WFP Scott Yoo concert review

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Violinist Yoo helps MCO warm up to winter

by Holly Harris, Winnipeg Free Press

How fitting was it on the first day our fair city witnessed flurries this season that the final work performed by the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra Tuesday night should be Vivaldi’s Winter.

Its latest program, led by popular returning guest conductor/violinist Scott Yoo, included three string orchestra works spanning as many centuries, including the Baroque master’s iconic set of four concerti depicting the changing seasons.

The evening opened with the world première of Winnipeg-based composer Randolph Peters’ Everything that Rises, a one-movement work inspired by French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s theory of the ‘Omega Point.’

Peters is widely known for his 100-plus film/television scores, in addition to several notable operas and serving as the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra’s composer-in-residence between 1996-2001.

He’s also a composer we don’t hear nearly often enough. In his newest, well-crafted piece, Peters, who was in attendance Tuesday, creates a satisfying musical arc that builds dramatically before ending in the stratosphere — its own tonal convergence point.

Kudos to MCO concertmaster Karl Stobbe for his skilfully executed ‘outlier’ solo passages that become increasingly interwoven with the string players’ gradually ascending lines. The composer drily stated during his piece’s introduction that its debut might also be its last performance — the bane of all modern-day composers — but hopefully time will prove him wrong.

The entire second half consisted of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons, featuring Yoo both conducting and displaying his own bravura as its violin soloist. This felt an overly safe programming choice that hardly inspired a state of thrall. There have been at least three local performances heard — recomposed or otherwise — this past year alone; it seems you can’t swing a baton these days without encountering the oft-played classic in some form.

Nevertheless, Yoo imbued his solo part with fierce intensity, setting brisk tempi and never missing a beat as he cued his string compatriots throughout the four successive concerti titled by season. The Presto section from Summer quickly became a stormy highlight with all the players — and especially Yoo digging in hard to its rapid-fire runs and fiery passagework.

As expected, the audience of 620 who clearly adore this maestro leapt to their feet at the end in a rousing standing ovation.

The program also included Sir Hubert Parry’s An English Suite, a quintessentially refined chamber work ideally suited for MCO programs. Yoo led the players through its six movements without score, his equally animated and organic approach allowing him to morph into a physical embodiment of the music: a shoulder shrug here, a shaken fist there that helped bring Parry’s score to life in a very visceral, and visual, way.

The jaunty Prelude led to the ebbs and flows of second movement In Minuet Style; the Saraband’s lushly scored romantic sweeps gave way to the genteel Pastoral. Air spoke eloquently of bygone eras until rollicking finale Frolic, replete with playful pizzicati and bounding folk-style charm, left the crowd more ready to face our own changing season.

 

Winnipeg Free Press, 29 October 2014
Manitoba Chamber Orchestra
Westminster United Church
Tuesday, 28 October 2014
Attendance: 620
3.5 stars out of 5