Saturday, January 08, 2011

Mendelssohn and Malabrigo

After a relatively snow-free Christmas and New Year's, the National Capital Region is finally covered in a thick blanket of snow! It's the perfect atmosphere to go skating on the beautiful Rideau Canal, which opened for skating just this weekend. I can't wait to lace up and hit the world's largest skating rink!

This week, I had the wonderful opportunity to attend "Hymn of Praise" at the National Arts Centre, a concert of works from Schumann, Bach, and Mendelssohn (from whose Symphony No. 2 the concert takes its name). The NAC Orchestra was joined by the very talented Simone Dinnerstein on piano, soloists Donna Brown, Amber Wagner, and Thomas Cooley, and a number of choirs who stole the show during the second half of the evening.

Conducted by Carlo Rizzi, Schumann's Overture to Genoveva (Op. 81) was energetic and sweeping, if a little too similar to a typical movie soundtrack. Schumann's failings are hardly the fault of the orchestra, however, as we saw from the remaining two performances of the night.

Pianist Simone Dinnerstein illuminated Bach's Keyboard Concerto No. 1 in D Minor with her melodic interpretation of the Baroque master. Echoed by her gauzy, flowing gown, Dinnerstein's performance was almost Impressionistic in its fluidity, reminding us of the swelling piano lines of Debussy. It was a bit of a departure from the measured contrapuntal lines that I'm used to hearing from Bach, but the difference created an interesting sense of the unknown within the familiar.

The second half of the evening featured the three gifted soloists along with four choirs-- the Ottawa Choral Society, Cantata Singers of Ottawa, Ewashko Singers, and the Ottawa Festival Chorus-- in Mendelssohn's Symphony No. 2, "Lobgesang." And wow, was it worth missing the World Junior Hockey Championship game for this (sorry to my friends who suffered through that loss in bars across Ottawa and the rest of Canada)!

The program notes tell me that Mendelssohn composed this piece to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Gutenberg press, but really the piece transcends any idea of occasion or context. Anthemic choral movements combined with soaring tenor and soprano solos create what I can only call a sublime musical experience. I'm not sure why I can't find any Mendelssohn in my music collection, but I will certainly be adding some soon.

Many thanks to the NAC for a wonderful night!

Mmmalabrigo - Ochre
To round out the aesthetic indulgence for the week, this morning I headed to Knit Knackers, my lovely local yarn store on Bank Street. Although Emily keeps threatening to cut me off from the Mmmalabrigo, I found a skein in Ochre which is neither too mustardy nor too neon. Naturally I had no choice but to add it to my stash. Perfect for a new pair of mittens-- perhaps with grey as a contrast?

Enjoy your winter days!


  1. Perhaps the juniors lost because they were pumping the Mendelssohn into their helmets! They lost the gold but were happy to lose it.

  2. But the Mendelssohn was inspiring! Silly juniors.

  3. How neat! I found your blog today; it's so inspiring because I knit lots and just started taking violin lessons. Keep up the beautiful designwork!