The latest wonderful concert by Willoughby Symphony was entitled ENIGMA .Under the inspired graceful and enthusiastic conducting of Dr Nicholas Milton the Orchestra had a huge rich sound and was in top form.
First up we heard Gershwin’s An American in Paris, jauntY, frantic and bustling. (Readers might be familiar with the 1951 movie). There were perhaps overtones of jazz and also Ravel, It was bright, bouncy and tumbling but also featured quieter, more lyrical moments. A smoky trumpet and strident tuba as well as whirling, scurrying rhythms contrasted with shimmering delicate strings and woodwind all leading to the stirring, crashing conclusion. And look and listen out for the taxi horns!
Then came an astonishing virtuoso performance of Henri Tomasi’s Trumpet Concerto, with guest star Rainer Saville in a dazzling display. It was a challenging showcase. Sometimes the Orchestra was rich and flowing, other times sharp and spiky. Saville on trumpet was like a leading tenor with sliding runs and trills and at times a rather martial sound. Continue reading WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA : ENIGMA @ THE CONCOURSE→
Passionate performances of songs associated with the marvellous Billie Holiday made for a great night’s entertainment at Foundry 616. The Rodric White Septet and singer Lana Nesnas presented the songs made famous by Billie Holiday or that have a connection to her and her contemporaries. Rodric White’s arrangements allowed the talented six piece band to display their considerable skills.
The show opened with a three piece instrumental version of How Deep Is the Ocean (How High Is the Sky), before Lana Nesnas joined the trio for Them There Eyes. Lots of great songs followed with the size of the band growing or shrinking to suit the song and the arrangement. What A Little Moonlight Can Do was followed by Don’t Explain and They Can’t Take That Away From Me allowing the musicians to entertain and display their skills as soloists and as an ensemble. Continue reading BILLIE HOLIDAY TRIBUTE SHOW: PERFORMANCE AND VENUE RECOMMENDED→
Acacia Quartet’s most recent concert, Harbour Light, flowed with luminous success around an appreciative audience in the Utzon Room space. The audience were given no less than two commissioned world premiere works by Australian composers. The concert’s title work, Harbour Light, was performed for the first time in a shiny new intimate guise for string quartet, pared down from its original orchestration for larger string ensemble.
The innate skill of Acacia Quartet to create and convey layered atmosphere came to the fore to unify the programme of six diverse works. The sprawling concert sequence evolved with successive and separate styles of light. Works with extra-musical hues and unique structures were finely wrought by the quartet. Regardless of compositional character, the communication to the audience was clear, beautifully balanced and evocative.
On a daylight-savings evening so close to our beloved Sydney Harbour, Australian composer Nick Wales’Harbour Light was a textural treat linking us to our immediate surroundings with which to start. As we listened, sitting close to the water, the piece shimmered, shone, moved fluidly and offered much in the way of colour and compact sentiment. In the guardianship of Acacia Quartet, it did not suffer in the process of reduction from larger forces.
Compact sentiment and exquisite minimalist rendering followed in the quartet’s interpretation of Philip Glass’ String Quartet No 2‘Company’. Well nuanced and never overplayed, it was an accurate salute to Glass’ aesthetic and intricacies of revolving thematic minutiae.
Prior to interval, we heard Acacia Quartet present two very distinct voices in contemporary Australian composition. The world premieres of two Australian compositions were effectively juxtaposed with the individuality of Philip Glass. The new works were as arresting for their sonic effect as well as the impact on a concert environment in the way Glass introduced listeners to a new concert experience.
A highlight of the evening was the premiere of Sally Whitwell’s String Quartet No 1, the rewarding local soundscape with the subtitle ‘Face to the Sun’. Each of the four movements sketches aspects of Australian flora. Time periods which once inspired emblematic transfer of these qualities to people’s names, such as in the time of Whitwell’s grandmother, named Beryl Boronia, are celebrated via this fine musical illustration.
This clever writing draws on a legacy of lush quartet sound from yesteryear as well as effects from the very modern arsenal of string playing. Both styles of playing were capably offered up by Acacia Quartet, as the shapes and character of banksias, boronias, everlasting daisies and gumnuts were brought to life via charming and exciting vignettes from shifting time periods.
In a real shift of character prior to interval, the second premiere work was by the Australian-born Joe Twist. It was an exciting caricature and romp through stock standard musical styles. Spongebob’s Romantic Adventure continued the crescendo in boldness and momentum of colour which this concert programme’s first half was providing. Melodrama, stylistic tongue-in-cheek proximity and ultimately an hilarious hoedown variation of the Spongebob TV theme were played vibrantly, ensuring the work’s impact in a formal audience setting. The piece has many future performance possibilities for the quartet. Families and children would love it.
Following interval, larger works from American composers brought the listening experience into a new dimension with evocative music from Gershwin and film score composer Bernard Hermann. These sustained works were a satisfying way to conclude the evening’s diversity. Lullaby (1919) by George Gershwin goes a long way past its original purpose as an exercise in harmony for the student.
From its opening, the challenging and delicate exchange between quartet members created a seamless fabric under a high but hushed first violin. The inclusion of this piece was an extension of the calibre of string quartet blend and atmosphere heard in the rest of the concert. It also introduced the beautiful work and Gershwin’s output in this genre to many.
The sprawling and fantastic Echoes for string quartet by Bernard Herrmann led us through filmic, intense and purely beautiful soundscapes which filled the Utzon Room space. The complex and segmented work with shifting inflection and mood was well negotiated by Acacia Quartet.
The excited reception of this and all works from the audience was proof of Acacia Quartet’s effective gifting on this night to us of delicate narratives, intensities, colours and shapes found in compositions for the string quartet from last century to now.
The Metropolitan Orchestra (TMO) continues to illustrate their versatility and industry as an orchestra. Amongst some fourteen concerts and events for 2015, TMO appeared with John Farnham and Olivia Newton John in April. They have family concerts with children’s favourites Lah-Lah and Buzz planned for late May.
TMO took a gamble when programming Met Concert 2 with such savage contrasts between the works. It is a gamble which more than paid off for the orchestra. The sold out house could probably have sold a decent amount of tickets for a comfortably-seated repeat concert.