BWW Review: Escape to Serenity with Toronto Symphony's BRAHMS GERMAN REQUIEM
Sometimes a striking contrast is just what is needed. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra presents Alexina Louie's Triple Concerto for Three Violins and Orchestra and Brahms' Ein deutsches Requiem (BRAHMS GERMAN REQUIEM). Frantic tension meets wonderful tranquility in this double bill.
Every program this season opens with a Sesquie for Canada's 150th. Rolf Boon's Hyacinth Caelum reflects on the blue skies that "typically adorn" Lethbridge, Alberta. The piece excites with a building, triumphant timpani part, while the first trumpet soars - blasting high notes by the end.
Alexina Louie's Triple Concerto for Three Violins and Orchestra joins together three of Canada's most talented concertmasters - Jonathan Crow (TSO), Yosuke Kawasaki (National Arts Centre Orchestra, Ottawa) and Andrew Wan (Montreal Symphony Orchestra). Beginning with chiming bells - the sounds of a hazy, rural town in the morning - the three soloists shine in a moving, energetic piece. Louie's style is thrilling. Minimalist repetitions echo throughout the orchestra, in a canon-like fashion. Wan begins to elaborate on a melody, before passing it to Kawasaki and joining Crow to create a repetitive backing - a union of terrifying violinist triplets. The piece swells, like a tide - the harp pulling the current of sound back. As a fan of Philip Glass (I drew a few stylistic similarities), Louie's concerto was wickedly exhilarating.
Any anxiety or excitement created by the concerto was instantly lulled by Brahms' supremely gorgeous Ein deutsches Requiem. Just under seventy minutes long, the Requiem opens with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, singing long, legato lines that give the lush sound an ever warmer quality. With such a professional, capable choir, conductor Peter Oundjian is able to easily shape and control them.
Baritone Russell Braun emerges in the "Andante Moderato" with a focused, pressed sound. I've definitely heard more volume from Braun in the past, but his singing was extremely sensitive and well supported for the difficult lines demanded by Brahms. Soprano Erin Wall crescendos out of carefully controlled onsets, into a robust, spinning voice. Wall sings with such presence - commanding the Roy Thomson. Returning in the "Andante" section, Braun sang with more passion, sharper consonants and more body to his voice.
The requiem reaches its climax with the choir singing, "Tod, wo ist dein Stachel?/O death, where is thy sting?". Orchestra and choir are magnificently unified in a rich, glorious sound. Even the soloists were smiling at the outstanding quality of music that was being created.
You have one more chance to see the Toronto Symphony Orhestra present BRAHMS GERMAN REQUIEM - September 30th* at 7:30pm at the Roy Thomson Hall, 60 Simcoe Street, Toronto, ON.
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit https://www.tso.ca/concert/brahms-german-requiem
(photo credit: Jag Gundu)
*The September 30th program will only feature the BRAHMS GERMAN REQUIEM