Ode to Joy

Last night’s TSO program, conducted by Gustavo Gimeno, kicked off with three short pieces by Canadian composers.  All were impressive.  The first two; Adam Scime’s A Dream of Refuge and Bekah Simms’ Bite are reflections (to some at extent at least) on the pandemic.  The Scime piece is lighter and brighter.  There is uncertainty there but ultimately it seems to speak of hope.  The Simms piece wis much darker with heavy percussion and blaring brass.  A sense of uncertainty permeates the string writing.  It’s quite disturbing.  Roydon Tse’s Unrelenting Sorrow was written for those who have lost loved ones.  It’s quite melodic and has strong contrasts between dramatic and more lyrical passages.  Sorrowful perhaps but not unrelentingly so.

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The second and much longer part of the programme was Beethoven’s ninth symphony.  It was well done.  Gimeno drew out and developed the main themes with clarity.  There was some really lovely playing from the principal cello when the “joy” theme first appears and the finale was dramatic.  Ryan Speedo Green’s sepulchral bass-baritone seemed well suited to the introductory lines of Schiller’s great ode.  There was some suitably lyrical tenoring from Issachah Savage a bit later on  and the ladies; Angela Meade and Rihab Chaieb, soared above the chorus when they needed to.  The Toronto Mendelssohn Choir (singing masked still??) was fine though whether the masking, the general density of the music or the hall were the main contributors to some loss of clarity in the big finale I couldn’t say.  All in all this was a well done ninth.

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The program will be repeated tonight, tomorrow and Sunday at Roy Thomson Hall.

Photo credit: Jag Gundu

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