2 ladies against ocean background holding stringed instruments
April 19, Calendar, Classical music, Music, Performing arts

Music: Fascinating Firsts by Ravel, Shostakovich & Mendelssohn

14 April @ Dr Robert Braham Auditorium, Trinity College ·
Presented by Chimera Ensemble ·

Enjoy Chimera Ensemble’s first concert for 2019 in the fabulous Braham Auditorium at Trinity College, when violinist Rebecca Glorie, cellist Melinda Forsythe and pianist Lisa Rowntree present a fascinating program of ‘firsts’:

Ravel Sonata for Violin and Cello
Shostakovich Piano Trio No 1
Mendelssohn Piano Trio No 1

The performance will take place at 2.30pm at Dr Robert Braham Auditorium, Br O’Doherty Cultural Centre, Trinity College, Trinity Ave, East Perth. Light Refreshments are provided.

Door Sales Prices: Adults $30; Concession $25; Student $15.
Discount prices for online or phone purchases: Adults $25; Conc. $20; Student $10.

More info
W: www.trybooking.com/eventlist/eventListingURL?aid=20966
E:  chimeraensemble@gmail.com

Pictured: Melinda Forsythe, cello and Rebecca Glorie, violin

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Asher Fisch
Classical music, Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Snippets of musical conversation

Review: WASO Masters Series – Asher Fisch Conducts Debussy & Ravel ·
Perth Concert Hall, 24 March ·
Review by Tiffany Ha ·

This was my first WASO concert for 2018, and it was a nice way to ease back into my role as Symphony Patron and Reviewer of Serious Music. The program, which featured three of my favourite twentieth-century composers – Sibelius, Debussy, and Ravel – plus a seldom-performed flute concerto, seemed right up my alley.

Fisch and the orchestra began with Tapiola, a nineteen-minute tone poem composed in 1926 by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. Tone poems emerged as a popular genre in the late-Romantic and early-Modern eras; composers no longer felt tied to traditional musical forms as they began to write longer, single-movement works with freer and narrative-driven structures. Some composers even added prose to their scores, assigning motifs to certain characters, evoking scenes of conflict, adventure or romance through the musical language.

Sibelius’ Tapiola tells the story of Tapio, the forest god of Norse mythology. It begins with rich, dark, and low textures, suggesting the undergrowth and the forest floor beneath ancient, looming trees. Under Fisch’s baton, the cellos, double-basses, violas, and bassoons painted thick, woody swashes of musical colour. At this point, only half of the orchestra (stage-left) were playing, in an unusual but beautiful combination of sounds. Gradually, the soundscape shifted to stage-right; the higher-pitched violins, flutes, piccolo and clarinets emerged, rising up to create bright, delicate musical textures. There were twittering bird calls and rustling leaves, recalling the excited energy of springtime. Eventually, the orchestra came together in a rising chromatic frenzy punctuated by frenetic pizzicato strings and whirling glissandi. It was as if Tapio himself had arrived, stormy, vengeful, and frightening. Insistent pedal points from the lower half of the orchestra gave the piece a sense of weight, timelessness, and a grounded coherency. It ended unexpectedly with an ambiguous cadence – soft and high, ascending from the chaos – awe-inspiring and inexplicable, just like nature itself.

While I was looking forward to Carl Nielsen’s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra, I did have my reservations. The flute is a stalwart of the symphonic orchestra – sparkling in moments of joy and gaiety, soaring atop luscious harmonies, lamenting with its texture-piercing cry, whispering with a breathy, wavering vibrato – but how does it stand up as a solo instrument with an orchestra behind it? WASO’s principal flautist, Andrew Nicholson, gave a stellar performance. He switched effortlessly (sometimes within single phrases) between florid legato runs and smatterings of whimsical staccato. He and Fisch led the orchestra through calm, idyllic, pastoral musical sections into more adventurous and contrasting episodes: brusque fanfares, determined marches, fast rhythmic humoresque passages set against backdrops of bitonality (having more than one key, simultaneously). The concerto is a lively piece, and it was enjoyable to witness Nicholson’s much-deserved time in the spotlight – particularly in moments of spontaneous musical conversation between the flute and other instruments, such as the trombone (which was one of the instruments Nielsen played throughout his life). But even as a fan of Modern classical music, I found this concerto hard to get into. Perhaps the extra-musical ideas that inspired it (Nielsen’s memoir, and the mythical Greek land of Arcadia) are somewhat unclear or underdeveloped.

The second half of the evening featured two French favourites – Debussy’s orchestral Nocturnes (1901) and Ravel’s choreographic poem La valse (1920). It was a treat to have the orchestra expanded to include two harps, a full brass section, and more percussion. The Nocturnes were a lovely complement to the imagery-laden pieces of the first half of the evening, although the wordless womens’ chorus during the third movement, Sirènes, did not seem to blend well, and were somewhat lost in the texture – perhaps because they were positioned up the back, next to the horn and percussion sections.

Ravel’s rollicking and extravagant waltz, intended for ballet but more often performed as a stand-alone musical piece, was a fun way to end the evening. Maestro Fisch and the orchestra took us back to the opulence of pre-war Vienna, leading us through the grand ballroom confidently and swiftly, but not without moments of repose in which we were allowed to eavesdrop snippets of intimate musical conversation.

WASO’s 2018 calendar promises a host of exciting and varied concerts. Check it out and support your local symphony here.

Top: Asher Fisch. Photo: Sara Hannigan.

