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Calendar, Classical music, July 19, Music, Performing arts

Music: Tchaikovsky Symphony No.5

4 July @ Perth Concert Hall ·
Presented by West Australian Symphony Orchestra ·

Grief, joy and triumph.

Estonian-born Hendrik Vestmann makes his WASO debut with Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. This irresistible work explores the agonies and ecstasies of fate, journeying from a bleak funeral march to a powerful conclusion. We open with the kaleidoscopic textures of Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Nyx, named after the Greek Goddess of the night.

The performance commences at 11 am.

More info
W: www.waso.com.au/concerts-tickets/whats-on/concert/Tchaikovsky-Symphony-No.5-morning
E: waso@waso.com.au

Pictured: Hendrik Vestmann – Tchaikovsky Symphony No.5

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Man playing cello
Calendar, Classical music, July 19, Music, Performing arts

Music: Shostakovich & Tchaikovsky

5 & 6 July @ Perth Concert Hall ·
Presented by West Australian Symphony Orchestra ·

A Russian spectacular.

Estonian-born Hendrik Vestmann makes his WASO debut with Tchaikovsky’s Fifth Symphony. This irresistible work explores the agonies and ecstasies of fate, journeying from a bleak funeral march to a powerful conclusion. Hailed as “the real deal” and “nothing short of magnificent”, Armenian-born Narek Hakhnazaryan is already one of the finest cellists of his generation. He brings his formidable technical prowess to one of the most difficult works in the cellist’s repertoire, Shostakovich’s First Cello Concerto.

More info
W: www.waso.com.au/concerts-tickets/whats-on/concert/shostakovich-tchaikovsky
E:  waso@waso.com.au

Narek Hakhnazaryan – Shostakovich & Tchaikovsky

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Calendar, Classical music, May 19, Music, Performing arts

Music: Romantic Rachmaninov

30 May @ Perth Concert Hall ·
Presented by West Australian Symphony Orchestra ·

From brooding mystery to wild energy.

Prompted by his exile from Russia and composed as he grappled with history and faith, Rachmaninov’s gorgeous Second Symphony is a work bursting with seductive melodies of heart wrenching passion and beauty. Australian conductor Nicholas Carter, Principal Conductor of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, returns to WASO with this romantic tour-de-force.

The performance takes place on 30 May at 11 am.

More info
W: www.waso.com.au/concerts-tickets/whats-on/concert/Romantic-Rachmaninov
E:  waso@waso.com.au

Pictured: Nicholas Carter – Romantic Rachmaninov

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Calendar, June 19, Lectures and Talks, Music, Performing arts

Music: Discovery Concert: The Classical Symphony

28 & 29 June @ Perth Concert Hall ·
Presented by West Australian Symphony Orchestra ·

A new way to experience classical music.

This concert is the first in a series exploring the evolution of the core of the modern orchestra’s repertoire – the Symphony. Join Principal Conductor and presenter Asher Fisch as we go right back to where it all began, with the music of the “Father of the Symphony”, Joseph Haydn, and his illustrious successor, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Share Asher’s own insights into the music of the Classical Era and discover how its greatest masters paved the way for all symphonic music that followed.

The concert concludes with a complete performance of Beethoven’s spirited Fourth Symphony. His last “Classical” Symphony, the Fourth is Beethoven’s final glance back to the sophisticated elegance of Haydn and Mozart, before his very next Symphony ushered in the ambitions, drama and passions of the early Romantic Era.

More info
W:  www.waso.com.au/concerts-tickets/whats-on/concert/Discovery-Concert-The-Classical-Symphony
E: waso@waso.com.au

Pictured: Asher Fisch – Discovery Concert: The Classical Symphony

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Calendar, Classical music, June 19, Music, Performing arts

Music: Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto

20, 21 & 22 June @ Perth Concert Hall ·
Presented by West Australian Symphony Orchestra ·

Asher Fisch leads a trio of richly melodic works.

Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto is one of his finest creations, combining sublime lyricism, yearning Russian wistfulness and thrilling virtuosity. To perform this perennially popular masterpiece we welcome back to Perth the great Russian violinist Vadim Gluzman, whose recording of the Concerto was described by ClassicsToday as “jaw-droppingly spectacular”. The concert concludes with another favourite, Mendelssohn’s sun-kissed Fourth Symphony – a beguiling musical postcard inspired by his travels to Italy.

“Gluzman is the perfect balance between confident showman and reserved perfectionist, radiating both a quiet, sincere charisma and a wonderfully unselfconscious reverence for the music.” – Limelight Magazine

Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto will also be performed in a one-hour morning symphony concert on Thursday 20 June at 11am.

More info
W: www.waso.com.au/concerts-tickets/whats-on/concert/tchaikovskys-violin-concerto
E: waso@waso.com.au

Pictured:
Vadim Gluzman – Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto

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Calendar, June 19, May 19, Music, Performing arts

Music: Romantic Rachmaninov & Symphonic Sorcery!

31 May & 1 Jun @ Perth Concert Hall ·
Presented by West Australian Symphony Orchestra ·

Seductive melodies and a little magic.

Prompted by his exile from Russia and composed as he grappled with history and faith, Rachmaninov’s gorgeous Second Symphony is a work bursting with seductive melodies of heart wrenching passion and beauty. Australian conductor Nicholas Carter, Principal  Conductor of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, returns to WASO with this romantic tour-de-force. The concert opens with Dukas’ famous work immortalised in Disney’s classic film Fantasia and Glazunov’s sweetly lyrical Violin Concerto, performed by the winner of the 2018 Singapore International Violin Competition, Sergei Dogadin.

More info
W: www.waso.com.au/concerts-tickets/whats-on/concert/Romantic-Rachmaninov-Symphonic-Sorcery
E: waso@waso.com.au

Pictured: Nicholas Carter – Romantic Rachmaninov & Symphonic Sorcery!

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Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Musical juxtapositions

Review: West Australian Symphony Orchestra ‘Mozart Clarinet Concerto’ ⋅
Perth Concert Hall, May 3 ⋅
Review by Sandra Bowdler ⋅

There are combinations of composers from different musical eras which work well, and late 18th century meets early 20th century can be one of them. Mozart chamber music meets Elgar hulking great symphony, however, seemed to be an odd mix. Yet this wrench from one musical sensibility to another resulted in a great concert.

Mozart’s beloved Clarinet Concerto (K622) is heard so often that one rather takes it for granted as a soothing cosy listen. But guest soloist Andreas Ottensamer, principal clarinet with the Berlin Philharmonic, really blew the cobwebs away. English conductor Mark Wigglesworth showed his versatility in immaculately steering the WA Symphony Orchestra through both this and Elgar’s Symphony No 1.

Ottensamer, tall and youthful looking in a smart blue suit and what appeared to be sneakers, quickly had the somewhat skittish audience settled into attentive silence. He opened the Allegro at quite a brisk pace, with smoothly legato yet crisp playing and very distinctive low notes. Without large obvious flourishes, he achieved a subtle decorative effect with nimble grace notes and well-judged rubato. The Mozart-sized orchestra followed effortlessly. The Adagio was played perhaps slightly slower than usual and more beautifully rendered than I have ever heard it, with exquisite accuracy and shining limpid tone, again with sonorous support from the conductor.  The final Rondo movement displayed a lively and sunny mood, culminating in rapturous applause from the audience. It did seem a pity this was all we heard from him.

Elgar’s Symphony No 1 (Op 55) was acclaimed at its 1908 premiere to be a great modern work. Its perceived modernity lies in vividly contrasted sections within movements which appear to be grappling with each other, with terms such as “wild juxtapositions”, conflict, struggle, tempestuous, fury etc abounding in the program notes.  Some people might be unkind enough to describe it as a bit of a mess, but it is not incoherent and has a clear structure, well understood by Wigglesworth who, conducting mostly from memory, managed to finesse all the details.

