Matt McKenzie photo BREAKING THROUGH TO BEETHOVEN: Pianist Amy Zanrosso

A Sparkling Opening Concert

Symphony of the Kootenays launches season with Amy Zanrosso, Cvetozar Vutev, familiar works and new music

Yme Woensdregt

The Symphony of the Kootenays opened its 2016–2017 season with a sparkling concert which featured some familiar works and some new music.

The concert opened with a wonderful piece in two contrasting moods by Edmonton composer Allan Gilliland. Written to celebrate the installation of the new pipe organ in Winspear Centre, “Always Be True” opened with loud flourishes in percussion and brass—a fanfare to start the season. The second section featured the strings playing an idyllic chorale, quiet and meditative, the tone of the string section warm and inviting.

Vivaldi’s “Autumn” from the Four Seasons featured the orchestra’s new concertmaster, Cvetozar Vutev. He succeeds Wendy Herbison, who retired at the end of last season. Vutev plays a violin which dates from the time of Vivaldi. It’s a familiar piece to many in its depiction of peasants celebrating a bountiful harvest.

Amy Zanrosso, native of Castlegar and who has played throughout Canada and the US, took the stage as the soloist in Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto. It’s a difficult and revolutionary work, and the orchestra rose to the occasion. The string ensemble played well, and responded to Ms. Zanrosso’s pianistic brilliance with an answering passion. The Concerto was in turns dramatic, playful, brooding and rollicking. Ms. Zanrosso played with an infectious joy, her body dancing with the music, and brought the Concerto to a joyful completion in the last movement.

Cvetozar Vutev was introduced as the Symphony of the Kootenays new concertmaster, Sunday, Oct. 16, at the Symphony’s Key City Theatre concert. Barry Coulter photo

I anticipated that the Beethoven would be the highlight of the concert. Not so. The musicians outdid themselves in the single work of the second half, Nikolai Rimsky–Korsakov’s orchestral suite “Scheherazade”. It is based on the Persian collection of stories called “A Thousand and One Nights”. The Sultan marries a different virgin each night, only to behead her the next morning to ensure she doesn’t cheat on him. Scheherazade knows this history; she enchants the Sultan with a new tale each night, leaving it unfinished so that her husband will let her live another day to hear how it ends. The suite tells four of those stories.

The orchestra played beautifully. The expanded brass, woodwind and percussion sections meant that the orchestra could fill the Key City Theatre with a beautiful, large, rich sound. This virtuosic piece requires the best from players in every section, and the orchestra responded with verve and an obvious love for this music. Vutev was featured again, the solo violin representing Scheherazade as she tells her stories to the Sultan. His sweet tone brought the beautiful princess to life.

It was a grand opening to another season. Kudos to Maestro Jeff Farragher and the musicians of the orchestra. It remains a gem in the heart of the Kootenays, and we are indeed blessed to be the home of such a cultural treasure.

The next concert will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the television show, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”. You won’t want to miss that concert.