CalPhil’s Swords and Chivalry at the Disney Concert Hall Review -- Centuries of Entertainment on a Sunday afternoon

Maestro Victor Vener led the CalPhil orchestra through centuries of music, fun and an interactive ending, all the while with visits from world-class pianist Robert Thies and Studio City’s Cabar Feidh Pipe Band.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again.  There’s nothing better than a Sunday with the Phil. California Philharmonic, that is. I was excited for two special reasons this time.  Braveheart and Robin Hood.  The program includes pieces from both and I love that kind of tone and style.

Maestro Victor Vener

Maestro Vener
greets the house as always.  Welcoming, cheerful and with glee.  He knows the fun we’re about to have and playfully reveals it one moment at a time.  But just before we’re about to start, comes the first surprise.

Off Vener’s wand, starts a distant bagpipe.  He plays along, his eyes puzzled.  The music grows, yet the volume stays low.  Restrained.  Moments pass.  The bagpipes continue while Vener passes his glance around the room, playing along as the constant showman.

Finally with a boot thump, the marching begins.  Within moments the Cabar Feidh Pipeband marches into the concert hall in perfect cadence.  Behold!  Quite a sight.  They spread across the floor, 12 in total, with their leader, a grizzled looking Scotchman front and center.  The play a rousing rendition of “Scotland the Brave” and then journey backstage leaving behind the breathless audience.

After the charming Vener reacted and helped the audience calm, we continued with 1960’s “ Camelot”.  Over six pieces in a row, he explains the real-life story behind one of the creator’s romance that ultimately influenced the music itself.

Then comes samples of the late-great Michael Kamen, which of course did “ Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” Main Theme.  Bombastic and riveting.  

Before intermission we enjoyed “ Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”, a meditative swirl that takes your imagination on a rich and complex journey.  This is where the great, world-renowned and dare-I-say top ranked in the world pianist Robert Thies dazzled us.  How you ask?  Well, Thies was the first American in four decades to win the Russian piano contest.  He’s not just good.  He’s altering.  Watching his nimble fingers delicately finding the right strokes in speed, placement and rhythm.  That in itself could be show.  And probably has been.

Pianist Robert Thies

We return strong with Cabar Feidh once again joining in on Oscar-winning Braveheart’s Opening Theme followed by Bannockburn.  Simply hearing the music brings back the story.  But watching the faces of Cabar Feidh was an entirely different experience.  Highly recommended.  As they broke into Highland Music and Dance, their veteran drum leader Joe Hosch’s face held tight.  His features seemed experienced with war, honor and pride.  As if he had been magically transported from the era.  And that made it all the more striking.  Bravo!

Things twisted again with Tristan and Isolde’s Prelude and Love Death and finally lightened up for Lohengrin for Prelude to Act III.

The audience, having finished today’s emotional journey and experienced a true range was exhausted.  But our day wasn’t done.  Vener corraled us into a group clap.  I promise you, it’s more intense then it sounds.  Playful, curious, yet intense.  And just then the encore sweeps out Cabar Feidh once again for a truly memorable “ Amazing Grace”.

To learn more about Cabar Feidh, click here or on myspace.

To learn more about world-renowned pianist Robert Thies, click here.

As always, to learn more about the Cal Phil, and to buy tickets, visit here.

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