Grown Up Event Review: Davis Conducts Schumann & Strauss, TSO, Roy Thomson Hall, December 1st

Toronto Symphony Orchestra

Once in a while, I’ll have a glance in the mirror, look at my wind worn face and realize that yes indeed, I am no longer a child, but a fully functioning adult. It is at these precious times that I make decisions such as going to the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, an experience that an uneducated version of myself had designated as “adult only activities”, similar to playing bridge or hiring a maid. As you will find out, the TSO is not merely an experience for people with mink coats and high limit credit cards, but an experience for everyone. Except deaf people, probably.

This past Saturday night, the TSO was in a celebratory mode, as they hosted a party in honor of tsoundcheck members. Tsoundcheck is program designated to get young people from ages 15-35 to come to the TSO. Tickets for people in this age group are only 14 dollars. It’s been a wildly successful program and has probably steered a lot of kids from a life of drugs, prostitution and crime (although some might turn into sophisticated serial killers, if television and movies are to be believed).

A night of music entitled “Davis Conducts Schumann & Strauss”, a ninety minute show where TSO’s Conductor Laureate Sir Andrew Davis conducted Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54 and Strauss’s Don Quixote highlighted the night. I would provide links to the names of the people I just mentioned, but they don’t have myspace pages.

The show was split into two parts. The first part was Schumann’s Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 54, featuring child prodigy Jan Lisiecki. Apparently, within the classical world, Lisiecki is a star. At only the age of 17, Jan has already risen among the ranks of pianist. This was apparent after the show, as girls and grandmas lined up for an autograph. And no, the Roy Thomson is a classy place, so probably no breasts were signed. Here is a picture of Jan Lisecki

Doesn’t he look like MTV tween star Cody Simpson?

How awesome would it be if they switched lives for a week? More importantly, how come there hasn’t been a movie about this yet? Did the Olsens do a female version of this in the 90s that went straight to VHS and made a bazillion dollars already? Somebody sort this out.

Jokes aside, Lisecki was amazing on the piano as advertised. The child has quick fingers. It’s a good thing his parents directed him towards this path, or I feel like his talented would have been wasted in some chill-wave band. As for the music, the band(is that the term?) sounded tight (is that a term?) and I generally liked it when everyone would go all in and the music was really loud. Maybe this is because I am partially deaf. I love horns and strings in my music, so this was right down my alley. Lisecki left to a standing ovation from the appreciative crowd after his part was done.

After a short intermission, Sir Andrew Davis returned to conduct Strauss’s Don Quixote. If you didn’t have the pleasure of studying that in high school (as I did), you might be familiar with this name from the Terry Gilliam documentary/failed movie project from the early 2000’s. Either way, it’s a famous piece of literature and the musical interpretation of it as conducted by Davis was just as varied as the story is. It featured a much larger orchestra, a wind machine and dueling cello and viola/violist.

As the orchestra played, some questions popped into my head. I think they say classical music helps stimulate the mind, so this might have been as a direct result of listening to the excellent orchestra. Here are the questions.

1) How many montages in cinema has there been where people get killed to classical music?

A lot. I can’t name one, but as the horns, trombones, bassoons and other instruments played, I couldn’t help but try to recall scenes in movies where this happened. Someone should make a youtube montage of these montages.

B) At a party, would Sir Andrew Davis be a) the best dancer or b) the worst dancer

Sir Andrew Davis is the conductor laureate of the TSO. He is very expressive in his conducting and rather mesmerizing to watch, it is easy to see that he is a leader of men. Previously, I had assumed conducting was just a gesture of hands and arms, but now I realizes it involves every part of your body, moving in certain fashions as the music snakes in and our of notes. Sir Andrew Davis’s body does that as he throws himself into the music. Of course, this led me to think what would happen at say, the TSO Christmas party after a few drinks and then something like Notorious BIG comes on. Does Sir Andrew hit the dance floor and rock it? or is it one of those awkward moments. I’ll never know.

3) What is the easiest way for me to join the Toronto Symphony Orchestra?

I’m a man who likes to try new things. While I was watching the TSO, I was amazed at not only the racial, but the age diversity in the crowd. There were people there young and old, and they were all getting along. This inspired me to think of ways to join this rugged crew. So I started looking at the group and seeing which member I could potentially replaced. I came up with two conclusions

a) The Cymballist/Triangle guy – I think this guy just either crashed the cymbal or hit the triangle for most of the show. Seems simple enough, I know it probably isn’t but I think I can probably learn this quicker then a flute.

b) Wind Machine / Percussion guy – This guy mostly sat around and used a variety of percussion instruments at some points of the set, but his most important role was to operate the wind machine. I gather since this is a key part of the night, it might be rather stressful. How hard do you crank it? Do you have to crank it at a certain speed? Is the crank lubricated enough? What if it gets stuck? Still, these seem to be questions that can be answered with experience.

I concluded I lack the discipline these musicians have to join the symphony.

The TSO put on an impressive night of music. I am sure most people’s first night at the TSO via Tsoundcheck was similar to my own – arrive at the gorgeous Roy Thomson Hall, marvel at the incredible sight lines and concert hall and then proceeded to get amazed by the music coming from some damn fine musicians. In the end, classical music is just music and it’s something everyone can appreciate in one form or other. If you haven’t checked out the TSO, I would recommend you do so.

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts

About Ricky

Britpop lovin Chinaman, consumer of all things irrelevant. Toronto Raptors fan.

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