Toronto, November 30, 2019 — The Toronto Symphony Orchestra presented an all-Tchaikovsky concert, conducted by RBC Resident Conductor Simon Rivard.
The rarely-performed Symphony No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 13 entitled “Winter Dreams”, is an idyllic piece full of rich melodies, some drawn from Russian folk songs, and performed by a smaller orchestra. Composed when he was 26, this piece caused Tchaikovsky more pain and anguish than any other work, and brought him close to a nervous breakdown.
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The first two movements Allegro and Adagio evoked an ominous and enigmatic feeling of the coming of winter, whereas the third movement Scherzo brings one to imagine a joyful scene of skaters waltzing on an icy pond. The last movement was an expressive contrast of tempos and dynamics with changing keys, which the orchestra played deftly and sounded its best that night. Although Tchaikovsky’s first symphony is often overshadowed by his more popular and successful later symphonies, it should merit more presence in the mainstream concert repertoire.
The second half of the concert featured more familiar pieces. The Violin Concerto in D Major, Op.35 is a definite crowd-pleaser, especially when the soloist is an up and coming artist making his Toronto debut. Daniel Lozakovich is 18 and looks like a shy teenager at least three years younger. He took up the violin at age six and made his concerto debut with the Moscow Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra two years later. Because he seemed overly zealous to control the sound and placement of each note, there was a lack of spontaneity and flow in his playing, and at times his lower notes sounded raspy. While he may not have the depth of interpretation of a more mature violinist, his solid technique is nothing short of impressive, and he does pianissimo especially well. This young talent is one to watch.
The evening closed with another audience favourite, the 1812 Overture. The TSO has performed this piece in over 100 concerts. In this particular rendition, the conducting was a touch shy of the usual level of oomph demanded of this piece. As a result, the playing was slightly sluggish and did not “blow the roof off Roy Thomson Hall” as the program notes would suggest. Nonetheless, its rousing ending is always a welcome finale to the evening and brought the audience to its feet.