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THUNDER BAY, ON - March 1, 2011 - Like a great cheff in a marvelous kitchen the Thunder Bay Arthur PostSymphony Orchestra served up some new and wonderfull treats for its patrons at last Thursday’s Masterworks Concert. Titled Classic and Contemporary, I think the word contemporary may have kept some patrons at home, thinking the concert would be another evening of hair pulling , fractioned dissonance.  Nothing could have been further from the truth. The Conemporary works on the programme included music by Igor Stravinsky,”Danse Concertantes” was originally intended as music for a ballet theatre. The music began and ends with a march, a simple mechanism that Stravinsky used to usher the dancers on and off the stage. The inner three movements “Pas d’action, Thème varié, and Pas de deux, provide contrasting, rythmical, and sentimental music well suited for dancing and for listening too! Not too much to dislike about this music.

The second piece on the programme was by composer John Estacio. Composed in 1995 this piece has been recorded previously by the TBSO with Geoffry Moull conducting in 2004. Arthur Post commented that he truly liked this piece.It is a piece that truly reflects the Thunder Bay Canadian experience. Our orchestra has a high degree of musicianship and in this programme full of newer music I was constantly amazed at the different ways a well trained player can produce sound from a violin. Modern music features more instruments and a much greater role for percussion instruments, and our chamber orchestra presented a wide variety of tonal colours in this concert.

After the intermission the orchestra played a Divertimento by Oscar Morawetz. Like the title Divertimento suggests this is not intended to be a long or intense piece, and in many respects I found it closer to the English school of chamber music, with many calm and relaxing passages. Hardly what some people would expect from a modern composition.

The programming shows that modern music does not need to be like going to the dentist. I found all the music well suited to the size and composition of our orchestra. Music that was intended for a dance theatre does not require a 60 member orchestra, and so our chamber sized orchestra could and did do a very convincing performance of all the music for this concert.

This concert was anchored by Joseph Haydn’s great symphony 104. Also known as the London Symphony this piece demonstrates how great a composer Haydn was. Again the musicianship of our orchestra came to the fore, and from my view point I could see all the internal communication between players and the conductor. The music of Haydn is full of animated parts, sort of like groups of musicians having a great conversation with one another. One group plays first and the second responds and so on. Having the chance to play a piece like this Haydn symphony is something musicians look forward to. It is fun to play and requires the complete attention of all musicians. Just like a good conversation all the gossip was included, which means all the subtle phrasing, and the build up to the points of interest where exactly where they needed to be. In classical music the challenge is not so much making sounds in new ways, but refining and perfecting the established technique and playing well in the classical style. This is a symphony worthy of Beethoven, but it is right sized for the TBSO.
In the John Estacio piece there was some great playing by individual principal players of the orchestra, Penny Clark on flute, Harold Weavers on bassoon, Peter Shackelton on clarinet and Marc Palmquist on cello.

More people should go to hear the TBSO. Even if you do not know a lot about the music, the programme notes are always good and it can give you an idea what the music is about. You do not have to listen long to realize that these performers are good, and we are fortunate to have them in our community. Like going to a great restaurant for great food, going to the Symphony is great for the soul. Good music makes use all feel better.

Bert Rowson
Arts Editor: LakeSuperiorNews.com

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