Master Series No. 4
Perth Concert Hall
reviewed by Edmund Percy
If there was a sense of occasion at the W.A.Symphony Orchestra’s 4th Master Series concert, it was entirely warranted. It is not often that a program contains two Australian premieres with, as concerto soloist, one of the world’s leading cellists – and a first half devoted entirely to music emanating from the Baltic states (Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia) with both conductor and concerto soloist hailing from that part of the world.
David Geringas has made a specialty of interpreting cello works by modern composers; his international reputation to a significant sense rests on these performances. He has, unquestionably, a marked flair for music of recent vintage, with a finely-honed technique guided by a first rate musical mind. This combination of gifts enables Geringas to make even the most challenging works seem both musically logical and approachable. This was certainly the case in Peteris Vasks’ concerto. But this is not to suggest for a moment that Vasks’ concerto is in any sense light-weight. On the contrary, it is a work created with the utmost seriousness of purpose, a response in sound to the cruelty of Soviet domination of the Baltic states of which both Vasks and Geringas had experience.
Understandably, there is much about the concerto, especially at climactic points, that has an intensity that inflames the imagination. And that sense of anguish that informs so much of the writing brought one face to face, as it were, with the composer. In response to rapturous applause, Geringas played, as encore, “two pages” from Vasks’ Book for unaccompanied cello. Here, too, the master cellist scaled Olympus, dipping his bow in the stuff of high inspiration to produce a stream of sound that had a near-vocal quality. It was musical magic.
Although Veljo Tormis’ Overture No. 2 is not the sort of music I’d travel a long way to hear again, there was no doubting the technical skill brought to bear on the instrumentation. The score, one felt, might have been used to better purpose on, say, the sound track of a film noir, than in its own right at an orchestral concert.
An account of Schubert’s Great Symphony (No 9 in C) made for rather less uniformly satisfying
listening, largely due to conductor Arvo Volmer’s penchant for over-enthusiastic tempi. Especially in the “Andante con moto”, there was a good case, surely, for allowing it to unfold in a more expansive and reflective way to allow its many felicities to register to better advantage.