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Thomson bids Okanagan Symphony Orchestra farewell in final concert

Orchestra conductor has worked with symphony for past 17 years
Rosemary Thomson conducted her final concert with the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra. Bring on Beethoven marks the end of the symphony’s performances for the 2023 to 2024 season. (Photo by Anita Perry)

By Anita Perry

This weekend, the Okanagan Symphony Orchestra welcomed back Rosemary Thomson for the final concert of the 2023-2024 season, Bring on Beethoven.

With a focus on works portraying the struggle of a heroic human spirit in the face of adversity, the concert was especially poignant.

The evening opened with the Egmont Overture Op. 84. Written as incidental music for the play by Goethe, it was evident from the first note that the orchestra was happy to welcome Thomson back.

As always under Thomson’s baton, the details of expression were well-executed, resulting in a performance that was triumphant and ringing, illustrating the play’s victory over suffering and hardship.

Next was Beethoven’s quintessential Seventh Symphony in A major, Op. 92. Right from the first notes, the orchestra captured the optimistic essence of this work. From the thrumming anticipation of the Poco sostenuto to the lighthearted and buoyant Vivace, the first movement effervesced with infectious rhythmic pulse.

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The poignant Allegretto second movement was performed with great sensitivity to line and colour.

From the subdued opening chords to the soul-wrenching pathos of the climax, the orchestra played with great expression and from the heart. Thomson’s attention to the details of compositional direction elevated the emotional impact of this movement. The third movement, Presto: assai meno presto, sparkled with energy and pizzazz.

Thomson captured the playful spirit and overt humour of the composition, and a rock-solid, toe-tapping pulse ensured a tight and unified performance. Thomson conducted the driving Allegro con brio fourth movement masterfully keeping the orchestra focused and coherent during this wild, spine-tingling romp right to the triumphant coda finish.

The audience sprang to its feet in an enthusiastic, mid-concert standing ovation.

After intermission, the OSO launched into Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73, The Emperor.

From the first phrase, it was clear that guest concert pianist Ian Parker understood the work as a whole—the music was in caring and competent hands.

The opening Allegro ma non troppo presented Beethoven’s ideas with deep musical understanding. Seamless and beautifully contoured melodic lines, clear articulation and effortless technical passages gave life to the performance. Parker’s sound was clear, projecting effortlessly over the orchestra and giving voice to his musical ideas.

Even the simplest phrases were played with exquisite attention to detail and deep understanding of the subtext within the writing.

The second movement, Adagio un poco mosso, was hushed and introspective, and Parker captured the mood with understated elegance.

Beautifully crafted, singing lines gave this slow movement life—a love-song without words. Here, the communication between soloist and conductor was especially evident, with perfectly timed rubato and clean entries.

The interpretation and performance of this lovely movement was at once heartfelt and honest.

The final playful Rondo Allegro cantered along with joyful energy. There was a feeling of shared intent in this movement—a conversation between likeminded friends.

The music was tight and well-rehearsed throughout with Thomson achieving the perfect balance between soloist and orchestra. Parker’s fingers flew with effortless ease in runs and cadenzas, capturing the playful and quixotic nature of this rondo. It was no surprise that the audience surged to its feet in a spontaneous and well-deserved standing ovation.

Parker generously played an encore from Bach’s 5th Brandenburg Concerto—truly a delight.

During this final concert under the direction of Thomson, the orchestra played as one, with single intent and great heart.

It was also bittersweet, acknowledging the end of Thomson’s 17-year legacy of bringing great music to the Okanagan.

Anita (A.D.) Perry is a composer and music teacher living in Summerland.