With crazy headlines dominating the news recently, it was a welcome relief to be invited to Roy Thomson Hall on a recent Thursday afternoon to listen to a performance of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (TSO). Immersed in the world of music and feeling vastly removed from reports of a violent national crime and a never-ending mayoral campaign, I let myself relax and be whisked into another world dominated by violins, bass and trombones.
On this Thursday, October 23, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, accompanied by the Toronto Symphony Youth Orchestra and conducted by Stéphane Denève , introduced the programme with the popular Tchaikovsky piece, March Slave. The youth orchestra includes members as young as 11 years old so the merging of the two orchestras presented quite a mix of ages on stage.
The youth orchestra left the stage to make room for Scottish violinist, Nicola Benedetti. Being a fan of the violin is not a requirement to enjoy Benedetti’s masterful skill. Demonstrating a dexterity that would rival Jimmy Page on guitar, Benedetti proceeded through Shostakovich’s Violin Concerto No.1, showcasing her speed, accuracy and range of tone.
Benedetti enjoyed several standing ovations before returning to the stage to perform the original version of Auld Lang Syne.
After a 20 minute intermission, the second half of the programme began and featured the Toronto Symphony Orchestra performing Prokofiev’s Suite from Romeo and Juliet, arranged by Stéphane Denève. This arrangement was particularly demanding for the violin section, who demonstrated superb fingering skills in the particularly fast-paced sections.
We had wonderful seats that were center stage and about 12 rows back from the stage, although you would be hard pressed to find a bad seat at Roy Thomson Hall. The only problem was we could not see the performers in the back of the orchestra. To do that, you would want to reserve seats in the front section of the first balcony.
Attending the symphony in the middle of the day seems outright decadent: an extremely guilty pleasure, but one that I would definitely indulge in again.