An off-the -harts fantastic performance by guest artist David Rejano highlighted the Vancouver Symphony’s concert on Saturday afternoon (February 24) at Skyview Concert Hall. Rejano, the principal trombonist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, took center stage to play the “Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra” by Salvador Brotons, the orchestra’s music director who also happens to be a terrific composer.
Written in 1995 (while he taught at Portland State University), Broton’s Trombone Concerto requires a trombonist who can handle the challenge of playing over a full orchestra while negotiating all sorts of tricky and virtuosic techniques. Rejano’sability to create a multitude of fascinating sounds was just stunning. Scattershot tones, basement rattling blasts, high-wire arches, slippery glissandos, and raspy interludes were just easily delivered by Rejano. He also played some super-rapid passages that showed terrific control and articulation. At one point, he elicited two (or maybe more) tones at the same time by playing and singing into the mouthpiece at the same time. That was sort of spooky and weird. He used mutes to sound as if far away and countered that with mellifluous lovely passages.
After the tour-de-force performance, Rejano responded to the extended applause with a beautiful encore, the “Méditation” from the opera “Thais” by composer Jules Massenet. Needless to say, Rejano played the mellifluous piece, accompanied by a few strings, with great sensitivity. His performance, in essence, was a dream.
Beethoven’s Third Symphony received a solid performance by the orchestra, conveying the heroic force of the piece with passion and verve. The strings, led by concertmaster Stephen Shepherd, propelled straight away in the first movement with a sense of purpose. Ends of phrases were well-shaped, often tapering off with a slightly softer sound. The musicians nobly expressed the funeral march of the second movement with the spotlight resting on the expressive playing of principal oboist Karen Strand, principal flutist Rachel Rencher, and principal bassoonist Margaret McShea. The French horns, woodwinds, and trumpets accented the themes with striking clarity. The third and fourth movements overcame a couple of dragging moments to drive homeward and finish the dramatic arc of the piece gusto.
Much like Beethoven’s Third, Brahms “Tragic Overture” also began with forceful blows, followed by a statement that allowed a lot of dynamic contrast. Urged on by Brotons, the musicians created a tapestry that constantly changed between the lush and rhapsodic to stormy and charged to quiet and almost serene. Some passages could have been crisper and more well-defined, but, overall, the ensemble ably conveyed the struggle between a triumphant spirit and one that was defeated.