A marvellous concert by the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra, energetically led by Dr Nicholas Milton. The Orchestra was in fine, robust form.
Beethoven’s powerful Egmont Overture, op. 84 was first ,with its strong blaring opening and strident strings. It was volcanically emphatic and passionate with its spinning melody and crashing turbulence, that was at one point balanced by a lilting two sided conversation between the various elements of the Orchestra. Also important is to note how the horns and trumpets were featured. Next year the Orchestra will be celebrating 250 years since Beethoven’s birth and this was a taster. Continue reading WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA : TITAN @ THE CONCOURSE→
BRAVURA indeed with an astonishing ,breathtaking performance by the Willoughby Symphony with their latest concert BRAVURA and guest star Tony Lee on piano . Dr Nicholas Milton conducted energetically and enthusiastically yet was extremely precise .The orchestra gave a crisp , polished performance that was inspired, fiery and passionate where required with a rich well – rounded tone.
First we heard Zoltan Kodaly’s Dances of Galanta , a set of Hungarian dances based on traditional Gypsy themes . Horns blare then the exuberant dances begin with their whirling , infectious melodies , with slithering sensuous clarinet ,shimmering , quivering strings and insistent woodwind leading to the fiery , explosive conclusion .
For this reviewer the major highlight was Franz Lizst’s Piano Concerto No 2 in A , S 125 in four movements with multi award-winning Australian Lee as soloist. It began at a moderate pace with flowing woodwind which were joined by rich strings. Lee on piano at first played delicately, like crystal water drops. It then became shimmering and cascading , changing to fiery and emphatic , insisting listen to me! .There was an almost martial atmosphere at this point , strings a strong undercurrent . Lee on piano suddenly leaps and bounds, with scurrying strings.
The piano returns to whirling and leaping with a sudden change back to shimmering crystal . Pulsating throbbing strings rumble while the piano floats into a lyrical, flowing solo ‘aria’ which then changes to an emphatic, spiky dialogue – almost confrontation – with the Orchestra before a return to calmer waters. But then Lee on piano suddenly darts and jumps leading to the crashing , tumultuous ending , leaving everyone gasping.
For an encore Lee treated us to a volcanic ,insistent solo performance of the last movement of Prokofiev’s 7th Sonata that took us to interval.
After interval came a strong, impassioned performance of Brahms’ Symphony No 4 in E Minor Op 98., the last of his four symphonies. It is very complex and an immaculate example of symphonic construction , finely nuanced and with great attention to phrasing and balance.
The piece had a rich multilayered opening with a sweeping luxurious waltz like melody followed by vibrant woodwind with delicate pizzicato from the strings. The woodwind become emphatic and then there are flowing strings and woodwind sections leading to the stirring ending with crashing drums.
The second movement begins with the horns blaring the melody after which the strings limpidly , richly flow , interwoven with the woodwind. There is a measured, thoughtful passing around the various sections of the orchestra development of the melody which become brisk and animated but then slows back to a calmer mood with a throbbing undertone of strings.
The third movement opens with an explosive BANG – a tumultuous start .The orchestra is very strong and emphatic – it is a thunderous, galloping ,boisterous discussion between the various sections. And listen out for the triangle!
The final fourth movement had a powerful dramatic opening , and there was snaky woodwind and repetition of a circling melody featuring elegant strings and haunting insistent woodwind .the mood changed to steely , with scurrying strings and darting woodwind leading to the throbbing wall of sound for the conclusion.
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→
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→
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’sCudmirrah 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.
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.
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.
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, 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 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!
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
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