JWR Articles: CD - Ontario Pops Orchestra – “Breaking Barriers” (Conductor: Carlos Bastidas) - February 20, 2023 id="543337086">

Ontario Pops Orchestra – “Breaking Barriers”

3.5 3.5

Pops goes classical

For this two-disc set, “Breaking barriers” is an apt description as none of its standard classical repertoire should be considered in the pops genre, but perhaps the artistic trust meant something else...

First up is Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in G Minor. The Allegro molto is pleasant if not distinguished, featuring near-unanimous ensemble under the watchful guidance of Music Director Carlos Bastidas. More subtle “understanding” of the underlying harmonic shifts would be welcome.  The Andante features a good tempo and (as is the case in most of the albums’ tracks) a finely balanced result. The development ought to be more heroic in order to balance the few moments of mystery. The Menuetto is just too heavy-handed. Best of the bunch is the Allegro assai—finally, some unabashed joy which is the essence of so much of the master’s work.

Violinist Tanya Charles Iveniuk is the featured soloist in “Spring” from Vivaldi’s deservedly famed The Four Seasons. In the opening Allegro, there is far too little heat (verging on lugubrious—it’s difficult but not impossible to find the steam in the composer’s lines) until Iveniuk lights the fire with her first declamation. The pitch is near perfect, yet the dotted rhythms once more lack unanimity. The highlight of this set is most certainly the Largo, hauntingly sung by Iveniuk. Bastidas is appropriately forceful or discreet as required. The closing Allegro pastorale has energy to burn, at last, but is still a tad “un-unanimous” in the attacks. Still, do enjoy the ride!

In my conducting days, Gustav Holst’s St. Paul’s Suite was a favourite of both subscription audiences and school concerts. Every moment is infectious! Here the Jig, is appropriately infused with fun by all concerned! The strings definitely know how to rollick, for sure. Still drier cellos and bass would only help the accompaniment. An enticing fairy-like atmosphere makes Ostinato well worth repeated hearings. Many delicate touches add much to the overall effect. Intermezzo is much like a musical oasis amidst the surrounding movements’ busyness, followed by a few surrounding hurrahs. The Finale swings from stem to stern with glee. Cheers to more!

Including Mozart’s ever-loved Eine Kleine Nachtmusik in this collection is a bit of a gamble—most music lovers have known from “birth”.

The opening Allegro is at once treated with spritely enthusiasm; a lighter accompaniment always welcome. And the ability to “ride” the syncopations could move this performance many notches higher. Both the Romanze and Minuet need more lift on their initial subjects and sense of arrival at their “destinations”. The concluding Rondo is by far the best of the lot where the composer’s sense of happiness and joy reign supreme.

The first movement of Bach’s A Minor Violin Concerto lifts off with an immediately light and engaging introduction, deftly setting the stage for soloist Yanet Campbell Secades’ first entry, which asserts with knowing style. Unfortunately, the violin/orchestra balance favours the former too much so the “conversations” are not as crisp, clear and comprehensive as would be expected in a concert hall. Truly the heart of the work is the Adagio. More forward-looking lines from the low strings would be appreciated. Secades’ first entry is magical—as if from nowhere, the ensuing interventions are delivered with compelling passion and skill. The final Allegro bursts into life with zest and spirit, making it a fine conclusion to one of Bach’s most beloved masterworks.

These recordings conclude with Vivaldi’s Bassoon Concerto in E Minor, RV 484. Soloist Marlene Ngalissamy proves to be nimble and dexterous, delivering easy-going conversations in the opening Allegro and also producing convincing sequences at every instance—never going through the motions. Curiously the Andante feels more weepy than mournful even as hints of Mozart’s 25th symphony are there for all who choose to hear. The bassoon lines exude warmth and sincerity. The closer says “energico” from the git-go with the orchestra’s first foray, while Ngalissamy provides the necessary contrast with either liquid legato or “busy” commentary. JWR

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Conductor - Carlos Bastidas
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