I attended a Manitoba Chamber Orchestra concert the other evening to enjoy two pieces that were unfamiliar to me as well as a Mozart Symphony. The soloist, Mark Andre Hamelin and music director, Ann Manson created a musically interesting evening, linking Mozart to Kancheli and then Kancheli to Sylvestrov. ‘The Messenger’ featuring piano, synthesizer and strings was written in memory of Sylvestrov’s wife and contains melodic fragments, specifically motifs from Mozart as well as from folk music. It features many duet-like passages between the concert master and the soloist as well as highlighting other players interacting with the soloist. Sylvestrov interrupts motifs, moving on to new and varied melodic and rhythmic figures before letting them dissipate into the atmosphere. I was reminded of walking in areas of London and Paris past open windows, hearing strains of multiple melodies mixing, fading or ascending as I wandered.
The orchestra then interpreted Symphony No. 25 in G minor (K183) by Mozart. The rapid tempi were controlled by Manson as she led the players through the passion associated with Mozart’s use of this minor key. The ensemble was tight throughout the performance with a warm, subtle tone quality that welcomed bursts of drama and pathos.
The second half of the concert featured “Valse Boston” by the Georgian composer, Giya Kancheli. I had not known (or I had forgotten) that the Boston Waltz was a slow Americanized version of the Viennese Waltz. Kancheli’s piece opens abruptly with a crashing note played by the piano followed by a haze of string sounds that gradually enters our consciousness. The music is punctuated throughout by gripping percussive chords that dissipate into the air.
Although neither piece is particularly technically demanding for the pianist, both require extreme sensitivity of interpretation and deep command of very quiet playing. Hamelin and Manson highlighted colour, line, texture and ensemble playing in ways that assured a lingering memory of both ‘The Messenger’ and ‘Valse Boston.’