Above: Tinel Dragoi performed Mozart’s Violin Concerto No 5 with the Balmain Sinfonia. Featured image: Director of Music for Balmain Sinfonia, Gary Stavrou OAM
This was Balmain Sinfonia’s 100th concert, and the orchestra’s popular contribution to the local performance scene since its inaugural concert in May 1992 is truly cause for celebration.
This milestone Balmain Sinfonia concert included the usual fare of an excited audience, a diverse concert programme and interesting programme notes to help unpack and enhance the works presented.
The evening also offered champagne for all in the crowd and interspersed with the music were tributes by Director of Music Gary Stavrou OAM to founding members of the orchestra.
Audience participation in the form of the signature music trivia or Mystery Music for the chance to win tickets to future concerts continued to engage old and new audience members alike.
Collaboration between the orchestra and a local soloist again was a feature of this concert. As always it introduced the audience to a great work and an accomplished artist. This concert saw Romanian-born violinist Tinel Dragoi join the orchestra on the stage.
In this concert his intelligent and expressive rendering of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No 5 in A major K 219 was a highlight of the first half.
In particular, the cadenza work was beautifully conveyed by this violinist’s intricate artistry. There was no showy or ingenuine note in his interpretation of the concerto. Instead, a simply elegant and exacting development of Mozart’s extensive musical ingredients and language ensued.
Mozartean drama and a sufficiently sympathetic accompaniment were provided by the smaller ranks of Balmain Sinfonia exposed in this work.
The first half of the concert began with two atmospheric works by the chemist-composer Alexander Borodin. For this celebratory concert, such a choice of composer rang out a keen note of comparison to formidable conductor Gary Stavrou, whose early qualifications were in pharmacy.
We heard Borodin’s descriptive works In the Steppes of Central Asia and the Prince Igor Overture. On this occasion the second work was especially successful in conveying the depth of tone colour and mood necessary for painting Borodin’s fine vistas and characterisations.
After interval the Balmain Sinfonia supplied us with more colourful playing as Dvorak’s Symphony No 8 in G major Op 88 was boldly delivered.
The first movement, allegro con brio, endeared us to Dvorak’s signature evocative and gentle development of musical material.
It also showed off the talents of Balmain Sinfonia in their centenary concert.
Through the remainder of this symphony we were taken on a quality excursion. Firstly, through an expanded adagio, here well played to portray Dvorak’s unique approach to drama and also the legacy of such slow movements as written by Beethoven.
The orchestra contrasted this movement with a successfully lilting allegretto grazioso third movement and concluded with a fourth movement rich in brass fanfares and here with a well structured delivery of Dvorak’s version of the classic theme and variations structure. As in the Borodin works, there were repeated moments of fine playing from Balmain Sinfonia’s wind and brass choirs throughout this symphony.
Bravo and Happy Birthday to the Balmain Sinfonia for its 100th event. This is an achievement, as is its continued fostering of a firm fan base and team of capable volunteers. Both these are assets in the modern concert-making environment.
Balmain Sinfonia’s next performance on September 23 promises to entertain. It will include Khachaturian, Respighi, orchestra members playing Bach’s Concerto for Oboe and Clarinet orchestra, and Mozart’s Symphony No 25 in G minor K 183, which had its opening feature in the film Amadeus.