last time we heard the os play music by sir william walton was way back in november, when major charles emerson winchester III was wandering around on stage drunkenly spouting off some shakespeare. this time ‘round, coach kalmar decided to open up last night’s concert with walton’s partita for orchestra (um, partita being a fancy-pants word for “musical thing”). with a bang from the mighty timpani, a thrilling swashbuckler began to unfold from the schnitzer stage. for five rousing minutes, the boys in percussion traded crisp blows with the sharp strings and brilliant brass… the band sounding tighter than a gnat’s ass. the mood shifted dramatically as joël “fear no poutine” belgique and marty “the wailin’ quail” hebert combined forces to bust out this delightfully creepy waltz on viola and oboe. i imagined this is what those folks in *munch’s dance of life must have been listening to. before parting, this 3-part partita wrapped things up with a wildly raucous jig based on an obscure theme from the old munsters tv show. it’s fair to say that (yet again) maestro carlos introduced both the orchestra and the audience to one of their new favorite pieces.
and that was just the opening ditty – sheesh! after some musical chairs, the band reconfigured to welcome violinist james ehnes, a newly minted member of the order of canada. while michael j. fox currently outranks him in the official canadian hierarchy, i daresay it won’t be for long if he keeps playing fiddle like he did last night. reminding me of a tuxedo-clad michael cera (+12 years), the commanding mr. ehnes proved his prowess as soon as he lifted that beautiful strad to his chin. the violin sang, the violin whispered, the violin laughed, the violin cried… the violin basically did whatever the frack james ehnes wanted it to do. and what music! though this piece was new to the beaver, i have since discovered the concerto is one of the most popular works for violin, like evah. written in the 1860’s by german composer max bruch, it is chock-full of broodingly romantic moments and over-the-top drama, with a slow middle movement that emerges out of nowhere to kill you softly with its song. the firework finale packs some serious double-stopped heat, and effectively transformed the schnitzer crowd into one giant goosebump. the band was clearly firing on all cylinders last night, with superbad mr. ehnes in the driver’s seat. here’s to hoping his next pit stop in portland won’t be too far off in the future – i’m betting he’ll return as an officer of the order of canada.