TORONTO—It was renowned conductor Kerry Stratton’s third time attending a concert by Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra and he had much warm praise to give at the end of the concert that closed with three encores at Roy Thomson Hall on Oct. 23.
“They’re a remarkable ensemble. Really, really something terrific to enjoy these concerts,” said the maestro of the Toronto Concert Orchestra, who has conducted orchestras in Europe, North America, and Asia in the course of his international career.
“I think it should be an ongoing pleasure for Toronto to enjoy this great symphony orchestra,” he said.
Also a host of regular radio programs on Classical FM 96.3 for over 20 years, Mr. Stratton said it was an especially “big pleasure” to attend the performance this afternoon because the repertoire performed by Shen Yun is one that he seldom hears.
The Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra combines the spirit and distinctiveness of Chinese music with the precision and grandeur of the Western symphony orchestra, the program book explains.
Deploying Western and Chinese instruments, the orchestra presents Shen Yun’s own original compositions and also pays tribute to Western classical music by performing some of its celebrated works.
“She was very good! Very, very cool … right on top of it,” said Mr. Stratton of violinist Fiona Zheng for her performance of “Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso” by Camille Saint-Saëns, a piece widely regarded as a hallmark of violin virtuosity.
“It’s technically quite a demanding piece but she’s right up to the challenge,” he said.
Another piece that stood out for Mr. Stratton was “Delicate Dance,” a premiere work written for three erhu soloists and orchestra.
“There is no sound like erhu. Only erhu sounds like erhu. And to have three of them in such terrific unison, really, very impressive. And so lyrical—a singing instrument,” Mr. Stratton said.
The erhu is a traditional Chinese instrument with a history of 4,000 years. Though it has only two strings, it is capable of “singing” effortlessly and conveying a wide range of emotions.
“Delicate Dance” combined melancholy melodies and spirited left-hand pizzicato, showcasing the erhu’s versatility including how it is often likened to the human voice.
“A lot of longing in it sometimes,” said Mr. Stratton of the Chinese melodies in the piece.
He also noted how much he enjoyed the three encores. “There was so much dynamism and a lot of energy too,” he said. “They were really impressive. The string section in this orchestra is amazingly well put together.”
Many of the pieces performed are accompaniments to Shen Yun’s dance performances, and Mr. Stratton remarked on music’s ability to evoke imagery and spark the listener’s imagination.
“I think that is part of the whole purpose of music. It should give you some imagery. It certainly does for me. I hear music and I sense emotion, of course, but also I see pictures,” he said.
“It’s exotic, it’s romantic, so I imagine in my mind what they’re trying to represent.”
Reporting by NTD Television and Cindy Chan
New York-based Shen Yun Symphony Orchestra comprises musicians from the four Shen Yun Performing Arts touring companies. For information about the October performances, visit: ShenYun.com/Symphony
The Epoch Times considers Shen Yun Performing Arts the significant cultural event of our time and has covered audience reactions since the company’s inception in 2006.