Elgar is famous in providing a good march, however the opening ‘nobilemente’ theme is hardly martial and this performance brought out its rather melancholy aspects, with well-controlled crescendo and diminuendo. The quieter moments displayed the delicacy of clarinets, and flutes, over the massed violins – the orchestra had expanded after the interval by about two thirds.  A gentle segue led into an Allegro displaying blaring brass contrasted with more soothing passages.

The Allegro molto features what the program refers to as a ‘malicious march’, which sounds like something that might be heard in a World War II movie, with a map featuring large arrows advancing on the Polish border, or maybe a phalanx of tanks. The ensuing slow movement, Adagio, is in Elgar’s English pastoral mode but not one of his more interesting excursions. In the final movement Wigglesworth continued to clearly navigate Elgar’s juxtaposing themes including an optimistic restatement of the great ‘nobilmente’ theme from the opening movement which concluded an enjoyable evening of contrasts.

Picture top: Andreas Ottensamer blew the cobwebs away.

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Calendar, June 19, Music, Performing arts

Music: The Rusty Orchestra

16 June @ Perth Concert Hall ·
Presented by West Australian Symphony Orchestra ·

Active community musicians aged 25+ years from all over Western Australia sit side-by-side with WASO musicians to create our Rusty Orchestra. Building on the success of this program in recent years, musicians will attend sectional and full orchestra rehearsals to prepare a free performance for the general public, which is a highlight of Education Week.

More info
W: www.waso.com.au/education-community/community-outreach/the-rusty-orchestra/
E: waso@waso.com.au

Pictured: The Rusty Orchestra

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Joseph Nolan
Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Easter story trimmed but taut

Review: West Australian Symphony Orchestra and St George’s Cathedral, St Matthew Passion
Perth Concert Hall, April 16 ⋅
Review by Sandra Bowdler ⋅

Bach’s St Matthew Passion (Matthäus-passion) is generally regarded as one of the outstanding monuments of Western music. It uses text from the Gospel according to St Matthew to re-tell, indeed re-enact, the story of the crucifixion, with voice parts for a narrating Evangelist, Pontius Pilate, St Peter and Jesus himself. Musically, it is constructed in a framework of choruses, Lutheran chorales, recitative (accompanied and otherwise) and aria.  The narrative is basically carried forward by stretches of unaccompanied recitative. It is a complex construction, but in performance can be a transfixing experience whatever one’s spiritual beliefs.

It is also undeniably long. This led to some hesitancy in its reception in the eighteenth century, during which the most often performed passion was Graun’s Tod Jesu (1755). The Bach version’s more recent popularity is said to be due to Mendelssohn’s recuperation and abridgement in 1829, the centenary of its original premier. In modern times, unabridged versions are frequently performed and extensively recorded; it usually runs somewhere between two and a half and three hours, usually with at least one interval.  Why then abridge at all? Audiences are able to sit through Wagner and extremely long movies like the Lord of the Rings series. For this performance by the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, the reason offered in the printed program is that “WASO rehearsal schedule is not limitless”. Why then do it at all? Why not the much more convenient (shorter) St John Passion, for instance? Obviously these are rhetorical questions but, on the one hand, audiences who know the work may be discombobulated and perhaps disappointed and, on the other, Bach’s intentions are embodied in a work which is very long but which is his best idea of how to present them. Any abridgement is second guessing the composer, who is after all generally regarded as a towering genius.

Rather than the Mendelssohn version, the shortening in this case is the work of respected conductor Joseph Nolan, who has achieved wonders with the featured St George’s Cathedral Consort. In rejecting Mendelssohn’s version, he argues in the program that he has kept the “mainframe of the story intact and that the key relationships are seamless”. In so doing however about a third of the work – it came in at two one hour parts with an interval timed part way into Bach’s part two – has been lost, including such narrative segments as the Annointing in Bethany, the initial Betrayal of Judas, the Last Supper and half of the Interrogation by the High Priests, along with six arias and two chorales.

