s “Between the Rooms” concerto received – and deserved – a warm response.
And despite the jest about it being “a non-Olympic event” Saturday night also saw the world premiere of Shelly Marwood’s In Pursuit, a VSO Olympic Commission. Both pieces had some lovely sections, and it’s hard to judge on first listening. Still, it seems the composers were too intent on exploring the different tonalities available in the orchestra at the expense of the totality of the piece. In other words, a more memorable melody, please.
Gershwin, of course, is all about instantly memorable melodies. “Rhapsody in Blue” followed, and it was during those achingly beautiful final few notes that the concert reached its apex. People were leaning in toward the orchestra, like they wanted to be as close as possible to the music.
The two old ladies in front of me, who seemed to be fidgeting with their programs all night, were suddenly still as statues. During those final climactic, swelling chords they looked at each other with radiant smiles.
And me? I found it impossible not to think of the final goodbye scene from Woody Allen’s Manhattan. While “Rhapsody” plays, and in a near-tearful farewell, the Mariel Hemingway character says: “Six months isn’t so long… not everybody gets corrupted. You have to have a little faith in people.”