For those of us lucky enough to attend, this was an absolutely glorious concert as part of the Willoughby Symphony Chamber series at the Zenith Theatre as directed by Daniel Dean .

First was a shimmering, exquisite rendition of Maurice Ravel’s Introduction and Allegro for Harp Septet . (1907) After a delicate start by flute and clarinet, it was lush and limpid then darting , bubbling and scurrying. Soloist Will Nichols on the harp was superb passionate , authoritative yet fragile and delicate in his instrumental solos and the featured cadenza ,all leading to a scampering conclusion.

The we heard Carl Vine’s Inner World : Cello and Tape , with Liam Meany on solo cello. Vine apparently hand edited the sound score of the tape, which at times includes cascading piano, at one point has an insistent almost Flamenco like rhythm and at another time is very poignant. For one section towards the end it is as if the music is sort of revolving in circles .Meany’s live , passionate playing in an extraordinary bravura performance is at times dominant , sometimes fast and furious,  at others delicate or sometimes sharp and spiky . As Vine has written : ‘The performer is not only live, but also crystallised, dissected and re-arranged’ in a striking performance’.

Next up was Kate Moore’s Whoever You Are Come Forth , transcribed from vocals for cello, again featuring Meany as soloist. It is an inspired , reflective , wordless interpretation of Walt Whitman’s poem Song of the Open Road which begins with a soft, melancholic cello opening. The xylophone accompaniment was an insistent beat that rises to a crescendo and then sounds like a metronome. Meany on cello is like a tenor singing an anguished lament .

The final part of the program was Dimitri Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony in D Major Op. 83a.( arr.R.Barshai) .The stage was crowded for this powerful performance energetically and enthusiastically conducted by Luke Spicer .The dangerous, unsettled era that Shostakovich wrote the work in was placed in context.

The first pulsating movement flowed and ebbed .Woodwind were featured . The second movement began with the strings stating the underlying melody,  then a short clarinet solo with a haunting plaintive melody and the rest of the orchestra joins in . It then changes in mood to be dynamic and emphatic, building to a crescendo then calming with bubbling flurries underneath . It is lush but ominous.

The third movement opens with insistent pulsating strings .A jaunty theme is developed but there is a tense unsettled atmosphere.
Suddenly the work grows softer in tone with woodwind solos followed by some strings. In the final fourth movement, with its Jewish dance segment, there is a pizzicato finish of the string section and an unexpected conclusion .At the end you could have heard a pin drop as the cliché goes , before thunderous applause.

There was one performance only of SHATTERED RESTRAINTS as part of the Willoughby Symphony Chamber series on Sunday 19 May 2019.

Featured image- cellist Liam Meany.