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Vancouver Symphony in Shostakovich's 10th Symphony

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I had never heard the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra play in its home theater, the Orpheum Theatre, before tonight. It's a very beautiful old theater in which I have seen a number of recitals and a concert version of "Pelleas et Melisande". (I'd heard members of the VSO play contemporary music at the Roundhouse.) I was surprised by the two video screens on either side of the stage in which there were close-ups of the orchestra players and conductor, and whoever planned the shots knew the music intimately and focused on all of the appropriate soloists. Between the opening work, the Beethoven "Coriolan Overture", and the soloist piece, Schumann's Violin Concerto in D minor, while the orchestra was onstage, a taped interview between the conductor, Guenther Herbig, and the violinist, Dale Barltrop, played onscreen. They explained how Schumann's family, backed by Joachim, the violinist for whom the work was created, decided that it reflected Schumann's failing mental state, and that it should be suppressed, which it was for 80 years, and it was first performed in public in 1937.

We didn't need to hear Barltrop talk about his personal commitment to the work: it was evident from his inspired playing. I'm not a big Schumann fan, apart from a few songs and some piano music, and I found the first movement dull, but the second was lovely and the third soared. Hearing the Beethoven and Schumann, I think that it's partially the hall's acoustics that makes the sound quite rich. The upside is the beautiful blending of the woodwinds and brass. The downside is that the violins tended to get lost in their medium to lower register in the smaller orchestra size.

I have a "make your own" subscription, and the selling point on the program was Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10. Waves and waves and walls of sound came from the orchestra, with brilliant playing by flute, piccolo, bassoon, French horn, English horn, oboe, and clarinet soloists, and the the entire brass and percussion sections. Most remarkable was the way the orchestra went from full tilt, like a rushing train to stopping on a dime, and they did this multiple times throughout the symphony.

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