Eugene Fodor and the Vancouver Island Symphony - A Review
Breathtaking violin as the Vancouver Island Symphony soars to new heights
A review by Rosemary Phillips, May 1999
UPDATE 2012: Eugene Fodor passed away in 2011 after an illness. He was 60 years old. His last performance was in 2008. This writer will remember his virtuosity, his brilliance in playing, and the fact that after this particular concert in 1999, he joined the musicians in a celebratory end-of-season party. A search on the Internet will find many articles remembering Eugene and there are videos of him performing with various orchestras, including the Perry Como Christmas Show. Mostly he is remembered for playing Tchaikovsky and Paganini. He was plagued by substance abuse and yet he was a brilliant artist.
"They evidently saved the best until the last concert,"
said a voice behind me as international violinist Eugene Fodor completed
his breathtaking performance of Tchaikowsky's “Violin Concerto
in D Major” with the Vancouver Island Symphony. Maestro Marlin
Wolfe and Fodor shook hands as patrons rose to their feet shouting
"bravo" and enthusiastically applauded a most remarkable
And that was only the first half of what VI Symphony president Eveline O'Rourke
described as being "a wonderful finale" to the 1998-99
On this particular evening enthusiasm was high as patrons of all
ages entered the Port Theatre, attired in everything from blue jeans
and hockey sweaters to semi-formal dress. The programme, designed
by artistic director Marlin Wolfe, was guaranteed to be another
The opening piece, “Diversion for Orchestra” by Murray
Adaskin, one of Canada's leading composers, was a brief, light-hearted
work with alternating passages for full orchestra and groups of
solo instruments. It brought to mind the complexity of contemporary
compositions, particularly those written for cinema. I sat imagining
a huge screen, in front of the conductor, on which action and mood
determine the timing and sounds to come from the different sections
of the orchestra - a rhythmic test.
Eugene Fodor plays Tchaikovsky and Sarasate
Then came Eugene Fodor and “ Violin Concerto in D Major”.
From my seat in the front row I watched resin chalk puff up into
the air from Fodor's bow as he pulled it across the strings in vigorous
motion. The next moment it felt like everyone in the hall was holding
their breath as Fodor quietly, gently, tenderly stroked his violin
to sing like a bird in the heavens. I floated away with the magic
of it all. The concerto, opening with powerful energy, became lyrical,
with gentle melancholy, and lead to a dashing finale. It was hard
to sit still and not jump up with excitement at the precision, the
drama, and the passion coming from Fodor's violin.
"The public was great and attentive," said Fodor later.
Gasps of breath and whispers of "wow" were heard faintly
throughout the audience. Fodor responded with more, and more, technically
and passionately interpreting, as he states, "Tchaikovsky's
enthusiasm in evolving his greatest invention."
"That was so moving," said one woman in the lobby during
intermission. "I was brought to tears in the first movement."
For the second half of the concert Fodor returned to perform “'Carmen'
Fantasy for Violin and Orchestra” by Pablo de Sarasate. Again
there was excitement and tenderness, reflective of Bizet's Spanish
opera from which this piece is derived, as violinist and orchestra
wove circles around each other, through several dramatic sections
of recognizable themes, meeting with split second timing at the
stroke of the conductors baton. Here Fodor dazzled us with his showmanship,
brilliant technique and style, portraying not only the elegance
and fire of Sarasate's showpiece, but Fodor's true mastery of his
The audience's thirst was not quenched. They wanted more. After
playing a challenging solo piece by Paganini for an encore Fodor
left the stage to thunderous applause and yet another standing ovation.
The Vancouver Island Symphony closes the season with Edward
That was definitely a hard act to follow, and yet Maestro Wolfe's
choice of closing with Edward Elgar's "Enigma" lifted
the energy in the theatre even higher. Said Eveline O'Rourke, "I
found my heart soaring. The Enigma variations were really moving."
Each Variation had it's own personality as in a character study
depicting various friends of the composer. Each was a surprise;
here a viola, there a cello, with depth of the strings, and the
power of the horns. During the vigour of the closing Variation resin
chalk was seen in light clouds over the violin section as musicians,
and audience alike, were building to the final phrases, and the
end of a magnificent concert.
Backstage after the show, orchestra members were excited. Said Olivia
Martin, bassoon player, "The concert was exhilarating and fun."
Mieka Kohut, viola player from Victoria described it as "Invigorating,
rejuvenating and exhausting." Symphony librarian and second
violin player, Leslie Krull explained, "It was by far the best
performance of the year. I feel exhausted and a little sad that
it's over. Next year's programme is going to be even better than
this year. I'm really looking forward to the kids programmes."
And conductor Marlin Wolfe? "I'm worn out, and exhilarated.
It was a great way to end the season. There were such different
emotions in the music. It was a fantastic musical evening. Tchaikovski
and Elgar are so special."
And Eugene Fodor, who hails from Evergreen, Colorado, on his visit
to Nanaimo? "It's wonderful to make music in such an incredibly
beautiful setting. Somehow it goes with the great purity of music.
The Port Theatre has balanced acoustics which will be even better
when the orchestra shell arrives."
And the author? She's still coming down to earth.
For more information about this incredible young orchestra visit the Vancouver Island Symphony website.
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