GVYO Season Closes
Greater Victoria Youth Orchestra
Yariv Aloni, conductor
University Centre Auditorium
April 25, 2010
By Deryk Barker
According to Neville Cardus, writing in The Manchester Guardian in 1938,
"Sibelius justified the austerity of his old age by saying that while other composers were engaged in
manufacturing cocktails he offered the public pure cold water".
Of course, Sibelius himself, in his earlier years, was not averse to serving up the odd cocktail or two. If
the first symphony had a vodka base and the second one of Kossu (the Finnish national drink), it is the third
which begins the "filtering" process leading towards what many regard as Sibelius's
"purest" symphony, the sixth.
The third symphony is smaller in scale than its predecessors; it also only has three movements: the last
being an amalgamation of scherzo and finale, although whereas in the second the two movements were bolted
together, here they are welded almost seamlessly - again, it is a foreshadowing of things to come, in this
instance the first movement of the fifth, in which it is virtually impossible to detect the join between the
first two movements of the original (1915) version.
For various reasons, the third is not played anything like as often as the most popular Sibelius symphonies,
two and five - although numbers four and six suffer even more in this regard and anyone performing either in
Victoria is guaranteed my attendance - and so it was an excellent choice of work to close the Greater
Victoria Youth Orchestra's final concert of its 2009-10 season.
Standing in, at mere days' notice, for an indisposed János Sándor, Yariv Aloni directed a
performance of no little insight. Tempos were moderate, although far from slow, and the orchestra played very
well indeed. This is far from easy music, technically - Sibelius's orchestration grows ever more sparse
from this point on - yet there were remarkably few blemishes: on a couple of occasions ensemble and the
orchestra appeared on the verge of parting company, but they never did; the cello and bass figures which open
the symphony were perhaps a touch overloud; the opening chords of the second movement were slightly inchoate.
But the virtues of the performance far outweighed these minor details; most of all, the motor rhythms which
suffuse the outer movements, were terrific.
Particularly noteworthy were the swelling climaxes of the first movement and the majestic plagal cadence
("like the sound of a great amen") which closes it; the excellent winds in the slow movement; and
the (in hindsight, inevitable) progress of the finale towards its culmination.
A fine performance.
Although perhaps less popular than when I was a child - is it me, or have the "popular classics"
gradually been squeezed between "pop[ular] music" and "serious classics"? - there can be
no disputing the fact that Grieg's incidental music for Ibsen's dramatic poem, Peer Gynt is still
performed far more frequently than its inspiration - except possibly in Norway itself.
Which made Sunday's performance of the first suite all the more welcome. Morning mood featured some
delectable flute (I think it was Valerie Taylor, someone please correct me if I am mistaken) and oboe
(Patrick Conley? ditto) playing, exquisitely phrased; Åses Death was distinguished by some particularly
intense strings and excellent attention to dynamics; Anitra's Dance swayed seductively, with some
delicious pizzicato and singing cello lines; and In the Hall of the Mountain King was judged to a nicety,
with an initially deliberate tempo gradually pushed to a rapid, tumultuous close. It may not set my pulse
racing the way it did some half a century ago, but that is my problem, not Grieg's.
The concert opened with a majestic performance of the prelude to Wagner's Die Meistersinger, which
featured some resplendent playing from all sections, particularly the brass.
All in all, a quite splendid afternoon.
Note from GVYO: Mr. Barker is correct in his identification of Valerie Taylor and Patrick Conley.