Concert Review: “Triumph of the Spirit”

“N.A.O. – 30 years young” 

Review by Danny Gaisin

The opening concert of season 30 was devoted to Mozart and two of his most celebrated compositions; the brief (20 minute) Haffner Symphony and his last opus – Requiem in D minor. After an introductory piece by S.I. Glick entitled ‘Psalm’; the NAO under apprentice conductor Roï Azoulay presented a cohesive opening two movements of the ‘Haffner. The National Academy Orchestra’s three decades of recruiting; selecting; training and presenting the top Canadian musical graduates as a performing ensemble is an extraordinary accomplishment and has been a positive opportunity for over a thousand young men and women.

Laengert; Bogdanowicz; Brott; Ramirez & Lichti performing ‘Requiem’

Boris Brott has received world-wide accolades and orders acknowledging his instructive contribution…all were, and are deserved. One wishes him ‘ein hundred und tvansig yar. Mazel Tov!

The Haffner, originally a serenade was revamped six years later as a symphony. This young conductor with an incredible résumé gave the opening allegro an energetic yet understated interpretation…rousing but tight-reined. His andante was more emotional than technically-focused. The overall lilt was conducted and performed with an unpretentious demeanor. Azoulay, like his mentor; is meticulous and precise in controlling the orchestra. Brott took the podium for the minuetto & presto movements, and as his habit- bestows his own imprimatur on his orchestral readings. As always, forceful and dynamic even to giving an almost swing-like contribution to the presto finale.

Post interval, Mozart’s Requiem. Like comments by a certain contemporary ‘POTUS’, polemics and exactitude about this work abound. Who finished it; its dating; his mental state and health issues are still under debate; disputed & the subject of deliberation in theses and doctoral dissertations. The work is dramatic; descriptive and a major undertaking given its demands on the orchestra; choir and soloists. The challenges of compositional style incorporating rounds; contrapuntal ostinatos and subject matter make this piece a major undertaking. The 100-member choir sang as a unit in perfect harmony & ‘sinc’; the four vocalists; Tessa Laengert; Michèle Bogdanowicz; Ernesto Ramirez & Daniel Lichti coordinated & complemented each other. All are consummate performers but this writer couldn’t help but notice the sweetness and sympathetic tone in Ramirez’ vocalizing. What a Rigoletto or Don José he must make.

The NAO musicians were technically unflawed and professional as any performing orchestra.  Altogether the work was faultlessly executed … the almost sold-out audience at Waterdown’s St. Thomas the Apostle Church, sat spell-bound as they sensed & felt the intensity of the composition and its fastidious interpretation.

A few trivia comments.   St’ Thomas’s deacon was astute enough to notice that this work had been incorporated as background to the 2009 Sci Fi movie ‘The Watchmen’. He also proved a valued support shoulder to this aging scribe’s photo-taking. Some attendee acquaintances remarked on the pre-concert and intermission feeling of camaraderie even among strangers. Seat-mates the Lee’s exhibited enough of a sense of humor as to give me a nickel as toll for entering the pew after we were already seated. It will be an unspent keepsake.
Madame editor observed how over the NAO’s years, the period of orchestrally accomplishing  unity has lessened to a point of the present expectation is of a professional organization that’s now fused & integrated right out of the starting gate.

The next concert is Jazz on June 30th at the Bay City Music Hall venue, on Leander.

Contact Us


Brott Music Festival Office
301 Bay St S
Hamilton, ON L8P 3J7

Sign Up For Our Newsletter


join us live

Brott Music Live

Our Festival is being presented virtually this year.