Entertainment

Review: Chooi brothers charm Cowichan with priceless violin virtuosity

Prodigies Timothy Chooi (left) and brother Nikki play priceless violins during Friday
Prodigies Timothy Chooi (left) and brother Nikki play priceless violins during Friday's charming Cowichan Theatre debut with the Victoria Symphony Orchestra.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland

Classical-music history was made locally Friday as wunderkind violinists Nikki and Timothy Chooi debuted together in the Cowichan Theatre.

Nikki nimbly stoked a 1700 Taft Stradivarius; brother Timothy bowed a 1729 Guarneri de Gesu.

Those two violins alone are worth around $10 million — never mind values of the VSO's many fine-grained instruments, heard under the baton of buoyant guest conductor Timothy Vernon.

A delightful night was hinted at when an animated Vernon faced his full house, and belted out O Canada with the crowd.

Then he and the VSO started their strenuous workout with Schubert's Tragic Symphony No. 4 in C Minor.

The movingly layered, four-part piece — penned by Schubert at just age 19 — flexed from bold and insistent to serene, then to fast and serious.

As that wonderful work resonated through the room, the Choois entered for Bach's Concerto in D Minor for Two Violins.

All eyes seemed to focus on their priceless fiddles, but as country folks like to say "It's the truck driver, not the truck, that counts most."

The brothers' virtuosic highway of sensational sound was paved with perfect tone during Bach's lovely, three-part composition.

While VSO members used sheet music, Nikki and Timothy played the brain-teasing tune by memory.

The spell was broken by intermission.

Then a grey-suited Nikki strolled out with his Strad for act two, launching into Sarasate's Ziguenerweisen (Gypsy Airs), Op. 20.

The Juiliard student deftly unleashed dramatic strokes and playful plucking during the enchanting song.

Timothy had a tough act to follow during Ravel's Tzigane.

But the Curtis Institute pupil proved he wouldn't be musically pushed around by his older brother.

Timothy's fluid technique, and mastery of Ravel's demanding European-folk infused piece, was equally as enthralling.

But the boys weren't finished.

Their bonus gift was a sonata by Prokofiev, performed with aurally synchronized gears.

Dessert for the tasty night of talent was served by Vernon and the VSO during Ravel's Ma Mere L'oye (Mother Goose suite).

It comprised five dream-like songs comprising Sleeping Beauty, Tom Thumb, Princess of the Pagodas, Beauty and the Beast, and The Fairy Garden.

That string of sophisticated pearls ended a truly memorable evening of charming culture.

Classical concert rating: 10 bows out of 10.

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