Road report: Vancouver Symphony; Shostakovich and Schumann

The Vancouver (British Columbia) Symphony lacks the flashiness of the LA Phil or the studiousness of MTT and the SFS, but over the course of their concert Saturday the 23rd, they impressed me with unflagging technique across a program of big, demanding works which included Robert Schumann’s infrequently performed Violin Concerto and Shostakovich’s musical commentary of life under Stalin’s rule in the Soviet Union — his Symphony No. 10.

It’s fitting these two pieces were chosen for the program. As East German turned American guest maestro Gunther Herbig explained with the help of concertmaster and soloist Dale Baltrop, contemporaries of Schumann (Brahms among them) assessed the concerto too personal and a touch mad. Its not surprising to know Schumann would lose control of his mind not long after he finished the concerto. Shostakovich’s 10th was considered by many yet another personal statement on the tribulations of composing under the yolk of Stalin and the Soviet system. Both are churning, grand works that explode with fits of virtuosic energy. Schumann’s more so — in my opinion — than Shostakovich’s.
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Only the Vancouver Opera could go to (Nixon in) China

By Colton Carothers

Nixon in China is the operatic interpretation of Richard Nixon’s historic visit to China.  Equally historic was Vancouver Opera’s staging of John Adam’s Nixon in China in its Canadian premier for Vancouver’s Cultural Olympiad near the end of March.  With an Olympic sized cast and an Olympic sized budget, you would expect a gold medal.  In selecting this piece itself, Vancouver Opera went for the gold: Nixon is a behemoth of an opera, requiring large orchestrations, costly sets and a large ensemble.  Did it live up to these Olympic sized aspirations?

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