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Rory Macdonald
Calendar, Classical music, May 18, Music, Performing arts

Music: Ravel’s Bolero

10 May, 11am @ Perth Concert Hall ·
Presented West Australian Symphony Orchestra ·

Witty, jaunty and mesmerising – music by three masters.
Scottish conductor Rory Macdonald leads WASO in three colourful works.

First, Stravinsky’s witty and elegant Dumbarton Oaks, a neo-classical jewel of the repertoire inspired by Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. Then the jaunty satire of Prokofiev’s suite from the 1934 film Lieutenant Kijé. And finally, the hypnotic Boléro, building inexorably to a finale that’s nothing short of ecstatic!

“Rory Macdonald encouraged the orchestra to bloom with added colour and muscle, eliciting some of the most unified and sonically alluring playing…” – San Diego Story

STRAVINSKY Dumbarton Oaks
PROKOFIEV Lieutenant Kijé: Suite
RAVEL Boléro

Conductor: Rory Macdonald (pictured)

More info: http://tickets.waso.com.au

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Classical music, Music, News, Reviews

Un-Ravel-ing the musical threads

Review: ‘French Connections’ – WASO with cellist Li-Wei Qin and conductor Douglas Boyd ◆
Perth Concert Hall, 14 October ◆
Review by Tiffany Ha ◆

There is something very serene about conductor Douglas Boyd – the way he walks modestly on and offstage, his graceful hand movements, the subtle sheen of his black, two-piece suit (minus the traditional tailcoat). I imagine him to be the kind of guy that David Attenborough would be friends with. Boyd is based in the UK and has performed with all the BBC orchestras, so it might not be such a stretch.

Virtuosic control and musical authority: Lin-Wei Qin. Photo: Dong Wang.

The wonderful offering from Boyd, WASO and cellist Li-Wei Qin on Saturday night at the Perth Concert Hall evoked fairy tales, depicted war, celebrated mother nature and championed human striving. But even if I hadn’t taken the time to diligently read the program notes (which I recommend to anyone attending WASO – they are exceptionally well written), I would have simply enjoyed listening to each meticulously crafted note, and witnessing the almost telepathic way that these top-level musicians communicate with one another on stage.

The evening began with Ravel’s Mother Goose Suite – a work in five movements composed for his friend’s two young children. It is exactly the sort of music one can imagine young children enjoying; it uses memorable melodies, pleasing harmonies, occasional surprising dissonances, playful rhythms, and all the quirky instruments that kids love (mallet percussion, woodwinds, brass, celeste, harp). Ravel was truly a master orchestrator; his understanding of instrumentation was unparalleled by his contemporaries. I liken him to a master chef whose dishes contain combinations of flavours and textures that surprise and delight the taster… Heston Blumenthal, anyone? Who doesn’t love receiving the rare treat of some thick, meaty contrabassoon?

I liken him to a master chef whose dishes contain combinations of flavours and textures that surprise and delight the taster… Heston Blumenthal, anyone?

The audience was buzzing with anticipation for Li-Wei Qin to appear for the Saint-Saens Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor. He walked on stage swiftly, followed by by Boyd. After tuning, Qin opened the concerto with a decisive bow stroke, then clearly and perfectly articulated a series of fast, descending scale passages. He demonstrated his virtuosic control and musical authority from the outset and throughout.

Qin, Boyd and the orchestra communicated effortlessly to create a masterful balance between soloist and accompaniment. Through the restless first movement, the minuet-like second movement and the passionate final movement, Qin’s technique, tone, and musicality was faultless. After three rounds of applause he treated the audience to an encore of a solo piece called “Alone”, by Italian contemporary composer Giovanni Sollima. This stunning work calls for so much virtuosity and extended technique that, playing it, Qin sounded like a quartet of celli at times. I felt a little starstruck as I saw him standing in the foyer afterwards during intermission.

Through the restless first movement, the minuet-like second movement and the passionate final movement, Qin’s technique, tone, and musicality was faultless.

I am always in awe of how musical performances can transport us to different places, eras, realms and perspectives. Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No. 5 in D premiered in 1943, during the Second World War. It expresses a yearning for peace, and hope that the good in humankind will prevail.

The first movement begins by painting a pastoral scene with wide, open intervals, gentle dynamic swells, and distant-sounding horn calls. The second movement takes a sinister turn, evoking scurrying hobgoblins, while the third movement really demonstrates Williams’ “French Connection” to Ravel (his teacher) with modal and pentatonic passages that showcase the woodwinds and brass, albeit in a more sentimental manner. Finally we emerge in the glorious hymn-like final movement, which serves as a kind of ascension (in pitch, to the heavens).

I had the feeling that I had had gone on a magical journey, with Boyd and the orchestra as my guides. And I didn’t feel the need take a selfie or check-in on social media at any point on this journey. Going to the symphony: the ultimate digital detox, the original soul cleanse.

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Calendar, October

Music: French Connections

13-14 October @ Perth Concert Hall,
Presented by West Australian Symphony Orchestra

Ravel’s enchanting ballet, a virtuosic concerto and a serene symphony.

The three months that Vaughan Williams studied with Ravel in 1908 were rewarding both personally and professionally. The two became friends and Ravel’s tuition helped Vaughan Williams achieve a more luminous sound and greater textural clarity in his orchestral music. His Fifth Symphony is imbued with the delicate handling of lyricism and orchestral colour evident in his teacher’s Mother Goose ballet. By contrast, musical prodigy Saint-Saëns’ stormy, mercurial First Cello Concerto positively erupts with melodic invention.

“Mr. Qin has… a meltingly beautiful tone, flawless centered intonation and an ironclad technique.” – New York Times

More info: http://tickets.waso.com.au
Email: waso@waso.com.au

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