Before the final concert of Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra’s Mozart Festival got started, Mark Turner, Executive Director of SSO was joined on stage by Peter Stoicheff (who is also a fabulous guitar player), president of the University of Saskatchewan, to talk about the long standing relationship between the U of S and the Saskatoon Symphony Orchestra (87 years!) and to formalize the ongoing relationship by signing official agreements that will expand the musical and cultural experience of both organizations in their outreach to the rest of the community here in Saskatoon.

Saskatoon’s Mozart Festival was a full week of Mozart culminating in the SSO’s concert Saturday, January 28th, 2017. This magnificent concert of Mozart got started with the Overture to The Magic Flute. The overture to the opera The Magic Flute contains many of the themes that come up in the opera. I always find overtures exciting and they fill me with anticipation for the rest of the show – as did this one for Saturday’s concert! I loved all the Timpani parts played by Darrell Bueckert in the overture!!

The overture was followed by Six German Dances, After Schubert D820 orchestrated by Anton Webern – a 20th century composer known for his work in 12-tone music along with his mentor, Arnold Schoenberg. Webern primarily kept to the style of Schubert in the orchestration of this piano piece resulting in a work that is very much tonal and in the Classical style of the first Viennese School (Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, and sometimes Schubert). This was delightfully played – I enjoyed Eric Paetkau’s introduction to the piece and how he pointed out the Viennese connection, which was ever apparent in the music – there were some real Strauss-like moments in the piece! One of my favourite parts of this was near the end where there is a question theme given to the strings who play it with a very “crunchy” articulation answered by a smooth lyrical theme played by the woodwinds and horns. In this particular performance, the strings’ question theme had an almost Renaissance quality to it that I haven’t heard elsewhere in this piece – this really caught my attention and captured my imagination…

After our trip to Vienna, Timothy Chooi took the stage as violin soloist with SSO playing Mozart’s Concerto for violin No 5 in A Major, K 219.timothy-chooi-sso-jan-2017Timothy Chooi is a joy to watch play – he has a commanding presence on stage and complete command of his instrument. At this concert, we had the great fortune to hear him play on a 1717 Windsor-Weinstein Stradivarius on loan from the Canada Council for the Arts. This photo comes from the SSO’s facebook page.

I enjoyed Timothy’s style of playing – especially the clarity of his phrasing – much akin to that of James Ehnes. I also enjoyed his big releases for big phrase endings and how much he was into communicating with the orchestra. The highlight of his playing for me were his cadenzas – I wanted to clap after every single one of them – they were so well played and clear and all double stops were so gently played and well tuned – made simple and easy sounding. Eric mentioned his style being playful and cheeky at times – the musical material definitely lends itself to this!

I loved how Timothy used his whole being to play, and his complete knowledge of the piece added so much to the performance. His virtuosity really shone forth in the middle section of the 3rd movement – a whirling dervish of a section in 4 that brilliantly interrupts the “Tempo di Menuetto” – this gave the whole orchestra a chance to drive that “Turkish” allegro home! At the end of the final menuet, the audience was on their feet clapping and cheering.

Timothy’s encore was a very apt choice: Paganini’s 24th Caprice – this is the best I have heard this piece done on violin (my preference is actually for it done on electric guitar). The audience was so enamoured with the section involving left hand pizzicato that they started clapping then – before he was done, but this didn’t get in the way of a dazzling performance! Bravo!

After Intermission, we were treated to Mozart’s Symphony No 41 in C Major, K 551 – the “Jupiter”. Once again, the phrasing in this powerful and triumphant symphony was super clear throughout the orchestra. Visionary! This was the absolute best ensemble playing and intonation that I have heard from the SSO since Eric Paetkau started with them. It is obvious to me that there is mutual respect and trust throughout the group and between the group and the conductor – this makes for sincerity in the playing and phrases that almost play themselves. I do wonder if the immersion in Mozart had any effect on this as well…

Thank you to everyone involved in making this Mozart Festival a reality for Saskatoon! We are so fortunate to have a symphony orchestra and so many talented musicians who make Saskatoon their home and/or have strong connections to Saskatoon.

– Anna Bekolay, BMusEd, ARCT
soprano, violinist, teacher, adjudicator

Anna Marie Bekolay has her Bachelor of Music in Music Education, Orff Level 1, a gold medal ARCT in Voice Performance, and grade 10 Violin RCM. Anna has performed as a soloist and in a variety of ensembles over the years, including Saskatoon Opera Chorus, National Youth Choir of Canada, Collegium Musicum, Voci Strane, and the drowned. Ms Bekolay is continually advancing her musicality through attending and performing in concerts. Her current projects include: Back of the Bus, Troubadours du Bois, The Whiskey Jerks, Mac Talla Quartet, The Stephanies, a recording project of classical vocal pieces, and a variety of freelance collaborations that come up here and there.

In addition to rehearsing, performing, and recording, Anna is an adjudicator for the Saskatchewan Music Festival Association and runs Anna Bekolay’s Studio – a very busy Music Studio at her home teaching Voice, Violin, Recorder, and Fiddle. Anna makes her home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.


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