From left, Peter Shackleton, clarinet; Gwen Buttemer, oboe; and pianist, Charles Richard-Hamelin perform under the direction of right, Paul Haas, the TBSO music director and conductor for the Masterworks Concert No. 1.

Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra

Masterworks Concert No. 1



THE Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra (TBSO) launched its Masterworks Concert Series on Friday night in a program titled New Beginnings, New World.

Part of this new beginnings theme was to welcome Paul Haas to Thunder Bay as the new TBSO Music Director and Conductor.

Haas chose to open the program with Claudio Monteverdi’s Deposuit potentes de sede, in an arrangement of his own.

While half of the orchestra was on stage, mostly the strings and reeds and other musicians, the brass were placed out in the auditorium at its far corners.

Haas arrangement of this work was gentle, welcoming. The music coming from out in the hall echoed and complimented the themes introduced on stage. The entire piece, in this performance, felt like a meditation.

Next Haas plunged into the deep, swirling waters of The Overture to The Magic Flute by Mozart.

Just two weeks ago, I heard the full opera including this overture, telecast live from The Metropolitan Opera in New York, conducted by the great James Levine. The Magic Flute was Mozart’s last opera. It premiered in September, 1791 and three months later Mozart was dead.

The overture is a boistrous, joyous piece, introducing many of the musical themes that will play out in the full opera. It is a complicated, tricky, six-minutes of music and in this concert it was superb.

Maestro Haas and our TBSO performed it with a clear and focused exuberance that foreshadowed all of their work for this program.

Canadian pianist Charles Richard-Hamelin joined the orchestra for a performance of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 3. Richard-Hamelin, just 28, is one of Canada’s rising international musical soloists.

Prokofiev’s third piano concerto is one of a dozen or so of the grand, romantic war horses for piano. The opening clarinet notes were beautifully played by Peter Shackleton, introducing the first movement which was quickly swept up in a throbbing chordal run by Richard-Hamelin. Indeed, but for the languid, dreamy middle movement, Richard-Hamelin moved through the piece like a great thoroughbred running the race of his career.

Prokofiev demands that energy, focus and steady rythmn. His performance was all of that, and passionate as well with spectacular virtuousity.

Maestro Haas’s challenge was to maintain a careful balance between the full orchestra and the soloist, so that we, the audience, heard all the richness of this amazing work. He did. We did.

Following intermission, the program concluded with Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 (From The New World). The entire evening’s program led to this monstrous musical mountain. Haas guided the TBSO with such energy and care, at times it felt as though he was cradling the ensemble, at other times punching and prodding it to reveal the next heights.

His conducting of the second movement, a largo, is the finest interpretation of this music I have ever heard. Gwen Buttemer (oboe) must be cited for her contributions to this beautiful movement.

Throughout this challenging symphony, Haas brought clear stops, clean sharp chordal progressions and phenomenal energy to this concluding work.

As the opening concert in this series, it was a masterful accomplishment. As an overture to the rest of the series, we are in for a helluva ride. Bravo.

Michael Sobota reviews the symphony orchestra for The Chronicle-Journal.

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