By Mike Keenan
What a thrill to watch Canadian violinist Aisslinn Nosky in action at the PAC as NSO’s Principal Guest Conductor and also as violinist with the NSO’s strings, creating beautiful music that covered a full range of emotions on a Sunday afternoon.
She began with Joy, originally commissioned as a wedding gift, but fashioned by Composer-in-Residence Kevin Lau in 2008 into a “meditative melody expressed by the violin in sweeping vocal lines across the span of the work.” It brought back memories of Barber’s Adagio for Strings used evocatively in the movie Platoon, a haunting lament that Lau explains in his program notes as ‒ “Far too often it is only in the absence of something dear to us that we are able to see with utter clarity its value in our lives. The experience of loss is an awakening, and it is no surprise that joy and grief-both painfully acute
experiences of overwhelming love-are expressed in such similar ways. Joy is a tribute to these sentiments, and a plea to cherish the precious things in our lives, while they remain.”
I talked briefly with Kevin between sets and asked if his piece was inspired by personal loss. He related that ten years ago he was crestfallen, sure that he had lost his wife-to-be, but that it all had had a happy ending as they did eventually reunite and marry.
Next, Nosky simultaneously conducted and played a spirited Haydn Violin Certo in G Major. The program notes indicate that the “three-movement work follows traditional Classical sonata and rondo forms, with a middle movement sounding very much in the style of an operatic aria, perhaps betraying Haydn’s newly compelled preoccupation with that genre at the time.”
After intermission, Nosky conducted the full orchestra performing Beethoven’s Symphony No. 3, “Eroica,” the emotions now rising to pomposity and grandiosity in a piece that was once intended to celebrate Napoleon. Program notes again by Dr. Brian E. Power indicate that “Beethoven himself considered it his finest symphonic triumph, until he wrote the Ninth Symphony (which is the closet to the “Eroica” in both scope and structure.)
Aisslinn enjoys a reputation for being one of the most dynamic and versatile violinists of her generation, and her conducting is much the same, exuding great energy, her hands stretching forward and her head festooned with crimson hair bobbing so animatedly, I thought at times that she would fall forcefully off the podium.
This is her third and final season as the NSO’s first Principal Guest Conductor. Nosky is in great demand internationally as a director, soloist and concertmaster, and we will miss her contribution to the NSO. Music Director, Bradley Thachuk was on hand at the end to congratulate her along with the enthusiastic audience.
Next up for Thachuk and the NSO is Under the Mistletoe with Joey (DeBenendetto) and Christine (Cornish Smith) as part of the Pops! Series on Dec. 8. Check out the Niagara Symphony Orchestra’s informative website for more details at https://www.niagarasymphony.com/
Thachuk is also featured on YouTube with a “Welcome to the 2018-2019 Concert Season” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2A7awWkj3M, which includes a description of the N. Walker Chamber Orchestra Series.
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