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THUNDER BAY, ON  ------   April 28, 2013  ----- Pianist extraordinaire Andre Laplante graced the stage of Thunder Bay’s Community Auditorium for the final Andre LaplanteMasterworks concert of the season. This concert was everything that a Masterworks concert should be. To my mind a Masterworks concert should include an orchestral appetiser, a concerto followed by a symphony, and that is exactly what was on this programme. Classical music aficionados adored this programme.

The appearance of Andre Laplante would be a draw for many in the audience. The great pianist has played here several times before and with each departure has left the audience wanting more. Many others came because Beethoven’s hallmark symphony, #5 was on the programme. The concert’s title, “The Most Famous Notes Ever” refers to the opening four notes of this symphony.

Many people came as I did because of word of mouth. I was reading comments on Face book made by some of my orchestral friends mentioning that “They live to play concerts like this”. The orchestra was so excited by the rehearsals I wondered what the concert would be like. To make a long story short for a masterworks concert this was very well attended with the auditorium nearly full.

The first item on the programme was by John Estacio, Saudades was commissioned and premiered in 1993 by the Winnipeg Symphony Orcherstra. I liked this piece, it was well written and still maintained a sense of narrative that many modern composers have abandoned. I also liked they symmetry of the music, it began and ended with a melodic solo for bassoon, played so well by  Harold Weavers.

Something I have noticed about our orchestra is they rise to any challenge. Playing with a great pianist such as Andre Laplante is an opportunity to flirt with musical greatness and our TBSO did our community proud. Somehow Arthur Post manages to get this orchestra to sound much larger than it is. The addition of an extra horn and the use of three trombones added a lot of volume to the orchestra. Some one unmentioned in the programme notes was playing a Contra Bassoon. This is the lowest instrument in the orchestra and added a lot of depth to the orchestral sound. Movement after movement the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto #1 unfolded, each movement executed and interpreted perfectly. While our orchestra may sound large it has kept the accuracy of a finely tuned string quartet throughout. This is something that larger ensembles have trouble doing, that is keeping the ensemble tight especially while playing fast passages. The performance of this concerto was everything and more than the programme promised. The audience thought so as well and after repeated curtain calls, Andre Laplante returned to the concert halls Steinway and performed a solo piece that astounded both the audience and the orchestra alike. Laplante performed the Sonata in B minor ; Sonetto del Petrarca no. 104 by Franz Lizst. Its called a Sonata in English but that is really a misnomer since the 4 pieces that make up the Petrarch sonatas are inspired by the poet Petrarch’s Sonnets. Andre Laplante is a true pianist extraordinaire! A romantic specialist he plays with abandon and the performance of this Sonnet made this concert the concert of the year in my opinion, a very special musical moment.

With such brilliant musicianship in the first half of the concert I was wondering if Beethoven might somehow have been upstaged. My worries were for nothing, this orchestra was on a roll and Beethoven’s famous four notes never sounded better. We have one of the best symphony orchestras in the country, the blend of veteran any youthful musicians give their music making a lot of energy and they truly live to perform concerts such as this masterworks. Their work on stage is enhanced by the magnificence of the Community Auditorium, with its adjustable acoustics it is one reason the orchestra can sound larger than it is. Another gift in the auditorium is the 9’ Steinway concert grand. In the hands of an extraordinary pianist like Andre Laplante we heard the music of Franz Lizst come to life. It takes a great hall, great soloist, and a great orchestra to create special musical moments like this. This performance alone would justify purchasing a full season’s ticket to the TBSO 2013—14 season.

I wish to express my gratitude to these musicians who have performed so well all season. Within a week the TBSO will hibernate until the new season begins in the fall and we will l want to hear more. Bravo!

Bert Rowson
Arts Editor: LakeSuperiorNews,com

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