The concept of yin and yang, the perfection of opposites, is an Eastern idea. But it was with Western musical culture that the spiritual truth of this insight was given astounding relevance on Thursday night as Tafelmusik presented its last concert of the season.
Under the baton of guest conductor Bruno Weil, the Tafelmusik Orchestra burned through a fiery reading of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 4 in B-flat Major, and an intriguing pairing, almost as a suite, of two of Beethoven’s tragic incidental pieces, his overtures to Coriolan and Egmont.
On the other hand, the pairing of water and air, music as subtlety and liquid beauty, was provided by pianist Janina Fialkowska beautifully playing an 1848 Pleyel piano, the same model Chopin himself used at the end of his life, and a chamber arrangement of his Piano Concerto No. 2 in F minor. While the Tafelmusik Orchestra was expanded to larger-than-usual size for the majesty and power of the Beethoven, it was reduced to merely 10 players for the airiness and exquisite texture of Chopin.
The series of ovations that Fialkowska received at concerto’s end must have been rewarding to this gentle and generous artist, who has battled and beaten a severe cancer that threatened not only her career, but her life, and who is now experiencing a renaissance in her professional world, with awards and honours everywhere she looks. The reception she got at the end of the first half of the concert was only matched by that received by the orchestra at the end of the second. After close to an hour of the most stirring Beethoven, the audience wildly applauded Bruno Weil, who appeared for one, then a second curtain call. The applause, as it does, eventually died down, generally the cue for patrons to gather up their belongings and make their way out of the theatre.
But Thursday night’s audience just stayed put, unwilling or unable to leave. Not applauding, just sitting in their seats. Stunned, hoping for more, reluctant to re-enter the world of Bloor Street – who knows? Maybe all three. Eventually, the orchestra members themselves started to depart, and so, finally, did the audience. I’ve never quite seen anything like it. I can’t imagine a more glowing a testament to the evening of fine music-making that we had just witnessed.