Brilliant Conductor Sarah-Grace Williams

Saturday night’s concert, MET SERIES 5, opened with a premiere of David Montgomery’s Air and the Void. There is a great sense of expectation in hearing a new work and this was increased by having the composer presenting and explaining a little of his thoughts and inspiration involved in the writing process.

Montgomery explained that the title comes from Miyamoto Musashi’s book ‘Go Rin No Sho’ which translates as ‘The Book of Five Rings’. The five rings are the traditional five elements in the Japanese philosophy. The elements are earth, water, fire, air and the void. Montgomery has taken the last two elements and comments on the idea of moving towards separation from one’s body. He also melded this with the life of his grandfather and his acceptance of his moving from this life and what he expected after his death. You are drawn into the story by a captivating percussion opening.

This blends into some pleasantly unorthodox contributions from the wind section. In a way it is discordant as life itself can be but this melds into beautiful and more orthodox sounds from the delicate and sublime string section. Concertmaster Sarah Ash’s soaring violin was a wonderful interpretation of the separation of the body into the void.

The Metropolitan Orchestra has a philosophy of breaking down the traditional barriers that often keep people away from classical music concerts. By performing their subscription series away from major city centres and focusing on smaller, local venues, it hopes to create a greater sense of intimacy and involvement for audience members.

The Independent Theatre at North Sydney is normally an excellent venue for The Metropolitan Orchestra but on this occasion the size of the stage would not accommodate all the percussion instruments that Air and the Void required and the orchestra was augmented by pre-recording of some percussion. This worked very well but was not an ideal situation.

Air and the Void was followed by Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, op. 33 featuring the wonderful Patrick Murphy as the cello soloist. The concerto was performed in an overall sonata form. Patrick Murphy displayed superb technical ability and a range of rich emotions. There was a deft and pleasing connection between him and the orchestra.

After the interval we were treated to Mendelssohn’s Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 11, which was composed when he was fifteen years of age. Considering the strength and imaginative quality of this work this is impressive. The Metropolitan Orchestra has captured Mendelssohn’s symphony with spirited and expressive rendition. The embodied performance was a very pleasing aspect of the evening’s production.

Conductor Sarah-Grace Williams received enthusiastic applause from a very appreciative audience. It is also wonderful that the orchestra mixes freely with the audience in the bar after the concert. It is a nice touch and I am sure it is beneficial for the audience and the performers.

MET SERIES 5 was performed at The Independent Theatre, 15th September and Balmain Town Hall 16th September, 2012.

© Mark Pigott

16th September, 2012

Tags: Sydney Stage Reviews- MET SERIES 5, Independent Theatre North Sydney, Balmain Town Hall, Classical Music, Sarah-Grace Williams, Sydney Arts Guide, Mark Pigott