Tag Archives: Brott Music Festival

Brandenburg Concerti at the Brott Music Festival

1-IMG_0559 The Complete Brandenburg Concerti featured The National Academy Orchestra, now celebrating its 25th anniversary under the artistic direction of Boris Brott.  The orchestra presented the six Brandenburg concerti in two concerts (matinee and evening) on the same day. I was only able to attend the evening concert with Concerti No. 2, 6 and 5 on the programme. The venue was the Studio Theatre of the Burlington Performance Arts Centre which housed 200 people, and it was a full house that night. The theatre provided the perfect room-size and good acoustics for chamber music.


(Source: Burlington Performing Arts Centre Facebook)

Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 is famous for its trumpet part, which is reputedly the most difficult part in the entire repertoire. It was a bright piece of music to open the concert with over twenty musicians on stage.  When the trumpet was not playing in the second movement, the violin, clarinet and flute trio blended in to a calmer movement, before the trumpet returned in the third movement. The trumpet soloist gave a brilliant and commanding performance tonight.

The atmosphere became more intimate when the instrumentation called for only six musicians in Concerto No. 6. Only two violas were playing at the beginning and other instruments were graduatlly brought in . The energy built up, and the flow of the music continued. Overall, it was a mellow and beautiful piece featuring the violas and the cello, which was muted to produce the effect of the ‘viola da gamba’.

Concerto No. 5 brought back the rest of the orchestra and was a treat for harpsichord lovers. Bach probably was writing this piece for himself, and the harpsichord soloist gave a virtuoso performance. Since the concert went without an intermission, this was a warm and affectionate piece to close the evening with.

The reason I support the National Academy Orchestra of Canada was the opportunity and support it has given to young musicians, mostly recent graduates from music programmes, who still need the mentorship of established musicians in how to become a professional musician. This orchestra provides a unique platform for these musicians to work with experienced professionals before they join major orchestras in North American and around the world. This evening’s concert is the best illustration of this philosophy. Emerging musicians were performing with professionals, who took on the leading or principal parts on the trumpet (Robert Weymouth), the viola (Brendon Chui), the harpsichord (Borys Medicky) and the oboe (Tamsin Johnston), and led by their enthusiastic concertmaster Joseph Lanza. The younger musicians may occasionally missed the flair of the concerti, but the music quality is made up by their focus and discipline in making music. An added bonus was the succinct and very well-written programme notes. I had a thoroughly enjoyable evening.

The Messiah with the Brott Music Festival 2012

Handel-Messiah-631

I like Handel’s Messiah. Not a Christmas will go by without my listening to the Messiah at home (and I listen to it at other times of the year too) or at a concert venue. My Messiah treat this year was with Boris Brott’s National Academy Orchestra and the Arcady Singers.

It was held at the Burlington Performing Art Centre (BPAC), which had just turned one year old. This concert  also gave me an opportunity to experience the concert hall for the first time.

Brott’s National Acdemy Orchestra always maintains an excellent standard when they perform. With the Messiah, Brott put together an orchestra of 17 instrumentalists—mainly strings, with a harpsichord and organ, percussion and a couple of trumpets—to complement the Arcady Singers with its 30 or so vocalists. This moderate force was ideal for the concert hall which sat about 700 people, and gave an awakening contrast to the mega forces of orchestras and choirs of almost 200 strength which seemed to be the selling point of many Messiah performances these days. In fact, when Handel wrote the Messiah, it was intended to be played and sung by a moderate size orchestra and choir. The piece was also performed as such in the past.

I can fully appreciate the beauty of the performance sitting in the middle of the BPAC hall. The soloists were not just performing; they were communicating to the audience, who also became involved, as opposed to watching from an aloof corner of a huge concert hall. The soloists also brought along their individual styles besides their tonal range and colours. I like to think of the soloists as story-tellers in the Messiah. They are relating to the audience the story of Jesus from the prophecy of his coming, his life, to his resurrection. Janet Obermeyer (soprano) sang with well-controlled grace and credibility. She was so at ease with her recitatives and arias that she appeared to be confiding the story to the audience from her heart. Lauren Segal (mezzo soprano) gave her performance an operatic touch. There was drama in her facial expressions and voice. (It was also interesting to read in the programme notes that Ms Segal had a Masters degree in Physics.)  Daivd Curry (tenor) sang his part with clarity and energy, while Jason Howard (baritone) charmed the audience with his sincerity.

In the second part of the concert, the orchestra was joined by the brasses. The solo trumpet player gave a brilliant performance. I was anticipating the high notes, and he totally delivered them! Three notes into the introduction of the Hallelujah chorus, the audience rose to their feet. The surprise of the evening was when Maestro Brott turned towards the audience and conducted them to sing along with the choir. This really made my evening. I had always thought that a sing-along Messiah would be fun, and this was indeed a great start for me.

