This past Friday marked the opening of the McGill Symphony Orchestra’s 2013-2014 season, led by conductor Alexis Hauser. McGill music students were selected through an intense audition process at the beginning of September, and those who place in the orchestra represent some of McGill’s best talent.
Friday’s program consisted of three contrasting pieces: Verdi’s Overture to La Forza del Destino, Alberto Ginastera’s Harp concerto, Op. 25, performed by McGill concerto competition winner Kristan Toczko, and Dvořák’s Symphony no. 8 in G major.
The brass opened the Verdi with a powerful—and perfectly in tune—unison that effectively captured the audience’s attention. The strings followed in response, and they achieved a clarity and resonance that perfectly represented a professional performance. This piece went magnificently well, with beautiful sonorities coming unanimously from the woodwinds, brass and strings.
The next piece featured harpist Kristan Toczko, winner of the McGill 2012-2013 concerto competition. Toczko performed Ginastera’s harp concerto, a contemporary piece divided into four movements. This piece is percussive and dance-like in nature, and it was highly influenced by Argentinian folk music. It requires a great amount of virtuosity and advanced techniques from the soloist, and Toczko succeeded in this respect, while still maintaining a high amount of energy throughout her performance. Although the piece itself was overwhelming at times with its rhythmic and melodic complexity, especially in comparison to the Verdi that preceded it, Toczko displayed mastery of both the piece and her instrument.
After the intermission came Dvořák’s Symphony No. 8. The orchestra handled this large undertaking well, with highlight performances from the cello section as well as from concertmaster Elizabeth Skinner. The woodwind section never failed to impress the audience with their tasteful interpretations and communication as a section. However, even though each section performed well individually, the orchestra as a whole lacked the energy and cohesion that was present in the other two pieces. This could obviously be a result of fatigue or nerves, but after the concert’s impressive opening, very high standards were set for the Dvořák, which the orchestra fell just short of attaining.
The McGill Symphony Orchestra has a big year coming up as far as repertoire goes. They will be playing their next concert at the Maison Symphonique, home of the Orchestre Métropolitain and the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, on Nov. 2. I would highly recommend going to a concert at least once this year to catch a glimpse of the amazing talent that McGill students have to offer—at very reasonable price—student tickets are only $10.