Classical Notes: Splendour at the symphony

Okanagan Symphony's Winter Splendour featured Borodin's Prince Igor, Raminsh's Violin Concerto and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6.

Prince Igor, an opera composed by Borodin during his last 20 years, was unfinished when he died, and when completed by Rimsky-Korsakov and Alexander Glazunov, the overture needed total reconstruction.

This was the opening piece played by the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra at its Winter Splendour concert Sunday.

Glazunov composed Prince Igor according to Borodin’s plan, compiling themes from the opera, altering some sections, and adding a new ending. Some of the music from Prince Igor was later adapted for the U.S. musical Kismet.

The special piece of the evening was  Imant Raminsh’s Violin Concerto.

Born in Latvia (a former Soviet republic), Raminsh came to Canada when he was five years old. The longtime Coldstream resident’s music has been performed all over the world. He founded the Prince George Symphony, the Youth Symphony of the Okanagan, and the AURA Chamber Choir.

His Violin Concerto was commissioned 20 years ago by the Vancouver Symphony and the CBC, and this was its first Okanagan performance.

For Raminsh, the concerto was daunting.

“I went through a certain period of trepidation and anxiety, thinking about the great historic precedent in whose shadow I would be following.”

Writing the piece, in the usual three movements, Raminsh had to consider the now obligatory cadenza.

“My musical instincts have always rebelled against cadenzas, which represent a break of indeterminate length in the flow of the music during which the soloist simply wanders off on a tangent, loses his way for awhile, and then finally announces his impending return with a frill,” he said.

But knowing that no serious soloist would consider performing a concerto without one, Raminsh met the challenge, seamlessly, welding the first and second movements. At that point, a textural voice was added. Soprano Eeva-Marie Kopp, originally from Finland, here sitting in the cello section, blended beautifully with the violin. The violinist was Melissa Wilmot, now based in Houston, who lived in Kelowna as a child and was tutored by Raminsh.

Then came the perfect piece for people who’ve never attended a classical concert – Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 6, The Pathétique.

The symphony’s subtitle causes endless speculation. The Russian title means “passionate” or “emotional,” not self pity. Musicologist David Brown suggested that it depicts the power of fate in life and death.

Tchaikovsky’s life was dominated by depression and personal crises: leaving home for boarding school, his mother’s early death, and his disastrous marriage, the latter of which lasted only two-and-a half months before Tchaikovsky was left emotionally overwhelmed and unable to write.

And his homosexuality is considered a major factor. The upcoming Russian film Tchaikovsky is controversial because his sexuality was deleted from the script in order to secure funding.

The symphony is also seen as a suicide note.

Richard Taruskin stated:  “Suicide theories were much stimulated, with its lugubrious finale (ending morendo, ‘dying away’), and above all its easily misread subtitle. When the symphony was done again a couple of weeks later, in memoriam and with subtitle in place, everyone listened hard for portents, and that is how the symphony became a transparent suicide note. Depression was the first diagnosis. Homosexual tragedy came later.”

Musically, it is breathtaking, with an enormous dynamic range. It is the only symphony by Tchaikovsky to end in a minor key.

Rosemary Thomson (OSO conductor and music director) told us that the second movement had an interesting “three-plus-two” rhythm. The entire movement is in 5/4 time (five beats instead of four), so Dave Brubeck, with his famous Take Five, was not the first to do this.

Jim Elderton is a Vernon-based freelance writer and filmmaker, who reviews the Okanagan Symphony season for The Morning Star.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A fundraiser for the Falkland Community Church is underway. (Photo submitted)
COVID-19 leaves Falkland Church in a lurch

Annual event/major fundraiser cancelled for first time in 34 years

Advance polling saw nearly 10,000 votes cast in Vernon-Monashee. Pictured: Schubert Centre. (Jennifer Smith - Vernon Morning Star)
Almost 10,000 turn out to Vernon-Monashee advance polls

19 per cent of 52,479 registered voters have made their mark in B.C. election

Members of the Armstrong Lions Club have planted a red Canadian maple tree at Lions Park on Hunter Avenue as a show of tribute to their sister club in Banbridge, Northern Ireland. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)
Armstong Lions Club salutes sister club with tree

Red Canadian Maple planted in Lions Park pays tribute to Lions Club in Banbridge, Northern Ireland

The Community Foundation has teamed with the Canadian Mental Health Association and horse-assisted therapists to bring horse therapy to frontline worker battling the COVID-19 pandemic free of charge. (Contributed)
Okanagan organization says ‘thanks’ to COVID-19 frontline workers with complimentary horse therapy

Community Foundation teams with CMHA and equine therapists to offer unique mental health supports

COVID-19. (Courtesy of CDC).
Interior Health reports 12 additional COVID-19 cases

The total number of cases in the region is now at 644

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry. (B.C. Government photo)
Kelowna Francophone school COVID-19 outbreak climbs to 5, mixture of students and staff

Health officer says situation evolving, spoke to possible closure, changes to provincial guidelines

Actor Ryan Reynolds surprised a Shuswap family with a special birthday message to their son who was worried he’d be alone on his 9th birthday on Nov. 24. (Tiffanie Trudell/Facebook)
Ryan Reynolds text almost gives away Shuswap boy’s birthday surprise

Deadpool actor helps remind eight-year-old Canoe resident he’s not alone

Colin James put on a great show at the Comox Valley Exhibition Grounds as part of the 2019 Vancouver Island MusicFest. But his Okanagan tour for 2020 has been postponed until 2021. (Photo by Terry Farrell)
COVID-19 cancels Corb Lund’s Vernon, Penticton, Trail, Cranbrook concerts

The Contenders, Colin James and Lund postponed until 2021

RCMP detachments across B.C. are now flying Pride flags. (Submitted photo)
Man who spent 4 days injured on floor rescued by Kamloops Mountie

The man is recovering in hospital after being rescued by a police officer conducting a well-being check

Vancouver police reactivated the search for Jordan Naterer Thursday Oct. 22. Photo courtesy of VPD.
Mom of missing Manning Park hiker believes her son is waiting to come home

‘He’s going to come out of a helicopter and say ‘what took you so long?”

Environment Minister George Heyman, Premier John Horgan and Energy Minister Michelle Mungall announce that B.C. Hydro is proceeding with construction of the Site C dam, Dec. 11, 2017. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
Site C actions, costs won’t be known until after B.C. election, Horgan says

Peace River diverted for construction of reinforced dam base

Five people with alleged ties to the Red Scorpion Gang are facing numerous charges. (Kelowna RCMP)
5 men linked to Red Scorpion gang charged with gun, drug offences in Kelowna

Police seized a machine gun as well as 5.5 kilograms of fentanyl and carfentanil

Most Read