Tag Archives: Willoughby Symphony Orchestra

WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA : ENIGMA @ THE CONCOURSE

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

WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA : PASTORAL @ THE CONCOURSE

 

Part of the Vivid Music program. the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra was in fine form for this exciting ,challenging concert that included two world premieres.

Guest conductorFabian Russell led the Orchestra elegantly yet energetically with precise control.

The concert began with Maurice Ravel’s Le tombeau le Couperin , a work dedicated to friends and acquaintances the composer lost in in the first World War While. Inspired by Couperin, the work is distinctly 20th Century.

The first movement with its shimmering harp and strings rippled and flowed .The second movement opened strongly and featured the woodwind. The melody was passed around the various sections of the Orchestra and then a second bouncy, bounding melody was taken and developed. The third movement was mostly a dialogue between the string sections that builds to a sweeping crescendo then calms and becomes lyrical, almost birdlike but with rumbling undertones beneath. The fourth movement was off to a crashing furious opening, the Orchestra a whirlwind that led to the violent scurrying conclusion. Continue reading WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA : PASTORAL @ THE CONCOURSE

WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA CONCERT : DISCOVERY @ THE CONCOURSE

The latest in this year’s series of concerts by Willoughby Symphony Orchestra , entitled DISCOVERY opened on a sombre note with Dr Nicholas Milton making the sad announcement of the passing of legendary inspirational conductor and educator Richard Gill.
Tributes and very moving short speeches were made .

Dr Milton conducted energetically and precisely and the Orchestra was in magnificent, glowing form.

The concert opened with Composer in Residence Nigel Westlake’s Cudmirrah Fanfare which listeners might be familiar with from the 1980’s when it was used as the theme music for ABC Radio National. It was flowing and vibrant with its stirring, surging melody. The Orchestra was large in number, and there was an augmented percussion section for this piece.

The bulk of the first half was the striking Brahms Double concerto – Concerto in A minor for violin, cello and orchestra in 3 movements with guest stars Dimity Hall on violin and Julian Smiles on cello in a passionate, most moving and powerful performance.

Continue reading WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA CONCERT : DISCOVERY @ THE CONCOURSE

LAST NIGHT OF THE PROMS 2018: WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY AND CHOIR

Pacific Opera

Following in the grand tradition of Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall, this was a quite British concert with several old favourites included .This year we had works by French and Polish composers included among the British staples. The concert, held at the Concourse, Chatswood where the WSO is the resident orchestra, featured a HUGE cast of performers with the combined forces and talents of the Willoughby Symphony and the Willoughby Choir.The featured soloist this year was amazing Mitzi Gardner who dazzled on her violin.    

Energetic Dr Nicholas Milton AM conducted with enormous enthusiasm ,panache and flair, and introduced the various works and soloists.

Drumroll…..Crash! The concert dashed off to a flying, rather jaunty start with Eric Coates’ The Dam Busters March from the film. Continue reading LAST NIGHT OF THE PROMS 2018: WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY AND CHOIR

THE SOLDIER’S TALE: DRAMATIC FINISH TO WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY CHAMBER SERIES

Featured image: Madeleine Retter – Artistic Director of the Chamber Series

The last of this year’s Willoughby Symphony Orchestra Chamber series was a most exciting concert combing Schulhoff’s ( arr Tarkmann) Suite for Chamber Music and Stravinsky’s suite from THE SOLDIER”S TALE. Dynamically conducted by Luke Spicer , both works are scored in somewhat unusual arrangements for bassoon, clarinet. violin, trumpet ,trombone , double bass and percussion.

Both works were introduced by Maria Lindsay , guest concertmaster of the WSO. Continue reading THE SOLDIER’S TALE: DRAMATIC FINISH TO WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY CHAMBER SERIES

REMEMBRANCE: WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY – STIRRING AND ELOQUENT

Maestro Luke Spicer

REMEMBRANCE, a most luxurious concert based on the theme of mourning and remembrance , marking the centenary of the end of World War 1 . Under the energetic , dynamic and precise leadership of Maestro Luke Spicer the Willoughby Symphony gave an impassioned performance.

From the funerals of presidents and princesses, to the inclusion in film and dance works , the concert began with Samuel Barber’s iconic Adagio for Strings – here performed at a very slow tempo in a hushed, rich tone. With the pacing and timing you could almost hear the pauses for the tears cascading. It built in momentum to a shimmering , haunting conclusion . Continue reading REMEMBRANCE: WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY – STIRRING AND ELOQUENT

WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY CHOIR : THE SEASONS @ THE CONCOURSE

Above : Musical Director of the Willoughby Symphony Choir, Peter Ellis.                                         Featured image : Willoughby Symphony Choir at The Concourse Chatswood.

