By Mike Keenan
The Niagara Symphony Orchestra has endeared itself as a cultural treasure for the city. It performs varied concerts throughout the year in Masterworks, Pops and Family Series, 21 concerts in all. And the NSO showcases top national and international guest artists for us to see in action.
Music director Bradley Thachuk leads the orchestra on stage at the FirstOntario Performing Arts Centre. A native of Toronto, where he studied French horn and classical guitar at U of T., he shifted to conducting, leading symphonies and opera orchestras across Europe and North America. “Canadian talent features … particularly on our Masterworks series, with engaging performers and innovative music,” says Thachuk.
Thus, I was in attendance for Masterworks 3, Triumph of Destiny, featuring Canada’s renowned Gryphon Trio playing epic works by Beethoven written in one turbulent decade (1803-1810) and a testament to his musical genius. The 5th or “Symphony of Destiny” is famous for its modest yet ubiquitous four-note motif opening, which forms the recurrent theme during the first movement.
The Gryphon Trio features Annalee Patipatanakoon, violin, Roman Borys, cello and James Parker, piano. For over 25 years, they have garnered acclaim, impressing audiences with highly refined, dynamic and memorable performances. In 2020, they will direct the classical music summer program at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.
I particularly enjoyed Roman Borys, cello and James Parker, piano who entertained with passionate flourish throughout. They occupied the middle of the program, playing Beethoven’s Concerto in C Major for Piano, Violin and Cello, while the orchestra started off with Beethoven’s Overture to Egmont Op. 84, and finished with the famous Symphony No. 5 in C minor Op. 67.
Egmont, Op. 84 is a set of incidental music pieces for the 1787 play of the same name by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Beethoven was particularly inspired by Goethe’s hero.
One of the best-known compositions in classical music and one of the most frequently played symphonies, Symphony No. 5 is widely considered a cornerstones of western music. The minimalist four-note opening motif is recognized worldwide, and it appears frequently in popular culture, from disco versions to rock and roll covers to uses in film and television.
Since the Second World War, it has sometimes been referred to as the “Victory Symphony.” “V” is coincidentally the Roman numeral character for the number five and the phrase “V for Victory” became well known during the allied campaign in the Second World War. Some thirty years after this piece was written, the rhythm of the opening phrase – “dit-dit-dit-dah” – was used for the letter “V” in Morse code, probably coincidental. During the Second World War, the BBC prefaced its broadcasts to Europe with those four notes, played on drums.
During the composition, Beethoven was in his mid-thirties, his personal life troubled by increasing deafness. The period was marked by the Napoleonic Wars, political turmoil in Austria, and the occupation of Vienna by Napoleon’s troops in 1805. The symphony was written at his lodgings in Vienna.
The orchestra was excellent throughout the program, earning a standing ovation, and at the end, Thachuk singled out his flute, cello and bass sections for special acclaim.
Next up for the NSO is Masterworks 4, Simply Irresistible on Sunday, February 2, 2020 2:30PM. You can read about NSO and check their concert dates at http://www.niagarasymphony.com/
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