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The classical concert by the National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) out of Washington DC, conducted by music director Christoph Eschenbach, at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (Napa) on Frederick Street, Port-of-Spain, last Friday night was one of the most satisfying musical events experienced recently.
Titled “A Symphony of Pride,” the concert formed part of the NSO’s first international two-week tour of the Americas, comprising visits to five countries to play in eight concerts, and was facilitated by the combined efforts of the United States Embassy and the Government of Trinidad and Tobago in celebration of the country’s 50th Anniversary of Independence.
One did not have to be a connoisseur of classical music, and knowledgeable about a composer’s choice of orchestration and chordal structure to appreciate that the NSO musicians played with great cohesion and precision, and the music delivered was refined to the point of perfection. So when at the end the orchestra was rewarded with a standing ovation from the full house of invited guests, there was no doubt the performance had fully justified it.
Heading the list of dignitaries in attendance at the gala, black-tie, red carpet event were President George Richards and his wife Dr Jean Ramjohn-Richards, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, and US Ambassador Beatrice Welters. The opening selection on the three-item programme, titled Blue Blazes, composed by Sean Shepherd, conveyed a wide range of influences, and contained some appealing sounds interspersed with silences that were precise and sharp-edged.
This was followed by Richard Strauss’ Suite From Der RosenKavalier which demanded some inspired and energetic playing from the musicians. Following a short interval a host of melodies and counter-melodies featured prominently in the score of the final selection, Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Symphony No 7 in A Major.
In an address, Ambassador Welters indicated that the NSO, enjoying its 81st season, was resident orchestra in the US capital for the past 25 years, and regularly participates in events of national and international importance, including performances for State occasions, presidential inaugurations and official holiday celebrations.
Through its tours and performances for heads of state, the orchestra also fills an important international role. Its international touring history began in South America about 50 years ago with a tour of 19 Latin and South American countries in 1959.
Prime Minister Persad-Bissessar, in her remarks noted, “The National Symphony Orchestra brings with it the opportunity for our own National Youth Orchestra to participate in music programmes hosted under the aegis of the University of Trinidad and Tobago. Such an opportunity to not only learn from the vast experience of others, but also to share our own experiences and, indeed, blend our rhythms as a nation united in its harmonious diversity is deeply appreciated, and continues a long and valued relationship between peoples of Trinidad and Tobago and the United States of America.”
Support for the NSO’s visit was provided by Blink/bmobile, BPTT, First Citizens Group, NLCB, Petrotrin, Guardian Group of Companies, and the National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago Ltd.