This week’s program at the TSO bursts with the musical contemplation of youth– the composers and TSO guest conductor, Kerem Hasan. Britten’s Four Sea Interludes, op. 33a, were followed Missy Mazzoli’s Dark with Excessive Light, a contemporary Concerto for Contrabass and String Orchestra. Sparkling effervescence, Mozart’s Haffner Symphony opened the second half, followed by a return to more of Britten.c
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Guest conductor Kerem Hasan exudes self-confidence onstage. He is the recipient of a Bachelor of Music degree from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and many prizes for his principal studies, piano and conducting.
The TSO is well equipped to portray through beautiful cohesive sound, Britten’s picturesque outdoor imagery of nature as a fine opening. The orchestration calls for gong, bells, harp and timpani, occasionally balancing strings with flute.
The centrepiece of the concert was the Concerto for Contrabass and String Orchestra by Missy Mazzoli performed by TSO principal bass, Jeff Beecher. Mazzoli is Brooklyn’s post-millenial Mozart according to Time Out New York. Her music is eclectic, and electric, a melange of tonal and atonal, eastern, and western sounds that extend Baroque and Renaissance style in an original and transformative way.
It is a rare treat to hear a double bass concerto featured as a solo instrument. The TSO had rehearsed and performed this masterpiece during the pandemic, as noted in the program notes. Beecher deftly navigated the full range (pitch and dynamics) of the instrument magnificently demonstrating its full potential, through vibrato, string crossings, glissandi, pizzicati, casting vibrations from the depths of the low strings, and soaring to the heights of pitch, dynamics, through raw human emotion. Layers of sound contrast the instruments with each other within section, and between sections, as long sustained notes combine with shorter pizzicato layers. Beecher’s command of the instrument, the work, and indeed the audience, is nothing short of a world class tour de force.
With fiery elegance, the Haffner Symphony No. 35 opened the second half of the program. Throughout, the TSO was fully aligned with guest conductor Hasan in responding with energy and a light touch to the various changes in dynamics and tempo.
The evening closed with a return to the melancholy of Britten – Sinfonia da Requiem, Op. 20, in 3 movements that are knit by shared thematic elements. In keeping with the controlled beauty of the evening, Britten’s final modulation from minor to major re-solving turbulence on an uplifting tone of calm and sheer beauty.