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Inon Barnatan is sitting in for Jonathan Biss.

Concert Review: NAC Orchestra’s Haydn, Biss & Beethoven program—until 11.21.19

By Madeline Paiva on November 21, 2019

The National Arts Centre Orchestra performs their program Haydn, Biss & Beethoven at the NAC from November 20th to 21st. It’s always a pleasure to hear the NACO, and this time was no exception! The program is a wonderful mix of Haydn’s Symphony No. 97 in C major, Mendelssohn’s Music from the Incidental Music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Op. 61, and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 73, “Emperor.” Unfortunately, due to illness, Johnathon Biss does not perform and the Beethoven piano Concerto is performed instead by Inon Barnatan.

Inon Barnatan is so talented and makes the performance look effortless. The piece itself is full of beautiful trills, and difficult timing.

This concert was particularly exciting because of the return of Pinchas Zukerman as conductor. Zukerman, a renowned violinist and conductor was the Music Director and Principal Conductor of the NACO from 1998–2015. It was a real treat to watch him conduct. He is so passionate and cares so much about the whole orchestra, and it comes across in his actions. Most delightfully, he yelled a boom to the orchestra before their big final bar of the Haydn fourth movement, Finale: Presto assai.

The Haydn Symphony is made up of four movements—I. Adagio – Vivace; II. Adagio ma non trope; III. Minuetto – Trio: Alegretto; IV. Finale: Presto assai. The Symphony starts out sweet and harmonious with the violins. The strings are in perfect harmony! There are a few flute solos that are performed with a crystalline clarity. The next movement is very regal sounding. The expertise of the orchestra really comes out here—there is a lot of scale work for the violins and not one note was out of place. The small interludes of more intensity make the piece all the more enjoyable. The next section has a lot of repetition and leads very beautifully into the last section. The fourth is arguably the best movement of the piece. The section is full of complex repetition and section by section playing, almost like a call and response. Zukerman conducts with ease, using all of his space on the platform to ensure absolute perfection.

The Mendelssohn consists of the Nocturne, Scherzo, and Wedding March of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Op. 61. The piece is an absolute dream. I found myself so enthralled in it that I would forget to write anything down. It is so immersive and it’s a performance that really whisks you away—a huge feat for the orchestra is their ability to have their audience forget anything on their mind. The French horns in this piece are phenomenal! The orchestra plays with such consistency that it’s so blissful.

I found myself so enthralled in it that I would forget to write anything down. It is so immersive and it’s a performance that really whisks you away—a huge feat for the orchestra is their ability to have their audience forget anything on their mind.

The concert ends with Beethoven and it is amazing! Inon Barnatan is so talented and makes the performance look effortless. The piece itself is full of beautiful trills, and difficult timing. There are a lot of notes, in very little time, with no mistakes. Barnatan’s playing is fluid throughout this intricate and difficult piece. There are moments of gentility and chaos interspersed through both the piano and orchestra score. We return to this beautiful dreamscape piano at odds with the fleeting violins.

The show ends with steady and resounding cheers and applause from the audience—and quite possibly, the fastest standing ovation. It is a lovely show to attend. An evening with an orchestra, especially the NACO, is unlike any other. If you have any affinity for classical music, see this show—it is phenomenal! Listen to the pieces ahead of the performance, if you feel intimidated, but enjoy yourself, most importantly! Let yourself fall into a trance, especially to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.


The NACO, joined by Inon Barnatan, performs Haydn, Biss & Beethoven at the National Arts Centre on November 20th and 21st. The performance runs approximately 2 hours, including intermission. Tickets range from $31–119. Student Tickets and $15 Live Rush are available for this performance.