I Medici di McGill is an orchestra comprised of doctors and students of the McGill medical program who wish to contribute to the community through the healing power of music. This past Sunday, the stage was set for their Winter Concert, where old friends could be seen mingling and conversing with the ensemble throughout the intermission. The positive energy that filled the room fueled the ensemble through their diverse program. The orchestra touched upon the works of Verdi, Mozart, and Dvořák.
The afternoon began with the Nabucco Overture, a work from the famed Italian Opera composer Giuseppe Verdi. The vastness of the Notre Dame de Grace Church became evident once the quiet, lush brass chorale began the piece. Clean, lyrical playing from every member of the section resonated into the ceiling, allowing for each pause to melt into the next melodic line providing a luxurious tone colour. Although the resonance of the hall aided the ensemble in their quiet playing, it made precision a vital component of the louder sections as each and every mistake would painfully stick out. Attention to detail was apparent as in the members’ playing the notes of the brass section were clean as a whistle and the violins led the charge to the finale with driving fury. Beginning the program with an overture proved to be a smart tactic as the ensemble was able to expose a vast array of musical ideas in a short period of time thus, setting the tone for the rest of the performance.
Conductor Gilles Auger framed the second piece with his conspiracy that “Mozart was an alien.” He described how Mozart’s spectacular ability to compose in his head allowed him to write his pieces neatly on manuscript paper on the first shot. This ease of virtuosic accomplishment was portrayed in lead violinist Byungchan Lee’s fluid interpretation of the Fifth Violin Concerto. Every note bounced effortlessly off of Lee’s violin unaltered by any sense of struggle resulting in a serene musical experience. The ensemble expertly guided him through the piece, complimenting him with a light approach to Mozart’s challenging rhythmic lines. Lee was especially impressive at the end of each movement when he captivated the audience with an awe-inspiring improvised solo. The classical era valued beautiful melodic content and I Medici’s strings were able to embody this skillfully throughout the Concerto.
The final piece of the performance focused on the introspective Symphony No. 8 by Dvořák, which thrives on tension. The “Cello Symphony” (as Gilles Auger likes to call it) was a fitting finale to an exciting evening as the ensemble achieved electrifying tempos, extreme decibel levels, and high intensity. A flawless communication between the ensemble was evident from the very start; a long melodic idea was uttered first by the cellos, then passed on to the bassoons, before the principal flautist’s solo, which ended on a held note that felt as if it lasted for hours. With the second movement came dreary, descending chords that created a dark sounding aesthetic not seen in other parts of the program. Dvořák’s use of French horns was executed to perfection before moving on to the trumpet heavy finale. In this finale the trumpets finally got to showcase their powerful playing abilities and they did not disappoint. The high notes were played in perfect unison and the energy brought forth by this section translated into an epic performance from the whole ensemble. This moment was the true culmination of all the music played throughout the evening.
I Medici’s winter showcase was truly magnificent. Not only did they accomplish a relaxing sense of community, they also played on a level that made the fact that they were not music students quite unbelievable. Any performance of theirs is worth the inexpensive ticket price as they will surely not disappoint.
I Medici di McGill Orchestra’s Spring Public Concert will take place on April 3 at 4 p.m. at the Notre-Dame-de-Grace Church (5333 Avenue Notre-Dame-de-Grace).