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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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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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Man holding clarinet
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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Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire in Concert
Children, Music, News

Magic at the movies

Review: West Australian Symphony Orchestra, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire ⋅
Perth Convention Centre, March 29 ⋅
Review by Kevin Runions ⋅

It felt a little odd to forget that the West Australian Symphony Orchestra was playing music at all on Friday night, what with being seated front and centre to their show at the Perth Convention Centre. But then, they were not really the star attraction. For they had the joyous task of playing the score to the fourth Harry Potter film Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. What an odd commendation that it was quite possible to forget they were there, playing along throughout. But to compete for our attention against the film itself, projected onto a giant screen behind them, is an unfair contest, given the potent ardour held so visibly by the audience.

This dedication was on full display in the pre-show foyer, filled as it was with a ragtag bunch of Hermoines, Harrys and Voldemorts. Indeed, my nine-year-old became so concerned that his lack of costume indicated a lack of faith that he ended up creating a sign on a napkin: “I love Harry Potter so much I didn’t want to hurt his feelings by dressing up like him. (It would be copying)”.

But were they even youths, this audience?  Many of them looked to be in their 20s, even 30s…. But of course! This was the Harry Potter generation – these people literally grew up with their favourite characters. The first film version (The Philosopher’s Stone) was released in 2002; Harry was an eleven year old. I was there with two people who were born shortly after the last tale of Hogwarts was first published. For the generations coming in the wake of these stories, the appeal is seemingly universal.  These are no odd child-like protagonists with hairy feet; these heroes are children. They don’t just learn their magic from bearded, wise old Jedi; they attend a very English school of wizardry. They have tedious classes. They go through the ups and downs of growing up, right there in front of our eyes, but with the added glitter of magic. So the ardent devotion is understandable to the pre-Hogwarts elders, even if it remains elusive to those who prefer Gandalf to Dumbledore; Darth Vader to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

But perhaps the real hero of the night was conductor Nicholas Buc. At the start of the show, he addressed the audience eagerly, encouraging them to engage with the film and his orchestra’s performance in a manner tolerated by neither cinema nor concert hall in our current day. His warmth and enthusiasm channelled the audiences barely cloaked enthusiasms. The audience proceeded to cheer their favourites (the ardour and applause for the late Alan Rickman’s scenes as Snape was moving to oldies like me), boo the baddies, hiss and call out. A midnight viewer of the Rocky Horror era would have been impressed with the audience engagement.

In a masterstroke of marketing genius, WASO has been performing along to the film series for several years now. This year we’re up to the fourth film, with the heroes and heroines in the first flushes of adolescent awkwardness. As with all the films, there’s a richly evocative score, this time composed by Patrick Doyle. Doyle is an accomplished artist, having composed works for more than 50 feature films, some of these efforts rewarded by nominations for Golden Globes, Oscars and BAFTAs. Doyle’s touches – which may have gone unappreciated in the film itself to the average viewer – brought a wonderful emphasis to particular scenes. In the underwater challenge Harry undertakes there are echoes of John Williams’ famous ominous two-note staccato theme from the Spielberg’s 1975 film Jaws. In a notable brass sequence towards the film’s end, a celebratory oompah tune heralding the Triwizard Champion disintegrates into discord and then silence, upon the realisation that tragedy has struck.  It is a potent aural cue of the shift from boisterous contest to tragedy.

The live score added a lushness to the experience, but ultimately, the audience were coming for the film.  I did wonder, if, as a musician, this was slightly discomfiting? As the closing credits re-introduced the oompah band theme, Buc re-engaged the crowd to clap along. Give the people what they want. But when a cellist turned to his colleague with a knowing look, one wondered how it felt to be something of an afterthought after all that hard work. Sure, he’d been playing beautiful and subtle themes all night long, but really, maybe we just wanted a good old tuba theme, after all.

No matter.  By the film’s end, everyone filed out, beaming, exhausted, wishing on Monday they were going back to Hogwart’s instead of regular school.  Magic managed.

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Children, News

Kids Autumn Gig Guide

As we approach the school holidays the arts scene is cranking up for kids.

The West Australian Symphony Orchestra is offering two movie screenings with live soundtrack: Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire on March 29/30 and The Little Mermaid on April 26/27. Did you know it has been 30 years since Disney released The Little Mermaid? Dust off the costumes and get ready to sing along to Alan Menken’s Academy Award-winning score!

WA has two youth orchestras and both offer hands-on concerts tailored for children. On April 6/7 the WA Youth Orchestra invites children aged 2–8 to experience live music in an up-close and personal setting. At Babies Proms concerts children learn about the instruments, are invited to conduct the orchestra and can join the musicians on stage. Also popular with kids and the carers, the WA Youth Jazz Orchestra’s similar Jazz for Juniors series on April 16-17 includes a have-a-go session at the end of the show.

