By L.H. Tiffany Hsieh
The strange thing about the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Feb. 10 concert is that it was billed as an “interesting”, “somewhat unexpected” and “unusual and engaging” concert by music director Peter Oundjian.
Strange because it’s as if Oundjian, who most likely helped program the concert, had nothing else to say about the choice of works presented except that they would be in the fine hands of guest conductor Andrey Boreyko and pianist Garrick Ohlsson.
As if that would have been enough.
The Russian-born Boreyko is music director of the Dusseldorfer Symphoniker. His slim physique coupled with a killer Arabian vibe in his left arm makes him an “interesting” conductor to watch.
Boreyko started off the concert with French composer Jacques Ibert’s Hommage a Mozart, a cutesy no-brainer he and the TSO somehow managed to goof up. The tempo was fast and chirpy, but the notes were all over the place. There was no focus in the performance, the orchestra sounded scattered and then the whole thing was over unceremoniously. It was like a warm-up piece badly played.
Next came Ohlsson, the veteran American who can probably play Beethoven’s fourth piano concerto in his sleep, but instead made a few in the audience snooze. This was “somewhat unexpected” of him. Beethoven’s fourth concerto, one of the most understated gems of all piano concertos, is a sublime piece of work with lots to offer and a lot more to be discovered. Ohlsson and Boreyko were like an odd couple here. The co-ordination was there and they appeared to have some kind of mutual understanding of the music, but it was a solid and tight performance with absolutely nothing special to it. The most memorable lines came out of principal cellist Joseph Johnson in the Rondo Vivace.
After intermission, Boreyko and a beefed up TSO returned to the stage for Tchaikovsky’s Manfred Symphony, Op. 58, a four-movement romantic beast based on a Lord Byron poem of the same title. At last, the audience was treated to an “unusual and engaging” performance in which the genie was let out of the bottle and much soul was bared. It was tense, thrilling and Boreyko wore his passion on his sleeve that poked at the orchestra ever so electrifyingly.
The concert repeats at Roy Thomson Hall at 8 p.m. Feb. 12.