Review: VSO guest Goulding hushes house with her look at Bruch

Grammy-nominated violinist Caroline Goulding plays Bruch
Grammy-nominated violinist Caroline Goulding plays Bruch's masterpiece with a priceless 1720 Stradivarius, and the Victoria Symphony Orchestra, led by Tania Miller, Saturday in the Cowichan Theatre.
— image credit: Andrew Leong

Small wonder Saturday’s Victoria Symphony concert opened with Copland’s Orchestral Variations.

The legendary American tunesmith’s boisterous adventure perfectly set the Cowichan Theatre stage for three other enchanting tunes conducted by Tania Miller.

The night’s highlight was Grammy-nominated Caroline Goulding’s brilliant bow work, on a priceless Stadivarius violin, during Max Bruch’s four-part Fantasia on Scottish Folk Tunes, Op. 46.

But the crowd was also thrilled when composer Michael Oesterle strode stage before Miller’s orchestra charted his New World: The Golden Door.

The evening was capped by Mendelssohn’s four-part Reformation masterpiece Symphony No. 5 in D Major, Op. 107.

Copland’s sadly obscure composition was movie-score fare, complete with whodunit rounds of sound Hitchcock would have liked.

Textured and robust — spanning mouse peeps, comical squawks, bass outbursts, and gunshots — Variations was a factory of sound manufactured nicely by Miller and Co.

Then enter Goulding in a blue gown, cradling a 1720 Strad that tranquilized, energized and tantalized throughout Bruch’s Fantasia.

With note-perfect memory work, Goulding commanded the stage, often bending her knees into her bow — occasionally hoisting the strap of her gown between bouts of beautiful playing.

That heather-hued number contrasted with The Golden Door.

Oesterle told us of its musical “promise of opportunity, freedom, a new life” for immigrants (including himself as a native of Germany).

For some, he said, the hope of justice, health, happiness in a new country ends at a closed door, changing those disappointed folks forever.

The VSO telegraphed the haunting intent of his tune — cleverly laced by a beat evoking a U and an I in Morse Code.

Finally, Mendelssohn’s religiously-rife Reformation contained resonances of lofty European cathedrals during his seeming confessions about Christianity’s long, confusing evolution through revolution.

Uplifting to downtrodden moods evoked plenty of hearty reflection during this sweeping piece of Biblical proportions.

The VSO returns to the Cowichan Theatre March 25 with the prodigious Choi brothers on the strings.

Classical concert rating: 10 scores out of 10.

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