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Features/Music

WASO’s bold new plans

10 September 2021

The West Australian Symphony Orchestra have announced their 2022 program, including the return of international guest artists. Rosalind Appleby picks out the highlights.

The West Australian Symphony Orchestra is the first national major performing arts organisation to announce their season for 2022. The program was launched on 9 September, coinciding with Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor Asher Fisch’s four week visit to Western Australia. In what continues to be uncertain times, the orchestra have announced the return of international artists in a brave attempt to return to (almost normal) programming.

WASO’s 2022 season will open in January with the Perth premiere of “Casino Royale in Concert”. The James Bond film will play on the giant screen at Riverside Theatre, while the orchestra performs the score.

Other highlights include a unique collaboration with St George’s Cathedral Consort and Co3 Contemporary Dance performing Douglas Wright’s Gloria, and a hip-hop project with ARIA-award winning MC, Drapht.

The symphonic concerts include audience favourites Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, Handel’s Messiah and Saint-Saëns’ Organ Symphony.

Asher Fisch is principal conductor and artistic advisor of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. Photo: Nik Babic

In a break between rehearsals, Fisch shared some of his personal favourites, including Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, Mahler’s Third Symphony and his return as a soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24. As you might expect from a conductor passionate about opera, his top pick is a choral work:

“What really stands out to me next year is the War Requiem by Benjamin Britten,” Fisch said. “I love Britten, I love his music, I love the Requiem. It is a big work for the chorus and large orchestra, I think it will be a highlight.”

The program includes the return of international conductors: Jessica Cottis, Fabien Gabel, Umberto Clerici, Vasily Petrenko and Pietari Inkinen will conduct mainstage programs and international performers have also been engaged to perform with the orchestra. The engagement of overseas artists marks a return to pre-COVID programming, although at a slightly lower number than pervious years.

Fisch is pleased to be able to honour engagements with artists from cancelled concerts across 2020 and 2021.

“Baibe Skride was supposed to come two years ago and now she is coming this year and hopefully she will make it to play the Korngold  Violin Concerto, which is a piece that I love and that audiences here will love as well. Behzod Abduraimov was supposed to do the Beethoven piano concerto cycle with us and he will come this year to play number three.”

Nothing can be guaranteed since the pandemic but the orchestra have plans in place to keep as much of the program intact as possible.

 “We have a plan B and if things get cancelled – I myself might not be able to do the concerts – we will try and keep at least the program the same each week. So if (for example) I can’t conduct the Bruckner then we will have someone else who can.”

Listen to the podcast: Principal Conductor Asher Fisch shares his personal insights into WASO’s 2022 program, his tips on surviving quarantine and why it is important for the orchestra to have a composer-in-residence.

The orchestra have also announced a new composer-in-residence commencing in 2022. Perth composer Olivia Davies will join the orchestra for a three year program, with her first composition to be premiered in March at a concert in collaboration with the Perth Festival.

Fisch was warm in his praise of Davies’ appointment.

“Olivia Davies is different. She has very early on developed her own language, and that for me is the most important thing. I see a composer who is an individual who can speak in their own language and disregard traditions and trends. Olivia goes her own way and is not trying to be popular and I think that is the way to go.”

The long over-due focus on Australian music also includes three other world premieres: Elena Kats-Chernin’s Ave Maria, a new vocal work for Sara Macliver and Fiona Campbell; Nigel Westlake’s Trumpet Concerto and Elliot Gyger’s Concerto for Orchestra.

Season packages for WASO’s 2022 season are on sale and single tickets will be available from 9am Wednesday 13 October 2021.

Pictured top: WASO musicians will feature as soloists throughout the 2022 season. Photo: Nik Babic

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Author —
Rosalind Appleby

Rosalind Appleby is an arts journalist, author and speaker. She is co-editor of Seesaw Magazine, author of Women of Note, and has written for The West Australian, The Guardian, The Australian, Limelight magazine and Opera magazine. She loves the percussion instruments which can be found in the uber cool parks.

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