Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. That was the case at the Vancouver Symphony’s concert (December 15) at Skyview Concert Hall, when the program of holiday treats became too much. The suite from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, featuring the Columbia Dance Company, the selection of classical Christmas numbers sung by Charlotte Pistor, and the orchestral arrangement of seasonal tunes went well. But the Johann Strauss Jr. numbers needed a little more zip, and the addition of four more pieces as encores tested everyone’s endurance.
At last year’s holiday concert, Columbia Dance, a training academy for young dancers, made a terrific splash with selections from Swan Lake. This time around, the ladies scored another hit, dancing to Suite No. 1 from The Nutcracker, showing poise and focus as they made exceptional use of the narrow area in front of the orchestra. A supple ballerina created an elegant Sugar-Plum Fairy. Two very young girls cavorted about in the Chinese Dance. The most dramatic entry came at the beginning of the Arabian dance when four girls entered, carrying another dancer who stood on top of a platform. An ensemble made strikingly graceful poses during graceful the Dance of the Reed-Pipes, and a bevy of lissome young ladies fashioned delightful tableaus while dancing to the Waltz of the Flowers. Kudos to the company’s artistic director, Becky Moore, for the marvelous choreography.
Soprano Charlotte Pistor sang three gorgeous pieces: the Bach-Gounod “Ave Maria,” Pietro Yon’s Gesu Bambino, and Adolphe Adam’s O Holy Night. I liked her performance of O Holy Night the best, because I could hear her voice much more clearly. Brotons allowed the orchestra to play too loudly during the first two pieces, which was a shame because Pistor posses a beautiful instrument with a radiant top. This also happened during the first encore, Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas.” There was no such problem when she sang Silent Night because she was accompanied only by a guitarist, in homage to its first performance 201 years ago.
The orchestra got on a roll with “Around the World at Christmas Time,” an arrangement of Christmas carols and The Hanukkah Song by Bruce Chase. Strauss’ “Thunder and Lightning Polka” was also given a good whirl, but it didn’t need the extra shenanigans of a fellow running around in a raincoat and an umbrella. The Overture to Rossini’s “La Gazza Ladra” (The Thieving Magpie) piped along nicely. But Strauss’ “Vienna Blood Waltz” and “Blue Danube Waltz” dragged a bit too much.
Julie Anderson, who was the highest bidder at the orchestra’s gala auction, made an excellent guest conductor appearance by leading the musicians in a spirited performance of Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride." At one point she even hopped about the podium which reminded me a bit of Brotons.
Brotons and the orchestra closed out the evening with an energetic performance of Johann Strauss Sr.’s Radetzky March. Brotons enthusiastically got the audience involved in the rhythmic clapping. It was a great way to generate enthusiasm at the end of the evening.