Symphony of the Kootenays: Beethoven, Rosauro, Strauss open new season

Yme Woensdregt

The Symphony of the Kootenays is back for another season of wonderful music making.

They kicked off their 2017–2018 season with the Overture to Ludwig van Beethoven’s only opera, Fidelio. Beethoven was a fervent perfectionist, and this version of the Overture was one of four versions written by him. This version finally became the standard.

The orchestra opened strongly. The winds, and in particular the horns with their exposed entrances, were very strong. There was a sense of gathering excitement as the music moved to its ending.

The highlight of the concert for me, and I suspect for many, was the Concerto No 1 for Marimba and Strings by contemporary Brazilian composer, Ney Rosauro. It was a thrilling piece, with enchanting melodies and an electrifying rhythmic drive. Rob Maciak, the marimba soloist, talked briefly about this instrument. Originating in Guatemala some 60 years ago, it is a very young instrument. As a result, there is only a small repertoire of music written for it. This Concerto is a strong and delightful piece of music which takes full advantage of the marimba’s warm sound and its ability to play both in a beautiful, haunting melodic way and with a driving rhythmic beat.

The Concerto’s opening movement featured that kind of driving rhythm, the cellos vigorously driving the music as the marimba danced above their urgent pulse. The second movement, entitled “Lamento”, featured an achingly longing melody over shimmering chords in the string orchestra. The third movement, a dance, kept us on the edge of our seats as the accents shifted surprisingly in the manner of Brazilian folk music. There were hints of samba and other dance forms. The concerto ended with a wild finale.

Maciak nailed it. The orchestra was simply amazing as they accompanied him in this unfamiliar music. The audience applauded enthusiastically at the end, demanding an encore. Maciak played his own transcription of Dr. Gradus ad Parnassum by Debussy, from the Children’s Corner Suite. As Maciak noted, this is not as simple as it sounds. Holding up the four mallets, he said, “The keys are eight times as large as a piano’s keys, I only have four fingers which are 16 inches long and don’t have any joints.”

Let me urge you to find this, and other music by Rosauro, on youtube. If you already love classical music, then this piece will be a wonderful addition to your knowledge. If you don’t love classical music, this piece will reach out and grab you and show you some of the possibilities in great music of any kind.

The second half of the concert featured a suite by Richard Strauss entitled Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. Originally written for the play by Moliere, the music alone has survived in this form as a suite of pieces. Strauss was an early 20th century composer, and he has managed to divide critics. Those who don’t like him, really don’t like his music. Those who do are ardent champions.

Strauss writes in a very difficult manner for orchestral instruments. The orchestra struggled mightily against the music. The hard work they put into learning the music showed. The whole evening was an incredibly satisfying night of music.

The Christmas concert will be held on December 2 at 7:30, and will feature Tchaikovsky’s the Nutcracker Suite, as well as some new discoveries. Get your tickets now. I promise you’ll enjoy it.

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