Virtuoso violinist commands the stage with marvelous artistry on WSO debut



Local music fans fell head over heels for Canadian violinist Blake Pouliot on his debut with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra on Saturday night and judging by the palpable connection between the Toronto-born, Los Angeles-based artist and his 932 listeners, it became love at first sight.

WSO’s last (B) eyond Classics concert conducted by Daniel Raiskin featured the 27-year-old dynamo in Samuel Barber’s sole Violin Concerto, heard for the last time on this stage in 2017 and also notably marking Pouliot’s first visit to our beautiful province.

Hailed as “one of those special talents that only comes once in a lifetime” (Toronto Star), the Juno-nominated musician and alumnus of the prestigious Colburn School in Los Angeles who made his orchestral debut at the age of 11 has carved out an impressive solo career, notably with performances with greats orchestras in North America and Europe.

In addition to his virtuoso technique, the soloist’s total freedom and ease often evoke the fascinating artistry of a young Joshua Bell; underpinning his musical creation with fierce conviction and a completely authentic artistic voice. His passion has allowed him to leave nothing on stage, including delivering a captivating game at full throttle. Presto on a perpetual motorbike finale driven by lightning-fast triplets and played like a flaming banshee on his 1729 Guarneri del Gesu violin, on loan from the Canada Council for the Arts Musical Instrument Bank.

Beyond his dazzling pyrotechnics, Pouliot also demonstrated his artistic mastery during the first two movements, knowing exactly what he meant during the opening “Allegro” with its long arch, its carefully sculpted thematic material, delivered with delight, a perfectly mastered and resonant bow. He then projected his mid-range melodic lines during the more introspective “Andante” as the beating heart of the contemporary work – and notably only his second performance of the work with orchestra since his first performance with the Symphony Orchestra. of Quebec in September 2020.

As expected, the crowd sprang to their feet with a request for three encore for the beaming fiddler, leading to a recall of his own Celtic-inspired arrangement of The last rose of summer, written during a quarantine created by COVID that hinted at more original works to come from this rising international star. We hope he will return at this point – and soon.

This season has already featured several lesser-known works reflecting today’s push for more inclusive and culturally diverse programming, and this latest bill was no exception. British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s WSO debut Overture of the Song of Hiawatha offered an unabashedly romantic crowd pleaser written by the late 19th-century artist often hailed as the “Black Mahler,” teeming with radical lyricism and remarkable cinematic sensibility light years before the advent of the movie.

The evening ended with Czech composer Dvorak Symphony No.9, From the New World, written in 1892 during the composer’s stay in the United States, premiered by the New York Philharmonic at Carnegie Hall in December 1893, and last heard on that stage in 2014.

Kudos to Principal English Horn Robin MacMillan for his soul-stirring plaintive solo, which nevertheless could have had more time to breathe during the “Largo”; its lyrical melody later turned into a spiritual song Go home by one of Dvorak’s students continuing to inspire and console generations through the ages.

Despite Raiskin’s sensitive and often very lively direction, the overall performance was admittedly patchy, from an oddly hesitant initial opening by the bass strings during the “Adagio” section of the first movement – which thankfully finally found its place – with some rogue horn notes. askew. The brass, sometimes too zealous during the same movement, redeemed themselves later with their loud and proud “Scherzo” theme, now larger, before a fiery finale “Allegro con fuoco” led to the second ovation of the night for this ever-popular original bohemian rhapsody.

For more information, including tickets to the show online, visit wso.ca

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