Bayrakdarian soars with Mozart

The Toronto Star
Apr. 1, 2004. 07:50 AM
Bayrakdarian soars with Mozart


The countess Adhle was bemoaning her lonely, loveless life to a
disguised hermit in the aria “En proie ` la tristesse” and hundreds of
panting, would-be suitors in Thomson Hall were instantly ready to
comfort her.

That countess was dazzling Canadian soprano Isabel Bayrakdarian,
singing the aria from Rossini’s comic opera Le Comte Ory, and the
Toronto Symphony under Sir Andrew Davis was in full musical sympathy
with her plight.

This wry declaration of melancholy was the occasion of some of the
best, high-flying coloratura you’ll hear for a while, full of blazing
moments that inevitably led to a big Standing O.

Our glamorous soprano, always on the verge of breaking out of barely
contained ecstasies, showed a faultlessly sustained command of colour
and dynamics.

Last night’s concert, the first of four, was one of charm and
imagination, with large helpings of Mozart finding the orchestra in
lively, bright-toned mode.

The composer’s lovely melodies are tailor-made for Bayrakdarian and
her emotional involvement was clear in two arias from the serenata Il
Re pastore, her soaring sweetness and exceptional breath control over
a cushion of strings evident in the love-struck “L’amero saro
costante” and “Alla selva, al prato, al fonte”. Fully engaged with the
text, the notes and her colleagues, she conquered an audience in a
state of reverent hush with the sheer beauty of her voice.

Her concert aria, words drawn from Mozart’s Idomeneo, was delivered
with zeal, expressive passion married to intelligent interpretation
and absolute attention paid to tonal nuance. Perhaps there were times
when low notes seemed to disappear but that was a tiny flaw.

The concert began with Stravinsky’s Symphonies Of Wind Instruments, a
work that originally was a chorale for recently expired composer
Debussy. Its 1947 incarnation featured brass and woodwinds and Russian
folk melodies in conjunction with modest sonorities. It was short, an
odd program choice to point to the imminent vocal glories.

Davis was himself featured on piano in Mozart’s concert rondo for
piano and orchestra, a very serviceable effort conducted from the
keyboard stool.

The TSO was in fine fettle for the evening closer, Beethoven’s eighth
symphony, its familiar strains masking the stop-and-start
eccentricities from the composer that are particularly noticeable in
the opening movement. The playing throughout was a bracing treat

The program can be heard again tonight at 8, on Saturday (sans the
Stravinsky) at 7.30 and on Sunday at 3 at the Weston Recital Hall.

Additional articles by Geoff Chapman