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A remarkable dazzling evening


THUNDER BAY, ON  ----    October 20, 2012  ---  Her press photos do not do her justice when Susan Houyou see Susan Hou live on stage. Like the Guarneri violin that she plays so flawlessly, she is vibrant and full of life. Music is the passion of her life and it is a gift she shares with audiences around the world.

Her proper name is Yi-Jia Susanne Hou, and years ago when her parents emigrated to Canada their first orchestra job was with the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra. It was in Thunder Bay that her family made their first Canadian friends. By the age of five she had already been studying the violin with her father Alec for a year. In the time since the family left Thunder Bay she has had the best of instruction at the violin and the best preparation for a concert career that most professionals could only wish for. On Thursday night she was on our stage at the Community Auditorium with the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra behind her.

Her piece was the daunting Khachaturian Violin Concerto. Musicologists sometimes do not treat this composer in the same way that they regard other Russian composers who lived during Stalin’s era. Khachaturian managed to avoid the wrath of officials by using folk or people’s melodies in his music. Having said that, he really knew how to make the most of those melodies in this concerto. The concerto is a masterpiece of orchestration. That is mixing and blending the different sounds of the orchestra to create effective and intriguing music. There is no capitulation here; this is all very original orchestration and the work of a master. In the last quarter of the first movement Susanne Hou played and extended cadenza, a fire filled solo passage that left the audience in awe. This prompted a standing ovation for her at the end of the first movement! Who would have thought! A standing ovation for Khachaturian in Thunder Bay and so the audience continued to applaud movement after movement until at the end of the piece and three curtain calls she played Fritz Kreisler’s Capriccio for violin as an encore. I have not heard many encores in the time that I have been attending concerts with the symphony. Her performance of both pieces was simply astounding, flawless, breath-taking and memorable. Susanne will be welcome back to Thunder Bay any time.

It may have been that the TBSO was all fired up with Susanne’s great performance in the violin concerto, or perhaps they were a bit ambulant at the news that ticket subscription sales this season were nearly double the previous season but the job they did playing Tchaikovsky’s 4th Symphony in F+ was equally amazing. Clearly Arthur Post and his musicians were having a good night. You have to be a hero to play in this orchestra, for such a piece is normally played by orchestra twice the size. Knowing the hall and with its adjustable acoustics combined with the tremendous heart of our musicians has produced amazing results before and  they did again on Thursday night.  Tchaikovsky had plenty of personal demons to wrestle with and the symphony constantly shifts between dark and somber moods and sheer triumph.

If this concert is anything to go by the season is off to a very good start. One thing I liked about the season is the return to a true masterworks concert formula, an orchestral appetizer, a concerto followed by a full symphonic composition. While our audience claps between movements that is music to the ears of many in the house for they have found new people to share some of the world’s greatest music.

Bravo! I am anticipating the rest of the season with great interest.

Bert Rowson
Arts Editor:

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