JWR Articles: Live Event - Masterworks Series (Guest Conductor: Michael Newnham) - April 26, 2006

Masterworks Series

3.5 3.5

First half sizzles, second sags

For its last Masterworks concert of season, the Niagara Youth Orchestra (Michael Newnham, music director) crammed onto the Sean O’Sullivan Theatre’s stage with their older colleagues for a few moments of big orchestra bravura. Elgar’s invigorating Three Bavarian Dances were the ideal choice to showcase both the existing and developing talent in the peninsula’s finest orchestral incubator.

“The Dance” had ompah to burn but then Daniel Swift and his expanded forces couldn’t switch gears soon enough to relax and let the ebb and flow of “Lullaby” sooth the delighted crowd. Still, both principal horn Tim Lockwood and Thomas Janzen, his white-shirted associate, rendered the horn lines with great distinction all but erasing the misfiring pizzicati from the multi-generational string sections. No matter! The energetic, if somewhat scrambled delivery of “The Marksman” had the appreciative audience cheering for more.

Donizetti’s Concertino for Oboe had an able protagonist in the person of NS principal, Christie Goodwin. Her supple, easy tone suited the operatic declamations well and her wide dynamic range and varied, clean articulation were spot on. The only quibble came from the ensemble problems with her regular seat-mate Douglas Miller, which was probably the result of the wholesale rearrangement of the band once the younger set left the stage.

It’s always a challenge to step out of the trenches and into the spotlight—abandoning the “I must follow the baton” for the more soloistic “catch me if you can” that is vital to making a personal statement when leading the fray. Let’s hope for a return engagement soon!

Before intermission Swift fired on all cylinders with a frenetic reading of John Estacio’s The Harvesters—the Canadian answer to Copland’s Red Ear of Corn. From the Stravinsky-raw opening, where the trombones ate up every note with compelling zest, only to be out-muscled by the perfectly edged trumpets, this performance enthused the room in a way too seldom felt at these concerts. Much more please! (But, as Richard Strauss once advised, “Don’t encourage the brass.”)

Concert Companion

A new feature in JWR, and in conjunction the Niagara Symphony Association, newcomers to the subscription series concerts (Pops and Masterworks) are invited to attend free of charge then offer their candid first-time opinion.

Having enjoyed a Pops concert so thoroughly last December (cross-reference below), our Concert Companion made a return visit to sample a program where none of the music was familiar.

“I really quite enjoyed it. I realized that you don’t need to recognize the music to appreciate it. I was also overjoyed to hear that I was not the only one who enjoyed the first half better than the last. The music in the first half kept me excited and interested. After intermission, I felt myself nodding off. It seemed to me that the Goldmark symphony was just different variations of the same music. Like comparing apples to oranges or in my case (I think you know the music I like) comparing Country & Western (yuk!) to the "classic" rock.

“Saying that, I do appreciate being introduced to a new genre of music that I can feel and ’see.’ The musicians are amazing and the conductor certainly worked for his wage, (especially, compared to the Christmas concert).”

Can’t improve on that! JWR

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Guest Conductor - Michael Newnham
Conductor - Daniel Swift
Three Bavarian Dances, Op. 27 - Edward Elgar
The Harvesters from A Farmer's Symphony - John Estacio
Rustic Wedding Symphony, Op. 26 - Karl Goldmark
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