Peter Oundjian Has Left The Building

Arthur Kaptainis, Ludwig Van Toronto

Toronto Symphony Orchestra with Kirsten MacKinnon (soprano), Lauren Segal (mezzo-soprano), Andrew Haji (tenor), Tyler Duncan (baritone), Peter Oundjian (conductor), Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, at Roy Thomson Hall, Thursday through Saturday.

Standing ovations can be both inevitable and deserved. There were a few on Saturday evening in Roy Thomson Hall, before and after Peter Oundjian led his last performance as music director of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

The most extended, naturally, followed the prestissimo conclusion of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, which had its usual exhilarating effect. Indeed, the entire fourth movement, plunged into without a break, was vital and forward-moving in a manner to remind us that Beethoven in his visionary sixth decade retained the energy of youth.

Yes, you could tap your foot to this finale, while admiring its many felicities, including a silky introduction of the “Ode to Joy” theme in the cellos and basses, which rose steadily to a fortestatement in the winds and brass, a little faster at this point, and why not?

Whether baritone Tyler Duncan sounded as impressive in the upper galleries as from a seat up close and far to the right — or tenor Andrew Haji as clear, or soprano Kirsten MacKinnon and mezzo Lauren Segal as sweetly harmonious — these are all conjectures, but I am prepared to guess that they did.

The 140-strong Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, on stage rather than in the loft, could hardly have failed to make an impact throughout the hall in the great climaxes, including the high-altitude fugue. These choristers know the music and love it. Strings in the instrumental fugue reminded of us of the calibre of playing we have become accustomed to during the Oundjian years.

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