Youthful leader inspires TSO

Maybe I’m exaggerating. Kerem Hasan is 27 after all, and we aren’t supposed to be ageist anymore in the 21st century. The conventional wisdom says that an experienced maestro is the ideal leader of an orchestra.

Kerem Hasan_c_TristanFewings

Conductor Kerem Hasan (photo: Tristan Fewings)

But tonight I saw the best Toronto Symphony concert I’ve seen in a long while, led by a very young conductor. I’m sorry I can’t suggest you go see him because it was the final one in the series. I understand that Hasan stepped in at the last minute, a replacement at the podium for an indisposition.

That seems even more impressive, don’t you think?

Perhaps the program helped. All three items represent compositions that were revolutionary works in their time.  Hasan brought an urgency to each one, a kind of excitement as if the music were brand new, no matter what century it was composed.

I wonder if Hasan has conducted them before?

  • Debussy’s Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun
  • Szymanowski’s first violin concerto
  • Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony

This was one of the best concerts I’ve ever seen from the TSO. Young Maestro Hasan inspired the orchestra, drawing committed playing every moment, and intriguing readings, well-thought out and impressive.

It was a fast but tight reading of the Debussy which is how I like it. The ensemble responded to the conductor’s every gesture after allowing the flute solo to unfold.  Every player paid close attention to his every gesture.

The concerto was well played by soloist Christian Tetzlaff. But Hasan kept the orchestra out of the way, never letting the ensemble get too loud when the violin was playing. There was one huge climactic explosion of sound in the leadup to Tetzlaff’s cadenza near the end of the work (a marvelous creation from the soloist), but otherwise this colorful piece was gently expressive.

I wondered as we came to the main work on the program after the interval, namely the Eroica Symphony of Beethoven: what was Hasan’s secret? All three pieces were approached with great energy, care, sensitivity. Inner voices were clear, and the phrasing made everything very coherent.  You would think their lives depended on it, the way they followed the conductor.

Hasan led a crisp energetic reading of the Eroica, among the best playing by the TSO that I have ever heard in all my time attending Roy Thomson Hall.

I wonder if the TSO will try to bring him back? I hope so!

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