THUNDER BAY, ON ---- April 2, 2013 --- Thursday’s Masterworks 5 by the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra was a complete treat. For one thing the special guests for the evening, the “Gryphon Trio” are one of Canada’s best small performing ensembles and they have a long history of solid performances.
The next thing was the programme, it began with a Haydn Symphony #26. I like Haydn and have a lot of his string quartets in sheet music and most of his symphonic work on CDs.. Symphony 26 however is a seldom heard work of Haydn, most orchestras tend to play his later works such as the “Jupiter” symphony. This early symphony is scored for a small chamber orchestra, strings, two oboes, trumpet and percussion and no more. Often the early music of Haydn is performed by amateur groups because it is relatively easy to learn the notes. However to play Haydn superbly requires a lot of work and talent. The TBSO’s rendition of this symphony was outstanding. All the members of the orchestra played so precisely that it sounded as though they were a great string quartet playing. Joseph Haydn could not have done better himself.
The next piece on the programme was by Toronto composer Jordan Pal. Well known for his concerto for electric guitar, his piece “Triple Play” received its world premier at the hands of the TBSO and Arthur Post. This modern composition is a worthy piece, Jordan demonstrated a strong command of orchestration, and his use of modern composition techniques was effective. I am a little old fashioned and still like the Aristotle like sense of poetics when it comes to developing a musical narrative. Modern composers eschew narrative in the traditional sense and Jordan’s piece while through composed is not a narrative composition. True to contemporary practice then the first movement comes to an abrupt end. As one person told me, he said what he wanted to say and it was time to move on.
Triple Play is also a visual composition. Percussionist Francoise Breton was kept busy throughout. The piece called for a wind machine, and not having one in the city he somehow found plans for one and built it for the performance Thursday night.
Composition is the poorest paid musical task a classically trained musician can choose for a career path. It is also a path that requires the most education, so composers like Jordan Pal write music out of a sense of passion and personal drive. It is nice to see this composition rewarded with the proceeds of an Ontario Arts Council award. They got their money’s worth. Only time will tell if this work is a masterpiece or not.
After intermission it was time for Beethoven. His triple concerto is the stuff of legend, and here to play the lead roles were the Gryphon Trio. (they also played the lead roles in the Jordan Pal piece as well). This is the kind of performance that is the bread and butter for a group such as the Gryphon Trio.
It is this piece and this group of musicians who sold the concert, and they did not disappoint. When I was speaking to Jordan Pal after the performance he mentioned that the reputation of the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra is well known amongst professional musicians in Canada. Over the history of the orchestra many musicians have come and gone, some of them quests such as the Gryphon Trio, and others members or substitutes playing in the orchestra. It is this reputation plus our great performing venue the Community Auditorium that makes it possible for the TBSO to bring in such noted performers. I know that Jordan was ecstatic at the performance given his composition by the TBSO. Sitting in the audience that night the performance of the Beethoven Triple Concerto left me feeling proud of our local musicians. They are one reason Thunder Bay is a great place to live. Bravo.
Arts Editor: LakeSuperiorNews.com