Typically when thinking of French classical music, beautiful orchestral works flood the mind, filling it with the sounds of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel.
But before the impressionists stole the headlines, there was another period of French classical music: the romantic era. In honour of French romantics, The Okanagan Symphony Orchestra presents three works from era composers Hector Berlioz, Édouard Lalo and Camille Saint-Saëns in their Nov. 24-26 concert, The French Connection.
Kicking off The Chase Masterworks Series performance is Berlioz’ Chasse royale et Orage (The Royal Hunt and Storm).
“It’s a lovely opener depicting the hunting calls,” said OSO music director and conductor Rosemary Thomson of Berlioz’s composition. “He was a bit of a bad boy. He was so ahead of his time – he didn’t fit the classical mould. He was really painting pictures with his compositions.”
Three sets of timpani surround the orchestra, giving the piece palpable power, reminiscent of rolling thunder.
As the thunder subsides, renowned-violinist and two-time recipient of a rare violin from the Canada Council Musical Instrument bank Timothy Chooi ignites the audience with Lalo’s Symphonie Espagnole, while wielding a 1717 Windsor-Weinstein Stradivari violin valued at $5 million.
“Timothy is one of Canada’s greatest experts on the violin,” Thomson said of the 23-year-old violinist currently enrolled in a master’s program at the Juilliard School in New York City and who previously studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. “He’s an amazing performer with amazing depth.”
And Chooi is a performer Thomson is happy to feature on Lalo’s composition.
“It’s a beautiful piece,” Thomson said of Symphonie Espagnole. “We’re going to bring a little Mediterranean sunshine to the Okanagan.”
With new equipment from Calgary now available, Thomson is excited to bring Saint-Saëns’ Symphony No. 3, a.k.a the Organ Symphony due to its inclusion of the instrumental powerhouse that was added to amplify the orchestra.
“I’ve been waiting to do this piece for a while, but we didn’t actually have organs available,” Thomson said. “They call the organ the king of the orchestra. The organ plays these low notes you almost can’t here but you can feel it, and when you combine the two, it’s the grandest sound you can achieve.”
But with a digital organ Thomson has been assured sounds identical to the real thing on hand, the OSO is ready to bring the Organ Symphony to Okanagan audiences.
“I’m really excited that we’re going to be able to do this amazing piece,” Thomson said. “When the organ plays in full blast, it will really blow the roof off the theatre.”
The OSO brings The French Connection to the Kelowna Community Theatre Friday, Nov. 24 at 7:30 p.m., Penticton’s Cleland Community Theatre, Saturday Nov. 25 at 7:30 p.m. and the Vernon and District Performing Arts Centre Sunday Nov. 26 at 7 p.m. Tickets are available for $56.25 adult, $49 senior, $26.25 student/child and $25 first two rows at www.okanagansymphony.com.