You would be forgiven if you felt winded after watching the Toronto Symphony Orchestra play Friday night.
The Festival of Orchestras hosted the Canadian group, with violinist James Ehnes, at Northland Performing Arts Center in Longwood for the second program of its season.
The evening's theme: motion. Both Ehnes and the symphony's musicians proved they were up to the task in several fast-paced pieces.
Ehnes, a Canadian who lives in Bradenton, was soloist on U.S. composer Samuel Barber's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 14. He kept a sweetness of sound in the first movement, even through the forte interludes. And he received support from Patricia Krueger, whose distinctive piano runs gracefully complemented the rich strings.
It was in the third movement, "presto in moto perpetuo" or quickly in perpetual motion, where Ehnes proved his mettle. His fingers truly were in perpetual motion, producing a feverish rush of notes. Conductor Peter Oundjian held it together and only once or twice let the orchestra overpower Ehnes' sound.
Oundjian, nattily dressed in a black suit with pleats that revealed purple silk underneath, started the high-octane concert with "Torque," another work in the perpetual-motion style.
Composed by Canadian Gary Kulesha, "Torque" brought to mind a wild ride in a fast car — and not just because of the name. A rushing melody line and depth of sound from the bass instruments conjured a revving engine.
The Toronto Symphony Orchestra is on a six-city Florida tour, and Friday's concert showcased the Canada-Florida connection, with Canadian dignitaries in attendance.
"It's an extremely important relationship for all of us," said Canada's minister of international trade, the Hon. Peter Van Loan, in a pre-concert address. "We tremendously value this partnership."
He called the orchestra a "great Canadian treasure, a great Canadian export."
The orchestra opened the evening by playing rousing versions of "O Canada" and "The Star-Spangled Banner," with a particularly dramatic retard on the U.S. anthem's final line.
While the first half was all about the U.S. and our neighbor to the north, the second part of the program turned to Russia with a performance of Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 in E Minor, Op. 64.
And if the program's early pieces demonstrated "moving music" in terms of tempo, the Tchaikovsky piece was moving in the emotional sense.
Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 repeats the same melodic motif in each of its four movements, but with a constantly evolving emotional state that Oundjian brought forth from his musicians.
The restlessness of the first movement was nicely underscored by the lowest of low notes from the double basses, while a mellifluous horn solo set a calmer tone for the second movement.
The warmness in all the brass playing throughout the night was a highlight of the concert, and was never displayed better than in the symphony's uplifting final movement, with its triumphant trumpet flourishes.
Even after the bravura of that Tchaikovsky work, energetic Oundjian couldn't resist one last whirlwind of a piece, and another by Tchaikovsky at that. For an encore, the orchestra lunged headlong into the familiar fast-paced "Trepak," the Russian dance from "The Nutcracker."
Matthew J. Palm can be reached at 407-420-5038 or email@example.com. Read his Orlando Arts Blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/artsblog
See for Yourself
•What: Toronto Symphony Orchestra, with violin soloist James Ehnes
•Where: Peabody Auditorium, Daytona Beach
•When: 7 p.m. today
•Tickets: $34-$59 at Ticketmaster.com