The Willoughby Symphony Orchestra and conductor Dr Nicholas Milton were off to a terrific start for 2017 with their concert entitled GENIUS, part of the year long program entitled ENDURING PASSION.
The concert featured works by Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Brahms with special guest artist, gifted violinist Lily Higson-Spence.
Overall the orchestra was in fine, glowing form with a delicious rich tone. Dr Milton conducted very energetically yet extremely precisely .
The concert rocketed off to a tense, dynamic start with Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No.3. In the form of a dramatic full scale single symphonic movement, the piece was eloquently played and featured an augmented horn section. The work featured surging, crashing, tempestuous strings with a flute soaring above and an inquisitive questioning woodwind, all leading up to an impressive, thrilling finale.
Guest artist Lily Higson-Spence, in a long flowing halter neck beige gown with a large bow at the back, dazzled playing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor Op.64.
The standard symphonic structure is used by Mendelssohn but slightly changed by the composer. It is regarded as one of the most lyrical and flowing works of its type and is one of the most frequently performed of all violin pieces. The work had its premiere in Leipzig on March 13, 1845.
For this work, Higson-Spence, Dr Milton and the Orchestra combined as one for a magnificent performance. It was mostly Higson-Spence ,however, leading the discussion between the three in collaborative harmony .
Higson-Spence’s bravura solos were mesmerising. Her violin had a pure tone, precisely controlled yet volcanic underneath. Sometimes the violin, singing its heart out, was lyrical and reflective, melancholic and passionate, at other times the violin darted about at a blistering pace.
There was a seamless flow between movements : the first was somewhat turbulent, with a wonderful bassoon transition to the ardent second movement and the third movement was animated , leading to an invigorating finale.
The first piece performed after interval was Brahms Symphony No.2 in D major Op 73. This piece had a warm, delicious opening with darting woodwind and melancholic strings.
With its lush melodies and quasi-pastoral atmosphere this Symphony has sometimes been compared to Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony. The piece shimmered, surged , ebbed and flowed and featured sudden mood changes.
The pulsating second movement had a bright open tone with lush strings and a stormy section played to the hilt by the Orchestra.
The fast third movement had whirling insistent strings with glittering woodwind. The final, fourth movement was dramatic with aching and unrelenting strings, accompanied by bubbling woodwind leading to a thunderous conclusion.
After tumultuous applause, the Orchestra performed an encore, an explosive, fiery version of one of Brahm’s Hungarian dances.
Running time 2 hours including interval.
The Willoughby Symphony Orchestra’s concert GENIUS was performed at the Concourse Chatswood on the 4th and 5th March 2017.