Willoughby Symphony Choir, Willoughby Symphony Orchestra and soloists under the vibrant directorship of Peter Ellis delivered a joyous performance of Haydn’s colourful oratorio The Seasons.

The concert hall at The Concourse in Chatswood reverberated with the sheer excitement and power of this choir. Haydn’s characteristic gift for direct, exuberant and evocative musical painting of
scenes or situations was exploited to the utmost in energetic performances from choir, orchestra and three talented storytelling soloists. Continue reading WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY CHOIR : THE SEASONS @ THE CONCOURSE

FLIGHT: PART OF THE WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY SERIES

This image: Daniel Macey
Featured image: Andrew Blanch

FLIGHT from Willoughby Symphony Orchestra and Choir was a most enthralling concert where the most enthusiastic audience was packed to the rafters – book your tickets for the rest of the Willoughby Symphony series now if you haven’t already!

The first half of the concert consisted of works by The Willoughby Symphony’s 2018 Composer-in-Residence Nigel Westlake who also conducted. Continue reading FLIGHT: PART OF THE WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY SERIES

WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA : A TRIUMPH INDEED @ THE CONCOURSE

This was a jaw dropping, absolutely breath taking concert by the Willoughby Symphony. The program, under the umbrella title of TRIUMPH, consisted of two works, Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with a most astonishing and impressive performance by special guest artist Kristian Chong and after interval Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony.

The Orchestra was in marvellous form with a rich, extremely balanced, golden tone as energetically, enthusiastically and precisely led by Dr Nicholas Milton. There was also another special reason to celebrate as it is John Cran, the renowned bassoonist’s 90th birthday this week.

First we heard a dazzling, captivating, fiery and tumultuous performance of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 3 ( readers might remember it from the movie Shine) with spellbinding soloist Kristian Chong who gave a stunning performance aristocratically sculpted. It is an iconic, mammoth work often regarded as the pinnacle of Romantic pianism. Chong and the orchestra treated it with due reverence.

Rachmaninov’s work consists of three large movements. The opening melody has relatively little orchestral accompaniment. (It is perhaps reminiscent of some chants of the Russian Orthodox Church.) There are also hints throughout the work of the composer’s Rhapsody On A Theme of Paganini and perhaps Stravinsky influences.

The well-known opening melody was played by Chong with a languid legato, conveying outward confidence blended with a dark undertone of anticipation. In the first movement Chong’s playing of the cadenza was wild and hair-raising while the second movement was more rhapsodic and melancholic .Chong’s playing in the lyrical or melodic sections was enchanting and luminous contrasting with his fiery passionate volcanic eruptions at other times.

Milton was highly attentive to Chong’s playing and the delicate shaping around it and in the gradual builds toward climaxes he revealed himself as a master of phrasing, pacing and layering sounds. In the second movement there were sharp spiky sections, an intriguing use of pizzicato, haunting woodwind and at various points throughout the work there were swirling, turbulent segments. Sparks flew. There was tumultuous prolonged applause and screams of ‘Bravo’ for Chong.

After interval we heard a passionate, turbulent rendition of Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony ( 1877/1878) ‘a haunting journey of tragic reality, passing dreams, visions of happiness, from the deepest trenches of human despair to the glorious triumph of the human spirit.

The work is permeated with unprecedented indications of the composer’s personal emotions, the intensity of which escalate gradually through each movement.It reflects his turbulent personal life at the time and is dedicated to his patroness Nadezhda von Meck .It opened with emphatic brass ( quite Swan Lake -ish) – the ‘fate’ leitmotif. followed by anxious strings and swooping woodwind.

The second movement opened with a poignant heart twisting oboe solo with the strings quietly murmuring underneath. Sometimes the orchestra in this movement was slow and stately like a flowing river, at other points it was anxious and pulsating , sometimes dance like .

Crash! The third movement featured scurrying strings, who then later sounded quite melancholy and then were strident, the horns, and the entire orchestra going full throttle tempestuously. There were hints of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture too and an interesting use of surging pizzicato.

The final movement, incorporating a famous Russian folk song, was fast, joyous and surged towards the agitated, breathless conclusion.

There was thunderous applause and numerous curtain calls. A TRIUMPH indeed.

Running time 2 hours including interval

Willoughby Symphony in Triumph played the Concourse on the 28th  and 29th October 2017

 

WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA PRESENT ‘MIRACLE’ @ THE CONCOURSE 

Conductor Carol,yn Watson

Featured photo – Guest artist,  Artistic Director of Ensemble Offspring, Claire Edwardes

Under the enthusiastic, precise and dynamic baton of Carolyn Watson, garbed dramatically in red and black, Willoughby Symphony Orchestra were in fine form with their latest concert, MIRACLE.

The first work gave the program its umbrella title, being Haydn’s Symphony No 96 in D The Miracle, so called because of the tale of the work’s premiere when a chandelier fell from the concert hall ceiling and narrowly missed the audience!