So how does that work out in practice?  In Part One, it seemed a breathless leap from the initial chorus and chorale to the soprano recitative and aria ‘Ich will dir mein Herze’, and similarly with the other cuts, so while the key relationships might not jar, the lack of continuity does, certainly for those who know the work. The other problem on the night, which might be related, was that Part One was dramatically inert; a lot of well delivered narrative, beautiful sounds and exquisite singing and playing overall, but no real excitement. Part Two, which was more intact, also fared better dramatically; from the soprano’s Erhat uns allen wohlgetan … Aus Liebe on was more gripping (albeit lacking the baritone’s Ja, freilich … Komm, susses Kruz and the alto’s Ach, Golgotha …Sehet! Sehet!). The concluding chorus Herr, wir haben gedacht was as riveting as it should be.

On the plus side, the decision for the chorales to be sung a capella was more than rewarding, with the Consort’s well attested discipline and vocal beauty to the fore. The modern instruments of the small sized orchestra were played with Baroque sensibility if not pitch, and special mention should be made of concertmaster Laurence Jackson, particularly with respect to his solo accompaniment to Aus Liebe, Liz Chee exquisite on oboe throughout but noticeably in Ich will bei meinem Jesu and Mache dich, and flutemeister Andrew Nicholson. All was well supported by a continuo group comprising cello (Noeleen Wright) and chamber organ (Stewart Smith).

Tenor Paul McMahon as the Evangelist with Andrew Foote (baritone) as Jesus held the work together with sterling performances. Sara Macliver’s ethereal but tensile soprano was as exquisite, and sung with as much feeling, as ever. As mentioned, her aria Aus Liebe raised the dramatic tension in Part Two creating, with the flute and oboes, a stunning aural effect. Mezzo-soprano Fiona Campbell is another local glittering star, and her creamy golden tone was well to the fore, particularly in the crowd-pleasing Erbarme dich.  James Clayton’s resonant bass sounded somewhat restrained; the frequent positioning of the soloists behind the orchestra didn’t help. Richard Butler sang the solo tenor parts with a pleasant plangency but was not quite comfortable in the passage work. Smaller roles were competently sung by members of the chorus. The performance received warm if not quite rapturous applause.

Some in the audience may have been remembering the Perth Festival performance of 2005, conducted by Graham Abbott and semi-staged by Lindy Hume, which included some of the same soloists and orchestral players with period instruments. It clocked in at something over three hours including one interval, with which everyone seemed to cope, and indeed it was totally absorbing. Perhaps the world, and Perth, have changed too much, but a future uncut or even less cut St Matthew Passion is surely not too much to hope for.

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Calendar, March 19, Visual arts

Visual Arts: Silk Road Culture Tour – ‘Code of Love’

14 – 27 March @ Perth Concert Hall ·
Presented by National Base for International Cultural Exchange and Research China (NBICER) and the International Institute of Cultural Studies – Shanghai ·

The Silk Road Culture Tour is an exhibition of cultural exchange, exploring a Chinese expression of femininity through contemporary traditional Chinese visual artworks.

The Silk Road was an ancient trade route connecting China and Europe and was significant in fostering cross-cultural exchange between the East and West. The exhibition has been presented internationally, with previous shows held in Malta, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Spain. Perth is the last city on the tour and the final change to witness this cultural exhibition.

Professor Chen Shenglai, head of the NBICER, founded the Shanghai International Arts Festival and is a research professor at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences. For Chen, the exhibition is not only an activity for the international cultural exchange but an opportunity to gain a new perspective on Chinese feminine art:

“It highlights the peerless elegance of the Chinese female, with the more recently acquired sense of self-esteem, self -confidence, self-reliance and self-improvement. It is believed that this world tour  will be a new page in the history of Chinese feminine art.”

More info
W: www.perthconcerthall.com.au/events/event/silk-road-culture-tour-code-of-love-chinese-contemporary-female-arts-world-tour
E: info@perthconcerthall.com.au

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