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Another promising appearance by Gustavo Gimeno

Roy Thomson Hall
10/09/2019 -  & October 10, 12, 2019
Guillaume Connesson: Aleph: Danse symphonique
Sergei Prokofiev: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C Major, Op. 26
Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: The Tempest Fantasy-Overture, Op. 18
Maurice Ravel: Suite No. 2 from Daphnis et Chloť

Beatrice Rana (piano)
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Gustavo Gimeno (conductor)

B. Rana & G. Gimeno (© Jag Gundu)

This was the third appearance in Toronto of incoming music director Gustavo Gimeno and, like his first appearance (I unfortunately missed the second one in June) it went very well.

The starry feature of the evning was Prokofievís Piano Concert No. 3 with the glamorous 26-year-old Beatrice Rana making her TSO debut (but not her Toronto debut - she has performed at Koerner Hall). Her combination of delicate filigree and sheer force brought an ovation at the end of the first and third movements. This raises that perennial problem of applause between movements. Since people had applauded at the bravura conclusion of the first movement, they felt compelled to applaud again after the slower second movement, and it sounded perfunctory (despite the fact that the pianist had cast a spell).

Ms. Rana performed an encore: Chopinís Etude Op. 25, No. 5, a work that manages to be both seductive and a bit unsettling. She is very good and I hope she returns soon.

The concert opened with a very brash, almost circus-y, work, Guillaume Connessonís Aleph: Danse symphonique, the opening of his three-part work Cosmic Trilogy. Aleph is meant to evoke the Big Bang (the other two sections representing the appearance of light and stars, then the death of a star). It contains a lot of work for an expanded percussion section. This was a revisiting of a work premiered by the TSO in 2007, a practice I would like to see more of, and I wouldnít mind hearing the complete trilogy. I canít say it is the breakthrough piece that will reinstate classical music to the forefront of cultural awareness (what work is?) but it might have more depth than we expect from a concert opener.

The second half opened with a Tchaikovsky rarity, his Tempest Fantasy-Overture, a tone poem on the Shakespeare play. It opens with moody pictorial music sweeping toward a storm, followed by a tender cello melody. It swirls up once more and seems on the brink of something like the full 1812 Overture, but this breaks off and the work concludes very quietly. It seems that whenever four pieces appear on a symphony program, one is destined to be overshadowed by the rest, especially if it come third on the program, even when given a fine performance. Such was the fate of this work, which will always fall in the shadow of other Tchaikovsky works.

Ravelís Suite No. 2 from Daphnis et Chloť appears frequently (and for good reason - the Lever du jour is arguably the most dazzling five minutes of music from the past century) and this performance was greeted with hoots of joy. Further evidence that the TSO seems destined to do well under the leadership of Gustavo Gimeno.

Michael Johnson



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