Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto No. 3. Shostakovich: Symphony No. 1. Works by Fjóla Evans, Matthew-John Knights, Luis Ramirez. Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Gustavo Gimeno, conductor. Yuja Wang, piano. June 17, 2023. Roy Thomson Corridor, Toronto.
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra season ends formally in a few weeks, after a run of pops concert events and movie shows. For classical loyalists the grand finale was a trio of weekend appearances in Roy Thomson Corridor by Yuja Wang, with Gustavo Gimeno on the rostrum. I used to be current for the second, on Saturday night, and was duly impressed.
Rightly characterised as a terrific virtuoso, Wang has a particular capacity to make her fingers fly in delicate methods. The opening theme in octaves of Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 is marked piano and commodo — quiet and comfy. On this efficiency the instruction appeared to use to a lot of exposition.
The tide started to rise within the improvement, resulting in the wealthy arabesques of the cadenza, one of many longest and most elaborate within the repertoire. We couldn’t have requested for extra articulate taking part in within the Intermezzo, the place the TSO winds and strings mixed with the soloist to create a palpable ambiance of melancholy.
Cautious work by Gimeno assured that we heard a concerto for piano and orchestra. None of that is to say that keyboard heroics had been missing. The finale was taken shortly and the concluding bars had been suitably uproarious. However once more I used to be most captivated with the ebb and movement of the quiet central part. Intriguing artist, Yuja Wang.
As typical, the pianist was a sight to behold, sporting her trademark stiletto heels and a glamorous robe with a slit up the facet. Her worldwide fame assured a packed home (even on her second go to of the season) and a good quota of listeners of Chinese language ancestry.
There was a lot cheering and applause, earlier than and after the efficiency. The odd encores included a jazzy piece that Wang learn from a pill — Gimeno functioning because the digital page-turner. A younger lady delighted the gang by mounting the stage with a hug for the soloist.
All this made up the second half. Earlier than intermission we heard Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 1, an outstanding achievement for a 19-year-old, as Gimeno identified in some spoken remarks. The raucous humour of the piece got here via, even when some climaxes had been overblown and the Lento appeared drawn out. The various solos included one for the timpani, inventively used as a melodic instrument.
A lot rehearsal time most likely went to 3 five-minute scores by younger Canadians commissioned via the TSO NextGen program. Finest was Luis Ramirez’s Picante, a quixotic piece that moved from off-kilter rhythms to a lyrically cinematic conclusion. There was little motion of any variety in Fjóla Evans’s Hraunflæði (Icelandic for “lava movement”). We’ve got heard trombone glissandi earlier than. Each this and Strains, Layers, Ligaments by Matthew-John Knights relied closely on percussion — to restricted impact.
The TSO has devoted a lot money and time to the exploration of short-form new works, commendably in precept, however with out sturdy outcomes. A portfolio to work on within the orchestra’s second century.
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