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Monday, December 09, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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From Bach to Baroque - Strings so sweet
Joslynne L Sealey
B Music Dip Music Education
Hummingbird Medal (Gold)
A most wonderful concert, Bach To Baroque, was presented at Queen’s Hall on August 24 and 25. This was the work of music director Kenneth Listhrop and virtually his entire School for Strings, the T&T Youth Philharmonic Orchestra.
Queen’s Hall was packed to capacity with enthusiastic fans, appreciative not only of the music, but also of the sight of some 200 or so youths on stage, eager and disciplined in their performance of the music of Johan Sebastian Bach, the musical giant of the Baroque era (1685-1750).
The programme began with the combined orchestras (Junior, Intermediate and Advanced) under the direction of assistant music director Tracell Frederick. The opening selections were Minuets (arranged by Sameer Alladin), Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring and Gavottes 1 & 2 from the Overture No 3 in D Major.
They captured the stately tempo of these well–known pieces very well, with good phrasing and admirable projection of the melodies; especially enjoyable was the lively dance-like tempo of the Gavottes at the end.
The second section featured the advanced orchestra with concert master Marc Haroo and conductor Tracell Frederick. Here flautist Miriam Waterman, accompanied by the orchestra, began with Menuet and Badinerie from Orchestral Suite No 2 in B Minor. Waterman is a talented musician. This was an enjoyable performance but the sound system needed to project her solo a little more.
The Double Concerto in D Minor with soloists Chrissa Marie Rhonda Guiseppi (Concert Mistress) and Marc Haroo was excellent: certainly a high point of the evening. This was a crisp, rhythmic and clean execution with wonderful support from the orchestra.
Closing the first half of the evening the Advanced Orchestra under the direction of Kenneth Listhrop performed the beautiful Sheep May Safely Graze from Cantata BWV 208. Here the orchestra excelled with a stately, sensitive tempo and very legato phrasing.
You could have heard the proverbial pin drop. The orchestration here was so skilful, the melodies echoing throughout the various sections.
The final performance Fantasia & Fugue in C Minor was orchestrated by Sir Edward Elgar. This was very enjoyable, especially the “contemporary” orchestration (by Elgar) of this Baroque piece which came to a tremendous fortissimo at the end. But it was the Allegro (Fugue) which was so enjoyable with the imitation of the theme, bringing in the brass and woodwinds and culminating in a really exciting climax.
There was tremendous applause as the audience prepared to mingle for the intermission.
Maestro Kenneth Listhrop returned to conduct the Advanced Orchestra for the second half (Concert Master Marc Haroo) and to perform many of Bach’s Chorale settings. They began with Ein fest burg ist unser Gott (A Mighty Fortress is Our God) orchestrated by Leopold Stokowski. This beautiful melody began in the cellos, very sustained, with slow and stately pacing. There was tremendous applause at the end.
The Chorale from the Easter Cantata-Allegro non troppo followed, again orchestrated by Stokowski. Here, over a steady accompaniment by the strings (a half beat rhythm), the brass section played the well-known chorale melody above.
Arioso which followed was taken from Cantata BWV 156. This beautiful melody, initially in the cellos, (sensitive phrasing, especially the triplets) was gently transferred to the violin/viola section. In the end, the whole ensemble, in a swelling crescendo, came together with this main theme. Tremendous applause followed as we prepared to listen to Sleepers Awake! (orchestrated by Eugene Ormandy). This well-known counter melody started in the violins and wonderfully, the chorale melody appeared in the brass section above it all.
This was an excellent performance by the orchestra, building to a stately, “held back” ending so typical of the Baroque. As our applause faded, we heard the famous Aria (Air from the Overture No. 3 in D major BWV 1068) orchestrated by L. Stokowski. This hauntingly beautiful melody began in the cellos with a delicately supporting double bass line. There was a hushed feeling throughout the hall as this music unfolded. Almost a duet emerged between the string sections. This was excellent and expressive orchestral playing, thanks to the skilful and sensitive leadership of Kenneth Listhrop, the musical director of this amazing youth orchestra.
After the vote of thanks and presentations to various important persons, the concert came to an end with the famous Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, a piece originally for organ, orchestrated here by Stokowski. It is a tour-de-force to say the least, with a tremendous “attack” at the very start and the building of thick harmonic sounds. Toccata means improvisatory in style, calling for virtuoso technique. Suffice it to say that the Advanced Trinidad and Tobago Youth Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Kenneth Listhrop did not disappoint.
The performance was riveting from the start with all the drama/attack required at the start, virtuosi passages and the colourful harmonies. The Fugue was especially enjoyable with the staggered entries of the theme.
In the end, there was an exciting, full orchestral climax which literally brought the house down.
In fact, a standing ovation followed immediately in spontaneous appreciation for this wonderful evening of music.
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