The Prince George Symphony provided the warmth of beautiful classical music for its Saturday evening audience. It was a welcome respite from the cold, dark night outside. The program featured the work of European composers of Czechoslovakian and German musical heritage.
Opening the program, the orchestra performed Dvorak's Serenade for winds and strings in D minor, Opus 44. Played in four movements, the graceful and beautiful notes began with Medieval-sounding rhythms as if heralding an important event. The composer allowed for especially prominent sound from the woodwinds. Those familiar with Slavic folk music would recognize contributions to the rhythm. The menuetto proceeds with interesting cadence and layering of sound from woodwinds, strings and brasses - at times in a playful scamper. Following a restful andante con moto, the last movement kept building with rapid repetitions.
The grand piano was brought onto the stage in preparation for guest artist, Indra Egan. Her mastery of the keyboard seems well beyond the age of someone so young - she's just 15! A previous winner of the Wallace Leung Memorial award (among others), her accomplishment is a tribute to innate talent, her own dedication, and that of her family in ensuring that she has had the opportunity for advanced instruction.
Conductor Les Dala informed the audience that Egan's intense practicing has resulted in the beginnings of tendinitis. With excellent physiotherapy and an admirable determination, she soldiered on and delivered a virtuoso performance! She performed the original version of Schumann's Piano Concerto in A Minor, Opus 54. Some passages required intense, strong keyboard movement with only a few respites into tender, dreamlike music. The whole time, her delicate and graceful arm and hand movements worked through the complex fingering - especially building towards the exciting crescendo finish. Audience and conductor conveyed sincere admiration and respect for her performance.
"Postcards From the Sky" is considered a Canadian composition since Marjan Mozetich lives and works in Canada. The piece is a good showcase for stringed instruments. It was composed with three movements, but for this performance, the conductor decided that only the third movement would be played so the performance would not run so late. There is a particularly special connection with this work and Prince George because it was commissioned by Paul Andreas Mahr, PGSO conductor from 1996 to 2000, and dedicated to his wife, Leslie. Les Dala said that he was conducting its performance in Mahr's memory. The third movement, entitled "A Messenger," began with quiet, insistent repetitions underneath the sound of string. Gradually building in volume and feeling of intensity, the short piece moved towards a quiet and peaceful ending.
The final presentation was Beethoven's Symphony No. 8, Opus 93. Considered musically significant because it led a transition from music's Classical period into the Romantic era, it looks both backwards to older symphonic forms while exploring new ideas. Explaining that the piece is "full of quirky material," Dala prepared the audience to listen for a "tick-tock" sound in the second movement. He said that was meant to be a nod to the metronome. The difficult part to play is the fourth movement, the Allegro vivace, due to its complexity with notes seeming to disperse and then regroup. Reaching the emphatic finale felt like a triumph!
PGSO fans are reminded to mark the date - January 29th, 2011 - for the annual Strauss Ball.