16/11/2009 1:00 AM | Comments: 1
It's not every day the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra plays second fiddle at its own concert but that's what happened Friday night.
The WSO's second offering of its Musically Speaking multi-media series, The Artist's Life set out to explore the daily struggles and financial woes that have plagued the creative class for generations, with a lively narration by hosts James Manishen and Ron Robinson providing historical context. Even brilliant musical geniuses like 18th century composer Mozart died penniless, with the harsh realities of eking out a living as an artist continuing to this day. It's not exactly rocket science, but the message always bears repeating.
However, in the end, art trumped all discourse, as acclaimed Canadian guest silk painter Holly Carr's mesmerizing live painting, inspired by Mozart's Symphony No. 39 in E-flat major, K. 543 brought the wondrous act of creation home.
After a brief introduction, the Nova Scotia-based artist assumed her position behind a backlit, eight-by-eight silk canvas where her imaginative, whimsical painting of swans and dragonflies magically emerged before our eyes as the WSO band played on.
This type of artistic collaboration has been seen before at the WSO New Music Festival, but it's always inspiring to see music spontaneously re-interpreted in another medium, as you might see a dancer respond with movement. The artist did become a dancer of sorts, with her silhouetted figure acting as visual counterpoint to her unfolding images.
Guest violinist Kerry DuWors also performed Mozart's Rondo for Violin and Orchestra in B-flat major, K. 269. The poised Brandon University music professor's quick-fingered technique easily handled the challenges of the buoyant work, lending a grace note of lightness to the evening.
Montreal-based maestro Jean-Marie Zeitouni led the orchestra with gusto, energizing the players with every gesture communicative. His conducting without a baton created an even greater immediacy with the musicians, from Waltz King Johann Strauss' lilting Artist's Life to Mendelssohn's The Hebrides (Fingal's Cave).
It seemed ironic that a program focused on the artist's life would not allow an opportunity for its actual practitioners to speak. With two microphones available onstage, it was puzzling why we didn't have a chance to hear from either Zeitouni or Carr, who so quickly disappeared behind her canvas for the rest of the show. Giving them voice -- and hearing stories from their own artists' lives -- would have shed more light on what they do, and what drives them to create their not-so-random acts of beauty.
WSO Musically Speaking
Friday, November 13
Centennial Concert Hall
(three and a half stars out of five)