Perth Concert Hall
Just over a week ago, the W.A.Symphony Orchestra gave a stunningly fine account of a suite from Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk. The orchestra is clearly on a roll. In an all-too-rare account of Beethoven’s overture and incidental music for Goethe’s play Egmont, the players reached for – and touched – the stars. Certainly, the peak of the evening lay firmly in Beethoven’s keeping.
James Brookes’ finely nuanced, linking commentary was an object lesson in how to do this sort of thing very well. In a very significant sense, it contributed to the overall impact of the presentation in a performance that did not so much beckon the attention as seize it. Throughout, Paul Daniel secured an orchestral response that brimmed with needle-sharp detail and precise synchronisation from his forces, not least from oboist Joel Marangella and John Arcaro on kettle drums. Jane Edwards, too, was in excellent voice in her two arias.
This was the first time in over a quarter century that the WASO had performed this intensely dramatic music. It ought to be heard far more frequently.
As curtain raiser we heard the world premiere performance of John Tavener’s Little Ceremonial. Tavener has been in poor health for some time so it was
heartening to learn that the work had been completed. It was commissioned by WASO, generously assisted by Janet Holmes a Court. It would not be quite accurate todscribed the work as ‘new’ because Sir John had begun the work a few years ago for a concert to be given in Austria but illness brought that to a halt until taking up the work again recently. It is dedicated to the WASO.
Ushered in by fanfares, the work, with its beautiful writing for the strings, has about it a quiet otherworldliness that falls most agreeably on the ear. As ever, Tavener’s faultless ear for attractive instrumental colours has been exploited to excellent effect.Tavener says the music came to him in a dream………………”giving the aural impression of a work going nowhere”. I beg to differ. On the evidence of this first airing, this little orchestral gem is going straight into the repertoire where it deserves to be.
In the gifted hands of Francois-Frederic Guy, the epic grandeur of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto was heard to thrilling effect.
Fearless fingers and the staying power of a primed athlete left one in no doubt that Guy is a virtuoso with the soul of a poet as he mined the score for its every subtle nuance. Paul Daniel took the WASO through a consistently accommodating accompaniment as Guy lavished utmost care on bringing the concerto’s bravura aspects roundly and ripely to life. Certainly, he rode the crest of the accompanying orchestral wave with the nonchalance of mastery. A tsunami of thoroughly warranted applause coaxed Guy into giving an encore, a first rate reading of the first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.
Burhan Guner gave another of his fascinating pre-concert talks in the terrace-level foyer.