Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Living the Childhood Dream

After a great night in Edmonton, I was once again up early Saturday morning for a shorter trip down to Calgary.  This concert had been on my radar for a couple of months.  It featured a piece I have been wanting to see performed live for almost as long as I can remember.  Not only that but it was to be performed by Canadian pianist Angela Hewitt, whose Bach interpretations I absolutely adore.  I was pretty much prepared to crawl there on broken glass if I had to.

The piece that had me prepared to undertake this Herculean task was the Robert Schumann Piano Concerto, easily one of my all-time favourite works.  Angela Hewitt was just brilliant and I had to step outside during the intermission to stop myself from shaking.  It's quite an experience to have a piece of music move you like that.  My inner 10-year-old emerged at times and I was surprised that the elderly matrons seated on either side of me didn't admonish me to sit still in my seat.

Anyhow, after I had calmed down for the second half of the evening, the CPO ended the evening with Brahms' 2nd Symphony.  The orchestra will be performing all four of the Brahms' symphonies this season and unfortunately this is the only one I will be able to see.   It's been awhile since I've heard a lot of Brahm's.  Having been a pianist, I tend to think of him in terms of his piano output and smaller works but as a orchestra writer, Brahms truly was the heir to Beethoven.  His writing for winds was just lovely and having dabbled with french horn in high school, I really appreciated his writing for that instrument in particular as well as some of the oboe parts.  Maestro Minczuk's handling of the piece was superb, from the tempo, the balance, the phrasing and the shaping of the harmonies.  Here was a man who knew the piece inside out and backwards and showed a master's touch in its performance.  That final movement was breath-taking.  What more can I really say?

The evening's concert also included a rarely heard work by a female composer, Clara Schumann, 3 Romances for Violin and Orchestra with the CPO's concertmaster, Diana Cohen as soloist.  Clara Schumann was rather accomplished for her time as a composer and pianist in an era when this was rarely, if ever, encouraged.  Certainly she did a commendable job at promoting and performing the music of her husband, Robert Schumann but in an age dominated almost exclusively by men, she can certainly hold her own.

Downtown Calgary looking east along 9th Avenue.

I stayed that evening in the Hotel Palliser, a Calgary landmark and sister hotel of the Hotel MacDonald from the night before.   (Interesting side note....the Palliser and the MacDonald are not only the oldest hotels in either respective city but were also the first two places to be granted liquor licences after Alberta ended Prohibition.)  It was a challenge to get a decent photo given the tight quarters (Calgary's downtown seems to have a fetish with office towers) so this was the best I could manage.  While the MacDonald's foyer sported some nice wood features, the Palliser was replete with some wonderful marble columns and I regret not having taken any photos of the interior.  My room didn't quite have the view that I did in Edmonton, but nonetheless, the room was very nice and I slept like a log after two very long and eventful days.

Another shot of the Palisser along with the Calgary Tower along 9th Avenue.

....that tower....again.

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