Our concert tickets to Ehnes & Beethoven’s Ninth (Hamilton Philharmonic Orchestra [HPO] Masterworks Series) included a dinner at the Hamilton Club. This club has been at the intersection of James Street and Main Street since 1873. Once inside, one cannot but notice the paintings on the wall in the lobby, the lounges, and the dining rooms. The ambiance is proper but not stiff. relaxing yet not overly casual.
The dining room staff knew that we were going to a concert afterwards. (There were other patrons with a similar agenda.) The service was prompt and polite. At no time did we feel rushed. My husband and I both chose the leek and potato soup. The taste was very good, and the texture was enhanced by soft, creamy pieces of potatoes. I ordered a pasta dish with scallops and linguine, and my husband had salmon on soba noodles. The seafood was seared to perfection.
My dining highlight was the homemade butter tart with ice cream–a 3-inch tart with the most decadent filling inside a shortcrust pastry. I succumbed to the aroma of the butter. The warm tart and the cold ice cream woke up all my taste buds.
It was a short stroll from the Club to Hamilton Place, the venue of the concert, after this lovely meal.
James Ehnes performance was world class. He played Beethoven Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 61. I sat there spellbound by his “phenomenal control”–cannot find a better way to describe his mastery of the instrument, which was a Strad of 1715, other than quoting a London Times Review–and musicianship. Never occurred in classical concerts, but after the cadenza of the third movement (Rondo, Allegro), I almost wanted to break into an applause like what an audience would in a jazz concert. For encore, Ehnes treated us to Bach’s Sonata No. 3, third movement. Perfection!
The best part of this concerto was the seamless partnership between soloist and the orchestra. I think the credit has to go to the music director and conductor, James Sommerville, for enabling the orchestra to assume the same character and interpretation of this well-known concerto as that of the soloist. It was a unique dialogue of mutual respect and admiration through music, an utter delight.
Sommerville totally transformed the personality of the orchestra in the Beethoven Symphony No.9 in D Minor, Opus 125, “Choral”. Under the magic of his baton, the orchestra became the chameleon which led the audience in their musical journey through images from darkenss to light, feelings from untamed to loving, and reaching the glorious pinnacle of human unity and joy. This unity would not have been possible without the HPO, the joint choral from Chorus Niagara and Bach Elgar Choir and the four vocalists working with Sommerville. The last movement left me with a scintillating sensation as I left the concert hall. My experience that evening had gone beyond gastronomic and acoustic. It was an indulgence of all my senses.