BY MICHAEL SOBOTA
LIGHTNING strikes the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium in the midst of an ice storm.
The Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra (TBSO) presented their final Masterworks Concert of the season on Thursday at the Community Auditorium.
The concert marked not merely the end of the TBSO formal season but also the end of an era. After seven years, conductor and music director Arthur Post is stepping down. Post had programmed the final concert more than a year ago. But no one foresaw how it turned out to be.
The concert began with the world premiere of Jordan Nobles Ouroboros. Commissioned last year by the TBSO, Ouroboros is an orchestral tone poem. A large screen hung high above the orchestra musicians and, as the stage darkened at the start of the piece, images began to appear of outer space.
Thoughout the work, pictures from space taken by the now 27-year old Hubble telescope floated above the music.
The piece began and ended with a delicate tinkling sound, performed by TBSO percussionist Jean-Francois Breton, as he commanded an array of xylophones and other percussion instrument. At first, I felt a disconnect between the photo images and the music. But as conductor Post guided the orchestra deeper into the piece, the music and visuals became intwined. The work has a true, irenic, spatial feel, at times making us feel as though were were in a vast echo chamber. It built to a broad, sonourous crescendo and then died away to that opening tinkling sound. Beautiful in its structure and mesmerizing in its effect, Ouroboros is likely to become popular with orchestras everywhere.
Next came the main musical work on the program, the Brahms Violin Concerto. It was to have been performed by guest soloist Jennifer Koh. However, Koh was unable to fly into Thunder Bay because of the ongoing ice storm.
Thunder Bay’s own Gregory Lewis, who had been rehearsing as a sessional violin player with the TBSO for this concert, had performed this concerto when he auditioned to go to Yale this fall, to work on his Masters in Music. With less than two days notice, Lewis rehearsed the Brahms concerto with the orchestra.
And when he stepped onto the Auditorium stage lightening struck. From his opening chords, Lewis took command of the piece. The work is a dense, complex composition with the musical structure flowing back and forth between fierce playing from the soloist and walls of sound coming from the symphony. A good soloist displays both humility and hauteur. To do that you need confidence, and Lewis showed no lack of confidence as the vigorously and enthusiastically moved through the piece. His technical command of the work was beautiful to experience.
At its dramatic conclusion the audience lept to their feet and Lewis was called back to the stage for three ovations. This was one of those moments where well-earned local pride filled the hall.
The second half of the program consisted of Charles Ives’ Three Places in New England and Zoltan Kidaly’s Dances of Galanta. The Ives’ pieces were impressionist, mostly dissonant short orchestral pieces, the most interesting being Housatonic in Stockbridge, supposedly influenced by the composer’s walk with his wife along the Housatonic river..
Through out the entire program, the TBSO musicians performed with exemplary skills and professionalism. And conductor Post guided them with his intense focus, attention to detail and general warmth. In a moving address from the stage, Post thanked the musicians and Thunder Bay audiences for his seven years tenure here in the city. He, too, received a standing ovation.
It was the end of a musical era, the launch of a promising new young professional career, and a night to remember.
Michael Sobota is a Thunder Bay-based writer and reviewer.