Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto, May 26 2012
It came as no surprise that Casual Saturday concert at Thompson Hall last Saturday evening was an outstanding event by any standards!
On the podium was guest conductor Thomas Dausgaard, a familiar figure with the Toronto Symphony under whom they performed a hugely successful complete Sibelius Symphonies cycle in 2010. The programme, played without intermission, was a repeat of two of the works played earlier in the week, the First Cello Concerto by Shostakovich and the Brahms Second Symphony. The soloist was Alisa Weilerstein, the 30 year old cellist whose fame had preceded her and whom I was looking forward to hearing in concert.
Dausgaard greeted the audience with a friendly and informative chat about Brahms and the composer’s skill as an orchestrator. He introduced Alisa Weilerstein to the audience and invited her to talk about the character of the concerto, what to listen for and its inherent difficulties and rewards. She is an extraordinary cellist who displayed a superb technique, flawless intonation and intimate understanding of this tour-de-force for soloist and orchestra. I doubt that we’ll ever hear a more exciting and searching rendition.
The Brahms Second enjoyed an inspired, incandescent performance, with the conductor’s unusually animated and energetic body language shaping the playing. The hoped for accelerando in the closing pages of last movement brought the evening to a breathless conclusion.
Following the concert there was an open invitation to a party in the North Lobby.
The applause between movements was an encouraging sign that in this virtually full house were many newcomers having an enjoyable evening and who would, hopefully, be back.