Elliptical salute to Mario Bernardi - Johannes Debus Review

Johannes Debus
Concerto Net

This week’s subscription pair by The National Arts Centre Orchestra (NACO) is an elliptical tribute to the orchestra’s founding principal conductor, the late Mario Bernardi (1930-2013). Bernardi was among the most respected Mozart conductors of his day and his thirteen-year tenure (1969-1982) was marked by regular performances of Mozart Symphonies and Concerti, and exceptional productions of the composer’s operas, notably Le nozze di Figaro and Idomeneo. As well, Bernardi was instrumental in commissioning a range of work from both established and emerging Canadian composers. Bernardi was Canadian born (Kirkland Lake, Ontario) however his perspective as a musician was always global – his early training encompassed Italy, Canada and the UK and by the late 1950s he’d become well known in Toronto, New York and London as a rising opera conductor.

Guest conductor Johannes Debus proved an ideal choice for this composition. German born and trained, this youthful maestro is currently Music Director for Toronto’s Canadian Opera Company (where Mario Bernardi had once been a regular).

Debus was in his element also in the two Mozart works, even if Eine kleine Nachtmusik was a tad on the heavy-footed side. The Symphony No. 39 which closed the evening was exceptional. Mr. Debus drew a consistently warm sonority from the players with a decidedly Viennese sound, made evident from the chordal opening contrasting with delicate filigree strings. The conductor brought a stately, almost operatic mood to dialog in the third movement, Menuetto: Allegretto, and his handling of the strings in the Finale: Allegro at times anticipated Mendelssohn’s Symphonies. This performance, especially, was a fine tribute to the legacy of Mario Bernardi.

Overall, this was an excellent evening. 

Read the rest of the review here