A Colourful Finale
Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra
János Sándor, conductor
University Centre Auditorium
April 19, 2008
By Deryk Barker
"The characteristics of a good musician can be summarized as follows: 1. A well-trained ear. 2. A
well-trained intelligence. 3. A well-trained heart. 4. A well-trained hand. All four must develop together,
in constant equilibrium." Zoltán Kodály would surely have been more than pleased with
Saturday evening's performance of his Háry János suite by the Greater Victoria Youth
Orchestra under János Sándor, for it provided evidence in abundance that the orchestra, under
Sándor's inspiring leadership, possesses all four of his characteristics.
An expanded GVYO, with almost 70 members - including six trumpets, six percussion, piano and (electronic)
cimbalom - gave a sizzling performance of one of Kodály's most colourful scores. Háry is
one of literature's Fantasist Heroes (in the tradition of Baron Munchhausen and, later, Billy Liar) and
the music is every bit as fantastic as his stories.
Of the many outstanding points in the performance a few must suffice to represent the whole: the marvellous
tintinnabulation of the percussion in The Viennese Musical Clock - one of 20th century music's most
immediately recognisable moments; Joseph Hundley's soulful viola solo which opened Song; the remarkable
energy and rubato of the Intermezzo (in the form of a Verbunkos, or recruiting song) and the tumultuous
finale, perhaps the only time in the entire work when Kodály unleashes his full orchestral forces.
And, of course, under the firm direction of Sándor, it would be hard to imagine a more authentic or
idiomatic performance. Simply marvellous.
It makes no sense to attempt to rank Haydn's last symphonies on above the other and yet, it is hard to
hear the very last, No.104, as anything other than a summing-up, as Haydn's Farewell to the Symphony, a
form of which he, more than anybody else, could be considered the "onlie begetter". Sándor
directed a crisp and lively account of the work, from its stately opening to the sheer exuberance of the
finale - another of Haydn's extraordinary monothematic creations.
Given the brisk pace Sándor adopted for the andante, the decorative variations posed even more
technical challenges than usual, particular for the strings, yet there was no sense of struggle and ensemble
and intonation were most commendable.
The evening opened with Schubert' Rosamunde overture (or Die Zauberharfe as it is still occasionally
known in Germany). The opening had great solemnity, courtesy of the trombones and the succeeding allegro was
light and airy, with a great spring in its step. There were - as indeed there were throughout the evening -
some delectable contributions from the winds and some fine inner detail in the horn parts towards the close.
The entire evening was more evidence that we are currently in a Golden Age of orchestra playing in Victoria.
Treasure every moment.