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Review: ASO's From the Mists of Time


The first in 2019’s ASO Master Series offered an eclectic program, ranging though material with extraordinary mood changes, exuberant yet precise violin playing, an intoxicating waltz, and the evocation of a treed Italian landscape.

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The varied nature of works, elegantly conducted by Nicholas Carter, and their fine execution proved extremely popular with the Town Hall audience.

Composed in the Riviera, Edward Elgar’s “In the South (Alassio) Op. 50” is an homage to the Italian landscape. Rich flourishes alternate with wistful passages. The grave tones of double basses introduce an assertive, majestic interval and a feeling of pent-up, nervous energy. Escalating volume and pace combine in an assault of sound that is suggestive of war, old and new.

Jean Sibelius’s demanding “Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47” allowed Dutch guest violinist Simone Lamsma to shine. She was immediately in vigorous command, extracting the most from the “Mlynarski” Stradivarius on loan to the ASO.

There is an anxious fussiness in this passionate piece; also yearning, querulous, sorrowful, and tender tones. It requires fast and precise playing, and Lamsma was on top of every such nuance with her animated playing. When able to pause, she immersed herself in the orchestra’s sound, swaying and twitching with its rhythm.

If that decisive intensity was not enough, her encore was equally captivating. The last movement of “Viola Solo Op. 25 No 1” (Paul Hindemith) was brief and stunning. Trills, double-stops and arabesques produced an inspired flamenco feel, yet with clarity that other players often sacrifice in their quest for speed.

Maurice Ravel’s “La valse – poême chorégraphique” was completely different. Melodic, and in waltz time, it celebrates dance through two movements, each with a swelling journey towards crescendo. The festive air is obvious and one can imagine the ballrooms that Ravel had in mind.

Finally, there was Ottorino Respighi’s “Pines of Rome, P. 141”. Although referencing pine trees, the first sounds are as suggestive of moving water as much as wind. Either way, the orchestra was very effective. The piece moves between light and dark, from delicacy to the insistent blaring of brass, for instance. Briefly pronounced piano and clarinet moments pull us back to the beginning, and then to a nightingale, the first instance of a pre-recording being used in a musical score. The end is tense and ominous, a thrilling climax, as if some great machine were approaching.

From the Mists of Time (presented at the Town Hall on Friday and Saturday) was beautiful combination of pieces which again demonstrated that the ASO is a delight to hear. The audience was rapt with the program. Simone Lamsma was the highlight, however, both for the Sibelius and her Hindemith encore.

The ASO’s next Master Series concert will be St John Passion, at the Town Hall on April 12 and 13. Nicholas Carter will also conduct the Mozart at Elder One concert at Elder Hall this Wednesday morning.

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