This past weekend, the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra presented the final concert of its 2018-2019 Masterworks series Asian Fusion, featuring erhu performer Nicole Ge Li and Tokara Taiko Drummers of Japan.
The first selection, Mono-Prism, by Japanese composer Maki Ishii, featured taiko group Tokara.
From the dry, atmospheric opening to the thundering climax, both the OSO and Tokara traded rhythms in a pulsing dialogue that alternately sang, whispered and raged.
The next piece was Crouching Tiger Concerto for erhu (Chinese violin) and orchestra composed by Tan Dun and featuring Nicole Ge Li.
This six-movement work intertwined traditional European musical style and Chinese elements.
Li’s mastery of the two-stringed erhu was spell-binding, producing sounds that were at times as sweet as a human voice, and as bright as the buzzing of bees.
Always a supporter of Canadian music, the OSO presented Ottawa native Vincent Ho’s Dragon Realms. A challenging work, the piece was rich with special effects and Thomson skillfully led the orchestra to produce a vivid sonic experience.
Tokara again joined the OSO for a captivating performance of Japanese composer Yuzo Toyama’s Rhapsody for Orchestra.
Complex writing and challenging cross-melodies made the music texturally dense in places, but Thomson kept the both ensembles moving forward to its exciting climatic ending.
The undisputed highlight of the evening was Tokara’s performance of Hatou no Hibiki. It was a joyous presentation that was electrifying, invigorating and inspiring.
At the end, the audience spontaneously leapt to its feet with cries of elation and whistles of approval.
The entire evening was a glorious fusion of east and west and topped off an outstanding season for the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra. Bravo to all!
Anita Perry is a music teacher from Summerland.
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