I left the concert hall feeling content and happy. I cannot find a better word to describe the feeling after the heart-warming and joyful music of Handel. I think my experience has been enhanced by the BPAC concert hall with its excellent acoustic and comfortable seating. I already like the place when I enter the door, looking up to the very tall ceiling, glass windows, and a spacious foyer. It is designed with the interest of the environment in mind. The architects, Diamond & Schmitt, also design the Four Seasons Performing Arts Centre in Toronto, La Maison Symphonique in Montreal and the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersberg, Russia. I also want to add that the lower boxes of the concert hall are fully accessible, and patrons in wheelchairs can sit in the boxes, where the armchairs are movable.

Foyer

Foyer

Ceiling

Ceiling

The Boxes

The Boxes

The Burlington Performing Arts Centre, 440 Locust Street, Burlington, Ontarrio.    www.burlingtonpac.ca

References       http://www.lancette-arts-journal.ca/feature26.htm

Pipes and English Tea

I went to a concert called “Just Pipes” presented by the Brott Music Festival 2012 at St. Christopher’s Anglican Church in Burlington, Ontario. It featured two local artists, Jan Overduin, organist and Matthew Jones, recorder soloist, and  the concert got its name from the musical instruments.

The Brott Music Festival, now running in its 25th year, is known for inviting very talented local artists to perform in local venues in Hamilton and Burlington. St. Christopher’s Anglican Church has hosted many of these concerts because of its beautiful pipe organ, and its ample seating.

Matthew Jones is a versatile musician. He is Music Director of the Timmins Symphony Orchestra. He teaches, records as well as maintains his career as a cellist and recorder soloist.

Jan Overuid is a multi-award winner and has appeared in many recital, radio broadcast and on television.

The first part of the  program consisted of four pieces of baroque music: Sammartini’s Concerto in F major, Handel’s Sonata No. 5 in F major, Telemann’s Concerto in C major and J.S. Bach’s Sonata in F major.

It was a delightful performance by both Jones and Overduin and they brought to life the baroque flavour in the beautiful church setting. Jones played the soprano recorder in the Sammatini, and the alto recorder in the other pieces. His tone was rich and he had superb control of the instrument. He even performed a fine balancing act by raising his knee and touched his thigh with the end of the recorder in the Telemann concerto–this was the stunt to get a high F#! Jones prepared the audience for this surprise when he introduced the pieces to us. He had a sense of humour, and  whatever was lacking in program notes for this concert was well compensated for by Jones’s oral presentation.

The organ is quite rightly described as “the orchestra in a box”. The variation of sounds it produced complemented the recorder playing. I was particularly impressed by the piece by Handel and the picturesque interpretation by both artists.

The audience was ushered to another hall during intermission and we were served afternoon tea.

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There was a selection of dainty fruit tarts, lemon squares, shortbread cookies and lemon poppy seed cake. The sandwich platter also had an interesting variety, including the cucumber sandwich which added authenticity to the afternoon tea menu. There were butter scones served with clotted cream and jam.

I wish to take issue with the program calling this High Tea. Except for the high table, this tea was anything but high tea, which should have consisted of savoury items such as Scotch egg, and even steak and kidney pie and served later in the day. I hope a true English would back me up on this, because on this side of the pond, North Americans think of “high” in terms of being “superior”, as in “high” German or “haute” couture. Well, English afternoon tea is served at low tables, strictly speaking. Calling what we had, the English afternoon tea, as High Tea does not give it clout; it is a misrepresentation.  I think that given the time our tea was served, and the menu, the program would have done better justice to the event by calling it Pipes and English Tea.

Now, let us not be carried away by our afternoon tea, because there was still the second part of the musical program to come. We were entertained while we were enjoying our tea by Jones and Overduin again. This time, the accompaniment was played on a keyboard.

The music was still baroque, except for the piece specially . composed for Jones entitled  Fantasia for Recorders. Jones played with different recorders: soprano, alto, tenor, baritone and bass, including playing with two recorders at the same time. He joked that he looked like a walrus. Above all, he demonstrated amazing dexterity when he switched recorders. Jones stole the show in this part of the performance. He was lively, almost athletic, in his playing. Regrettably, the keyboard could not keep up with him. It was also uncertain as to whether it was due to the acoustics of the room or to the limitations of the keyboard that the accompaniment sounded loud, even overpowering at times.

All in all, I had a very relaxing afternoon listening to baroque music and enjoying my English afternoon tea, that I refuse to call high tea.