REVIEW: A symphony titan arrived in Duncan

Christian Kluxen was a big hit in his first Symphony concert in Duncan. (submitted)

Christian Kluxen was a big hit in his first Symphony concert in Duncan. (submitted)

By Ted Rhodes

Last Saturday evening a titan by the name of Christian Kluxen, the new conductor of the Victoria Symphony, came to the Cowichan Centre for the Performing Arts, and he “blew ’em away”.

This was the first concert of Cowichan Symphony Society’s 62nd season of classical music in Duncan. These concerts feature orchestral and soloist music of international class which for a community the size of the Cowichan Valley, are unique in all of Canada.

New Maestro Kluxen is from Denmark and has conducted all over Europe with famous orchestras such as the London Philharmonic and the Netherlands Philharmonic. He started Saturday’s programme by conducting ‘O Canada’, (thus he continued the long standing tradition of Duncan’s Symphony concerts) and then, in a congenial self introductory speech, extolled the beauty of our national anthem.

“Lovely anthem,” he said. “Much nicer than the Danish one!”

He immediately had the audience in the palm of his hand — or perhaps under the spell of his magic baton.

There were three main musical pieces in the programme. Each received a standing ovation by the audience.

The first piece only lasted two minutes. It was composed by Canadian Jared Miller on commission to the Canadian government to celebrate the 150th birthday of Canada. It was a jolly, musical interpretation of a basketball game (basketball was invented in Canada of course). One of the main musical instruments in the orchestra just had to be a basketball, pounded by the percussion section on the stage floor in time to the conductor. Lots of fun.

Stewart Goodyear’s playing of the Ravel piano concerto for the left hand was amazing. The magnificent Duncan Steinway (which once belonged to the Eaton family) was made to sound as grand as the full accompanying orchestra.

The Mahler symphony, called appropriately, ‘The Titan’, provided 60 minutes of enthralling music, sometimes sombre, as in the third movement (called a ‘Hunter’s Funeral March’), sometimes with gigantic stormy emotion such as in the finale (‘From Inferno to Paradise’).

Brought along with their new maestro was a huge Victoria Symphony orchestra. For the first time in 62 years of concerts, we had no less than eight French horn players standing at the rear of the orchestra playing full volume. What a glorious sound they produced! We are told this is the largest group ever of French horn players on the Duncan stage.

The crowd was on its feet at the close and cheered the orchestra and conductor for at least five minutes. If this is a foretaste of the coming symphony season, then we in the Cowichan Valley have a great season in store for us. The next concert is on Saturday, Nov. 25 at 7:30 p.m. Phone the box office at 250-748-7529 for tickets to hear the return of the titan.