Story and Photo by Kyle Poluyko

Resonant and euphonic was the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra’s fourth Masterworks presentation of the 2015/2016 season, the music of Barber and Beethoven. Led by guest conductor maestro Nathan Brock, and with a virtuosic violin concerto performance by concertmaster Thomas Cosbey, Thursday evening’s programme was sweeping and poetic in its canorous structure.

“Primus Tempus” by Canada’s Denis Gougeon was the evening’s introductory piece, led magnificently by assistant concertmaster Kathlyn Stevens serving as principal violinist. Co-commissioned by the NAC Orchestra and CBC and first performed in 1994, “Primus Tempus,” as the programme informed, “…speaks of an explosion of life, a burst of energy…” It certainly is a composition full of exposition. The piece continuously evolved through its thirteen minute sweeping duration. Its tones and atmosphere were both mystical and mysterious yet consistently energetic. Distinct and inventive melodies and rhythms danced with dynamic tempos between the orchestral sections, each crystal clear in their performance. Full and rich were the executions by the brass and woodwinds, with remarkable dexterity accomplished by the strings, all repeatedly climbing to unique crescendos, then settling into the chimerical, shadowy and soothing. Somewhat reminiscent of a fantasy or science fiction film score – moderately haunting – “Primus Tempus” was greatly euphonious and grandly performed.

Concertmaster Thomas Cosbey then astounded with dextrous skill, enrapturing an exhilarated audience as he led the orchestra in the three movements of Samuel Barber’s Violin Concerto, Op. 14. The first allegro movement was dark, rich and sublimely elegant. Cosbey was masterful and passionate, his performance enhanced by the vibrant and sonorous string section. Through second andante movement, which began with an alluring oboe solo, Cosbey continued to play with a brilliant and beautiful contrasting rhapsody, that beauty echoed by the entire symphony. The final presto movement was a fervent, dramatic, and vigorous performance by the orchestra, with crescendos of sound echoing throughout the auditorium. A triumph for and by Cosbey.

Following intermission, maestro Brock thanked the audience, stating it was a privilege to be back in Thunder Bay and to share the stage with “…your lovely symphony orchestra,” and gave another acknowledgement to “the brilliant Thomas Cosbey.” After a short introduction, the first deep and haunting strains of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4, Op. 60 began. Quickly though, the first adagio movement, an allegro vivace, became lively and joyful. Energetic and ambitious, it was vibrant and rich in the strings with lightly dramatic flair from the woodwinds and brass. The second adagio movement was delicate and poignant, and played with luminous skill by the symphony as a whole. The allegro vivace was uniquely resplendent with elements of both scherzo and minuet, and a remarkably performed five-part structure. The concluding allegro ma non troppo was a brilliantly played feat of continuously forward and, again, joyful movement. It was not sensational nor grand as more notable Beethoven finales are known to be, but served as a superb conclusion to a glorious evening.

Barber and Beethoven, the Thunder Bay Symphony Orchestra’s fourth Masterworks concert of the 2015/2016 season, was performed with maestro Nathan Brock conducting on Thursday, March 3 at the Thunder Bay Community Auditorium.