Underwater image of diver and sea creature
Puppets tell the story in Spare Parts Puppet Theatre’s Blueback.

During the school holidays (April 13-27) Spare Parts Puppet Theatre will reprise an adaption of Tim Winton’s Blueback. The moving story captures the mystery of the sea and the majesty of an old fish called Blueback. The audience follows Abel’s journey from inquisitive boy to a man prepared to stand up for what he loves and believes in.

Youth Week WA also coincides with the school holidays and Propel Youth is celebrating with their annual KickstART Festival from April 13-20. On offer are 40 free events and workshops celebrating the positive contributions young people make to our community. Craft, songwriting, collage, puppetry and a huge variety of classes are on offer for youth aged 12-26.

There are some great holiday courses available for children. Fremantle Arts Centre offers two and three-hour classes including sessions on how to make your own piggy bank, t-shirt, cuddly toy, or explorations into photography, pottery and animation. Barking Gecko‘s drama classes on April 16-18 look great, with a fairy tale theme and classes catering for ages 5-7  and 8-12.

The State Theatre is hosting two shows touring nationally with CDP Theatre Producers: Room on the Broom, based on Julia Donaldson’s much loved classic (April 23-28) and Billionaire Boy based on David Williams hilarious children’s book (April 24-27). CDP Theatre are the team behind The Gruffulo’s Child and The 13-, 26-, 52- and 78-Storey Treehouses and are pretty reliable for a great live show.

Finally, on May 18 one of my favourite music educators Paul Rissmann returns to WASO for another EChO concert. Backed by an 11-piece orchestra Rissmann will explore the gorgeous children’s books The Giddy Goat and The Lion Who Loved in his gently invitational and entertaining style.

Dive into the arts with your family and enjoy the magic that is autumn in Perth!

Pictured top: children get hands on at Jazz for Juniors.

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Music, News, Performing arts, Reviews

Good times ahead

Review: West Australian Symphony Orchestra, ‘Symphony No 40’ ⋅
Perth Concert Hall, March 15 ⋅
Review: Rosalind Appleby ⋅

As the summer festival season fades into the background local arts organisations are ramping up their seasons. On Friday night the Perth Concert Hall was buzzing with enthusiasm as the West Australian Symphony Orchestra welcomed new CEO Mark Coughlan (complete with a brass fanfare!) and principal conductor Asher Fisch took to the podium for his first concert in 2019.

The program included Poulenc’s lesser-known Stabat Mater alongside Mozart’s popular Symphony No 40, a hint of things to come according to Fisch who is interested in introducing forgotten gems of the repertoire to Perth audiences. The concert also featured 2019 artist in residence soprano Siobhan Stagg singing Ravel’s Shéhérazade. The Australian soprano (hailing from Mildura) is building a successful international career and will juggle her commitments as principal soloist at Deutsche Oper Berlin to return to Perth for performances of Strauss’s Orchestral Songs and Verdi’s Requiem.

Stagg’s luminous voice found the perfect vehicle in Ravel’s three songs inspired by the exoticism of the east. Shéhérazade sits at the lower end of the soprano range and Stagg’s creamy bottom register suited Ravel’s languid writing. The orchestra seemed to enjoy shaping Ravel’s colourful orchestration, with some darkly glorious low string and percussion timbres in Asie and moments of smouldering warmth in L’Indifférent. But the moment that will remain with me was Andrew Nicholson’s flute shimmering and sighing in a mesmerising duet with Stagg in La Flûte enchantée.

Poulenc’s Stabat Mater, written in 1950 after the death of a friend, took us down a darker road. The solemn opening soon gave way to spitting vehemence as the WASO Chorus, supplemented by the St George’s Cathedral Consort, sang with grim intensity. The two choirs were mostly well blended and their delivery of the line ‘dum emisit spiritum’ had a hushed glow however the exposed a capella sections were less successful with drooping pitch creating uneasy transitions. In the centre of proceedings was Stagg, her crystalline top end radiating light. Poulenc’s unexpected mood changes were cleanly conveyed by the orchestra.

Opening the concert was a crisp Symphony No 40, with the orchestra immaculately navigating Mozart’s deceptively simple transparency. Whiffs of opera buffa and opera seria mingle in this symphony in Mozart’s darker than usual musical elucidation of humanity. Fisch captured the mix of buoyancy and fragility with thrilling contrasts between elegantly poised phrasing and dynamics so soft you could hear the scratch of bow hairs.

The concert, with its inclusion of less familiar repertoire, a sensational artist in residence and an orchestra in good form bodes well for the year ahead.

Pictured top: soprano Siobhan Stagg.

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