The Metropolitan Orchestra: Met Concert 2 @ The Eugene Goosens Hall

TMO Chief Conductor Sarah-Grace Williams with piano soloist Bernard Walz
TMO Chief Conductor Sarah-Grace Williams with piano soloist Bernard Walz

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.

The orchestra explored the musical portraiture of Englishman Edward Elgar, visited Kodály’s nationalistic response to historical Hungarian music, and collaborated with pianist Bernard Walz to revive Gershwin’s marriage of jazz elements with the traditional concerto form.

Whether the Orchestra played Hungarian folk tunes in Kodály’s ‘Dances of Galanta’ or was heard to contrast structures and timbres within Elgar’s ‘Enigma Variations’, TMO delivered the works with authenticity as well as an emotional and stylistic directness.

These performances were also unified by the musicians’ considerable ability for well-nuanced playing with a large range of subtlety. Solos from within TMO’s ranks led orchestral textures well when they appeared. There were some sections of soft and delicate playing to be envied by any orchestral group.

A definite highlight of this concert was the inclusion of Gershwin’s landmark composition for jazz piano and orchestra, ‘Rhapsody in Blue’. The revival of such a heavyweight crossover classic was more than safe in soloist Bernard Walz’ hands. Gershwin’s music, with all its boldness, lyricism and intricacies was well celebrated in this performance.

Inspiring playing was heard from Walz’ interpretation, which was given plenty of breathing space by conductor Sarah-Grace Williams. As with the other works on the programme, there was not a false note in the presentation of this characteristic and historically pivotal idiom.

Knife-edge changes in mood and swagger, so well-known by the audience, shone in Walz’s playing. This was mirrored through quality listening to the soloist by TMO members and considerable ensemble skill being displayed. Such ensemble proficiency was also witnessed in the other programmed works.

Met Concert 2 was performed for one performance only on May 2 at the Eugene Goosens  Hall. Met Concert 3 from TMO promises more beautiful keyboard playing when Simon Tedeschi performs Grieg’s ‘A minor Piano Concerto’. The orchestra will also play Dvorák’s ‘New World’ Symphony. This concert takes place on June 27.

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