An intriguing program and thrilling soloist lifted the Fremantle Chamber Orchestra’s concert out of the ordinary, reports Rosalind Appleby.
“Piazzolla’s Four Seasons”, Fremantle Chamber Orchestra ·
Churchlands Senior High School Auditorium, 6 June 2021 ·
The Fremantle Chamber Orchestra have carved out a loyal following since forming in 2005. One of the enormous benefits of smaller ensembles such as FCO, is the diversity they offer audiences, and the opportunities they provide for musicians to mix it up a little.
It’s been a challenge for grassroots arts organisations like FCO to stay afloat post-COVID. The orchestra lost several donors during the pandemic and, without the drawcard of Dutch violinist Rudolf Koelman who was a regular guest soloist, their concerts have become smaller in scale. Their concert on Sunday provided evidence the ensemble still has plenty to offer, with a concert showcasing lesser known repertoire, and putting the spotlight on lesser known soloists.
The highlight was violinist Rebecca Glorie, currently acting Principal Violinist with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, who stepped out as soloist for an electrifying performance of Piazzolla’s The Four Season of Buenos Aires. The tango-inspired work was originally written for Piazzolla’s own quintet but has been arranged for string orchestra and violinist by Leonid Desyatnikov. It’s a fabulous arrangement with a violin part that slides and swaggers over a nonstop orchestral groove, plus the occasional overt quotation from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons guaranteed to draw chuckles from the audience. Glorie made the virtuosic violin part look easy, filling the auditorium with glorious and at times almost violent sound. Her technical finesse and emotional commitment was utterly compelling, from the way her vibrato made the wintry melody tremble with grief in “Invierno Porteno”, to the way she cued the ensemble members, who fitted around her like a glove. Together they moved sleekly through Piazzolla’s flamboyant moods, from pensive to wild abandon. Special kudos to double bass player John Keene for his elegant, uber-cool pizzicato bass line).
Piazzolla is certainly a good way to spice up a rainy Sunday afternoon, and the audience response was ecstatic. It was hard for anything else on the program to compete with this. A Divertimento by Mozart (K251 No 11) served its purpose as an attractive opener or “diversion” as the name suggests. The work isn’t Mozart’s greatest, but featured some vibrant string playing, led by concertmaster Andrea Mendham and conducted by Grace Ah-Quee.
The Symphony No 4 “The Rescue of Andromeda by Perseus” by Mozart’s contemporary, Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf, piqued my interest. The first movement, “Adagio non molto”, featured Hannah Woolley as soloist. Her sweetly pensive oboe melody over a bed of gently throbbing strings and horns was simply divine and left me wanting more. Sadly the orchestra only performed one movement of the symphony so I will have to seek out recordings of Dittersdorf online.
The program finished – a little oddly – with the Adagio from Elgar’s Elegy for String Orchestra. It’s a short, five minute work, inhabiting a more elusive sound world than Mozart or Piazzolla. However Elgar’s famously restrained passion was a good opportunity to hear the warm sound of the FCO strings, shaping phrases beautifully under the steady hands of Ah-Quee.
Pictured top: Grace Ah-Quee conducts the Fremantle Symphony Orchestra in Mozart’s Divertimento K251. Photo: Bob Somerville
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