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article imageJan Lisiecki and the TSO dazzle before tour of Europe and Israel

By Jack Derricourt     May 5, 2017 in Entertainment
On May 4th, Roy Thomson Hall bustled with a crowd eager to wish the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and accomplished pianist Jan Lisiecki an enthusiastic bon voyage before their tour through Europe and Israel.
The day began with an energetic introduction from Maestro and Music Director Peter Oundjian, and a moving composition commissioned by the TSO. Jordan Pal’s Iris is a twisting, moody piece featuring few small voices — in order to better highlight the power and flexibility of Toronto's first class orchestra. Pal, who was present in the audience, took a much-deserved bow after the performance.
The tremendous talent of Lisiecki was front and centre in the day’s next offering. At times it seemed the young virtuoso was breathing through the piano as he played Schumann’s refined, yet tumultuous, Piano Concerto.
Speaking later during our interview, Lisiecki noted the tight structure of Schumann’s composition.
“It’s a very intricate piece and I think Peter and I actually have taken a slightly different tack and approach to it than most people have. We’ve returned to many of the things — especially tempo markings — that Schumann indicated.”
A return to the essentials gives Lisiecki and the TSO a chance to highlight the keen interplay between soloist and orchestra at work in Schumann’s composition. “The music stops being only virtuoso as well but is very intricate, it’s delicate, it’s about the details — and that’s what we’re doing right now with Peter”
Jan Lisiecki and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra perform Schumann s Piano Concerto
Jan Lisiecki and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra perform Schumann's Piano Concerto
Janusz Überall, Digital Journal
The pianist’s flair and skill led to a great outpouring of appreciation from the audience. The crowd literally cried out for Chopin. Lisiecki was kind enough to offer it freely, returning to the stage to perform the Polish composer’s Nocturne in C minor, Op. 48, No. 1.
Lisiecki showed his intimate relationship with Chopin’s work in his enthralling performance, but also in his comments after the concert.
“The Nocturne is particular in its growth, in the way it metamorphoses from this very simple pure theme to being incredibly intense and sounds to me lot like Rachmaninoff.”
The TSO will be performing in Jerusalem  Tel Aviv  Vienna  Regensburg  Essen  and Prague on their up...
The TSO will be performing in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Vienna, Regensburg, Essen, and Prague on their upcoming tour.
Janusz Überall, Digital Journal
The day’s finale was Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, which the orchestra will perform on its trip through Europe and Israel. Roy Thomson Hall was filled with the supernatural swells produced by Bartók’s work; by performing such a unique, popular piece with such aplomb, the orchestra showed itself ready to take on the challenges of the upcoming grand tour.
Lisiecki was full of the confidence that comes from regular overseas performance when asked about his upcoming travels with the TSO.
“Tours are always an incredibly fun experience. Not only do you get to know the musicians better because you’re with them, but there’s always some adventure. When we’re working together in Roy Thomson Hall, I have to adjust to the piano, I have to adjust to the orchestra. And the orchestra… they have to adjust to me, but they’re in a familiar environment.
“Now take them out of that, and put them into (another) concert hall… and they’re completely on their toes. They feel reinvigorated by the acoustics, the different feeling, by the different ambiance, by the different etiquette of the audience. I’m not saying better or worse, just different. This ‘unexpected’ is what brings the best out of musicians on a tour. Ultimately, classical music is about creating in that moment and reinventing pieces.”
Asked about his working relationship with Oundjian, the pianist’s answer was simple: “I love working with Peter.”
And the feeling is mutual.
“There’s nothing I don’t like about working with Jan,” said Oundjian after the concert. “He’s so sophisticated but not pretentious. He is a noble human being and he has a musical maturity way beyond his years. And he’s also just a wonderful collaborator — he doesn’t come in with pre-fixed ideas.”
Peter Oundjian — Maestro and Music Director of the TSO.
Peter Oundjian — Maestro and Music Director of the TSO.
Janusz Überall, Digital Journal
Oundjian is another practiced hand at touring, and you could feel his excitement as he discussed the “very special, very warm audience” that awaits the orchestra in Israel, where the TSO will be performing for the first time. The Maestro fondly remembers performing the cycle of Beethoven’s String Quartets in Jerusalem in 1987.
Playing in some of the finest venues in Israel presents the TSO with a unique opportunity to impress itself upon a new audience. And Oundjian is no stranger to fostering new audiences.
Even on a rainy Thursday, the concert drew in an impressively young crowd. Through the TSO Soundcheck program, the organization has promoted the vivacity and bold showmanship of an orchestra of talented musicians. The very spectacle feeds the mind of audiences, according to Oundjian.
“I think the Symphony brings a kind of energy, a kind of spontaneity to what they do that young people really get a kick out of. There’s something amazing about watching 90 or 100 people coordinate themselves in that way. Not just time, but expression, dynamic, everything is so balanced. There’s no other example quite like that. It’s like synchronized swimming with 100 people.”
The TSO also continues to create a strong web presence and to proliferate online. This is something the young Lisiecki also understands as an important tool available to artists.
Conductor and Music Director of the TSO Peter Oundjian speaks with Digital Journal s Jack Derricourt...
Conductor and Music Director of the TSO Peter Oundjian speaks with Digital Journal's Jack Derricourt.
Janusz Überall, Digital Journal
“It’s important to remember that social media is a way to reach out,” said Lisiecki. “But it should be an addition, not a supplement for the music. It reaches a very broad range of the audience and also gives people if they like me in particular, gives people a little bit of a window into classic music generally. I’m hoping that If they see me post about Schumann concerto that they not only come to my performance of Schumann concerto, but if they live in a different city and see a pianist is playing Schumann concerto that they go and hear it. And that’s I think the power that it also has, is that it creates interest in the general sphere of classical music. That’s how I always see it, not just for myself, but overall.”
Oundjian also noted the need to use technology to compliment the power of classical music.
“It’s a much more direct communication now,” said Oundjian. “We tend to play with a sense of event all the time. There’s a lot of excitement around a concert. We know we need to do that. Let’s face it — there’s a lot of entertainment out there. Thirty years ago there wasn’t that kind of entertainment available. When people decide to buy a ticket to come to a concert we better make it worth their while.”
Lisiecki, Oundjian and the orchestra will be performing in Vienna, Regensburg, Essen, and Prague, as part of the famous Prague Spring International Music Festival on their trip through Europe. On the TSO’s first trip to Israel, they’ll be performing in the Charles Bronfman in Jerusalem at Sherover Hall, Jerusalem Theatre and at the Charles Bronfman Auditorium in Tel Aviv. For information about obtaining tickets, make sure to visit the TSO website.
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