THUNDER BAY, ON - December 8, 2009 - Tuesday night and the TBSO plays a Classical Plus concert at Hilldale Lutheran Church. This concert presented a number of firsts. For me it was the world premier of Steven Baric’s Chamber Symphony. It was also a first introduction of William Intrilligator to Thunder Bay audiences and many who attend the symphony take a deep interest in all the conductor candidates that step onto the orchestra’s podium. Except for the Chamber Symphony by Baric the rest of the concert program featured works by Baroque composers. A Sinfonia by Pergolesi, Telemann’s famous trumpet concerto and the first Brandenburg concerto by J.S. Bach completed the program.
While I was listening to the Largo of Pergolesi’s Sinfonia, I was struck by the fact that the composer was slowly going through a series of chordal progressions made possible because of the advent of tonality. The music was new in his time and the composer Pergolesi was exploring where these progressions could lead, and played on the sense of anticipation while doing so. This piece became a wonderful backdrop to compare the new piece on the program, Baric’s Chamber Symphony.
Steven Baric grew up in the city and received his music education at Lakehead University. He has done various musical duties for the orchestra over the years and is well acquainted with the strengths of our orchestra. This is a quality composition for orchestra and in my opinion deserves several more plays by a professional group. Steven played violin in his school days and his writing was well suited to the violin. Just the same he consulted a renowned violinist in Port Hope before committing his final ideas on the score. There are many ways a violin can make sound, and Steven effectively exploits this throughout his 30 minute work. His use of dissonance in the work is effective, the piece is based on a semi-modal eight note scale, which is outlined by the bases at the opening Grave. This modal scale becomes a unifying element for the entire composition. He likes this composition model because of its flexibility; you can have modal melodies with essentially tonal harmonies. The scherzo and trio is a good example of brilliant string writing, pizzicato (plucked strings) are featured throughout with a few bowed sighs passing between the various sections kept this work interesting to listen to. Baric is a good orchestrator, blending in the horns and woodwinds to create an effective tonal tapestry that you could dance to. Following a classical structure the Chamber symphony closes with a repeat of some of the material first heard at the beginning of the piece. Good work Steven.
The Telemann and Bach were played in the traditional way with the violin players standing. Merrie Klazek’s performance of the Telemann trumpet concerto was simply sublime. Guest conductor William Intrilligator commented “To be able to play the trumpet like that” following the standing ovation after her performance. This is a piece of music that trumpet players love to play, but it is not often played by orchestra’s in their regular concert settings because it only needs 12 or so players. Only when the orchestra plays in small venue concerts such as this one at Hilldale Lutheran is there an opportunity to play these works. Merrie says she played this piece here in Thunder Bay for her very first performance with the orchestra, and tonight’s performance marks her tenth anniversary with the orchestra.
I play the organ, and organists know that playing the music of Bach leaves you musically naked before God! It is heavenly music when all goes well, but the least little transgression will be open for all to hear. Every couple of years we are fortunate to hear the orchestra play one of Bach’s six masterpieces from the “Brandenburg Concerti”. The first concerto features the two horns and the principle violin as soloists. This is a real workout for the horns and the piece pushed them to their limit. In the slow movement there was a little disagreement in pitch between the lower strings, and together with the bassoon they had trouble synchronizing their vibrato. When the basses are playing in unison vibrato needs to be in agreement. I enjoyed the work. It takes courage to play Bach. His music is something musicians play regularly, perhaps because he put so much of his soul into his music that it has come to represent humanity itself.
Arts Editor: LakeSuperiorNews.com