The first of the ‘London ‘ symphonies, it is in four movements and there were hints of the Beethoven symphonies and some surprises. The work begins dramatically with a strong, crashing opening and emphatic strings. The second movement contrasted with lyrical and stormy sections and had a quite balletic atmosphere full of airy elegance. Continue reading WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA PRESENT ‘MIRACLE’ @ THE CONCOURSE 

GLORY : WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA IN CONCERT @ THE CONCOURSE

Featured image : Chilean born Composer in Residence Daniel Rojas.

This was a magnificent, thrilling performance by the combined forces of the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra and Choir under the umbrella title GLORY (no, not the song from Pippin) as conducted by maestro Simon Kenway.

Charismatic Kenway was energetic, enthusiastic and precise and introduced each of the three works briefly putting them in context. Under his baton the Orchestra was in fine form and displayed  a lyrical, warm tone.

The concert opened with a lush, intense presentation of Faure’s Pelléas and Mélisande, a suite in four movements of Faure’s music for Maternlick’s play.

The magical mysterious discovery of Melisande is described in the first section – the Prelude began in traditional French Baroque form, rather slow and stately with lush strings that ebbed and flowed throughout. The section featured stormy horns and woodwind.

In  the passionate second movement, Melisande at the spinning wheel  is evoked – you can hear the whirring as she spins.  Faure captures her charm and apparent innocence. Prick your ears to listen for the interplay of soprano and tenor melodies in conversation, especially when the second theme emerges from solo clarinet and horn. The oboe however is the primary ‘singer’ of this song without words.

The third section is the famous Sicilienne featuring a delicate, limpid flute solo, and the orchestra shimmering and bubbling.

Then came the turbulent finale of the death of Melisande, which was played at the end of Fauré’s funeral, as his coffin was carried from the church.

The next piece in the program was a Latin piano concerto by  Dr Daniel Rojas, Composer-in-Residence. Dr Rojas is renowned as an award-winning composer specialising in the Latin American aesthetic, as well as an acclaimed pianist with stunning live improvisations.

Chilean born, Rojas draws on his heritage and a broad musical palette that includes Latin American indigenous, folk, classical and popular traditions, as well as Western classical and jazz techniques.

His concerto blended refined classicism and explosive Latin -American rhythms in three challenging movements.

Rojas’ playing was very energetic and emphatic. He played with enormous authority and exceptional technique – at times shimmering and birdlike, at other times blisteringly fast and joyously explosive when it came to the Latin-American dance rhythms.

The first movement was a showcase for Rojas’ bravura playing, thoughtfully accompanied by the Orchestra. The second movement was more a dialogue between piano and orchestra and the third movement included achingly beautiful violin segments.

The thrilling dynamic work was brought to a breathless , exuberant finish . For this work Kenway was hidden from the view of most of the audience – he was behind the piano so the Orchestra could see him.

The audience applauded rapturously and for an encore we heard Rojas’ arrangement of the soulful, passionate Resureccion del Angel, by Astor Piazzolla.

After interval came the very strong and powerful performance of Poulenc’s Gloria , with Laura Scandizzo as soprano soloist .( Scandizzo has previously performed with the Willoughby Symphony in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony for their Joy concert) .Among other choreographers Sir Kenneth Macmillan and Graeme Murphy have used this work for their ballets . Poulenc’s work is short and intense. First performed in 1961 it is a setting of the Gloria from the Catholic Mass in Latin in six short movements. It is full of joy yet threading through it is humility and a luminous clarity.

The packed Choir and Orchestra were superb in a thrilling performance. From the start we become aware of its human focus yet grand scope – a lofty fanfare segues into a somewhat lighter register blowing away hints of royalty or superior aloofness penetrating chords contribute to the sense of continuing quest , but this ebbs as the choir becomes a corroborative authority figure over eddying strings. We are taken on a wheeling kaleidoscopic journey of emotions including wonder, jubilation and satisfaction as well as humility.

The opening was bright and stately the chorus entering with a prominent dotted figure to the word ‘Gloria’, which forms the basis of this movement.In the second movement Laudamus Te the choir bubbled and rippled with pairs of voices -; altos and basses , sopranos and tenors – exchanging a series of short, succinct phrases. In the Domine Deus,with its glorious flute accompaniment, Scandizzo was pleading, sombre and reflective. In the fourth movement the choir and orchestra combined in a lush thrilling blend of six bubbling melodies.

In the Domine Deus and Agnus Dei there was an ominous ticking sound underlying its relentless ,sweeping rhythms .Listen out for the eight point harmony of the Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris and the soaring final Amen as sung by Scandizzo and then echoed by the choir with haunting woodwind brings everything to a radiant conclusion.

Running time 2 hours 10 minutes (roughly) including interval.

GLORY by the Willoughby Symphony was at the Concourse April 29 & 30 2017