THE METROPOLITAN ORCHESTRA-MET CONCERT THREE : TANGOS AND TCHAIKOVSKY.

An evening with TMO strings is always something to look forward to. Add to this the opportunity to hear the dynamic pianism and compositions of Daniel Rojas and there will be serious entertainment laid before you.

The new Rojas work to begin this concert, Libertango Suite, saw TMO strings with conductor Sarah-Grace Williams launch immediately into a South American groove, taking their cue from Rojas’ characteristically joyous energy.

This world premiere was a great showcase for the versatility of the string orchestra.  It was also an impressive vehicle for Rojas’ slick and charismatic pianistic approach to be able to blend world and classical music formats.

The collaboration between TMO  strings and Rojas brought exciting results. From the concert’s outset the combined feel of TMO strings and stylistic crossover champion Rojas saw the entire group dig in to the music with an incredibly unified verve.

A healthy respect for both the classical and South American canon of musical gesturing and performance practice was in evidence, resulting with some sparkling realisations of the separate and combined styles.

This four-movement work featured solo moments given to different string sections, particularly indulging the impressive world music flair of concertmaster Victoria Jacono-Gilmovich as well
members of the cello and bass teams.

Above : Composer and pianist Daniel Rojas.  Featured image : Daniel Rojas at the piano with TMO strings, conductor Sarah-Grace Williams and principal cellist Ezmi Pepper. Photo credit for featured image : Christopher Hayles Photography.

The four movements of this work include re-writing and arranging of Astor Piazzolla’s Libertango and Gran Tango pieces as well as two fresh explorations of related musics by Rojas. The fresh material
came in the form of the tender ‘Navegar’ in movement two and the final ‘La Gran Salsa’, with cello lines from principal cellist Ezmi Pepper sensitively intertwined with the keyboard as co-soloist here.

This satisfying new work unfolded complete with the effervescent addition of vocal exclamations and humming to unite the fervour of TMO strings with the world music experience and energy of this pianist-composer. Its solid musical integrity with a firm foot in both  South American and European traditions bridged the divide with his typically formidable compositional fireworks.

In the opening suite movement it was both a master stroke by Rojas and a thrill for lovers of Bach in the audience to hear an plaintive Latin American elaboration over the top of the familiar framework
of his Prelude in C minor from Book 1 of Bach’s Das Wohltemperierte Klavier.

Such a moment was a highlight of the crossover nature of this work and this performance, as well as being a solidly impressive variation in harmonic and musicological terms also.

TMO strings next delivered Tchaikovsky at his most beautifully balletic with his Serenade for Strings Op 84. This concert’s  elegant and appropriate dance music interpretations continued in the well known waltz inspired second movement.

The ‘Elegy’ of the third movement was finely shaped and quite variegated as  was the contrasting movements of the rest of this work.

The broad strokes of this excursion into Tchaikovsky’s broad emotional arsenal and successful writing for strings alone  offered us lush timbres and consistently intelligent realisation.

Following the atmospheres produced here, TMO strings are sure to be considered amongst the clearest, richest string sounds in our city. The popular orchestra’s mighty string section repeatedly reminded us of TMO’s typical ‘precision with soul’ style of playing.

The full Metropolitan Orchestra returns to the ABC Centre on September 7, for Met Concert #4, and to perform Mahler’s Symphony No 5.

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