Featured photo – Pianist Kathy Selby.
For the latest concert combining the marvelous talents of the Willoughby Symphony and Choir, the concert hall at the Concourse was packed to the rafters and we were privileged to hear some ravishing, glorious playing and singing.
The program opened with a delightful , somewhat boisterous rendition of the Brahms Academic Festival Overture Op.80. Written for the University of Breslau, the piece was given a brisk, dynamic reading. Rather lighthearted, Brahms develops and expands the melodies of four well known student drinking songs and the piece features triumphant horns.
The audience loved the work and the orchestra was obviously enjoying itself under the very energetic direction of Dr Nicholas Milton.
The centrepiece of the first half of the concert was a ravishing performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A major, K. 488 featuring special guest soloist Kathy Selby on piano. Selby wore a chic sparkly black top and elegant black slacks for her sublime performance.
The opening Allegro movement with its dazzling runs and jumps was full of luminous filigree opalescence showcasing Selby’s incredible technique. Her solo in this movement was stormy and dramatic yet she and the orchestra breathed and pulsated as one.
The second Adagio movement was dreamlike, full of a lyrical, aching yearning, with the woodwind adding its melancholic lament. The piece flowed between shifting desolate and passionate moods —innocent, desolate, passionate—and the Orchestra flowed through it all with deftness.
The third Allegro Assia movement was brisker and in a mostly sunnier mood, far more a dialogue between Selby and the Orchestra , with Selby showcased in crystalline ‘arias’ on the piano. The playing was so good you could hear a pin drop. This was a magical reading played with great refinement and poise.
After interval , from the deceptively soft opening to the tumultuous thunderous conclusion the titanic Beethoven Symphony No. 9 in D minor, op. 125 set the Concert Hall alight. The Willoughby Symphony choir were in fine full voice and the soloists excellent. For both orchestra and choir there was detailed crisp phrasing and emphasizing the harmonic daring that was typical of late Beethoven.
In the first movement there was rather a tempestuous mood with buzzing, pulsating strings and darting flutes and woodwind leading to several stormy crescendos.
The second movement began dynamically. The melody was stated and passed to the various sections of the Orchestra , leading to a more stately and sedate section. Scampering strings lead to a rather abrupt ending.
The third movement with its lush aching strings was reflective, haunting and passionate, and featured a lyrical conclusion.
The final movement got off to an explosive start. Ominous string stalked the rest of the orchestra , but then the whole orchestra triumphantly declared for peace and joy.
The famous chorale finale on Schiller’s Ode to Joy featured an outstanding solo by baritone Christopher Curcuruto and then later tenor Damian Arnold unleashed the power of his voice. The duets between Curcuruto and Arnold were terrific. Rippling strings and the lovely voices of soloists Laura Scandizzo and Brownyn Douglass followed , leading to the tempestuous ,captivating ending that nearly lifted the roof off.
Book now for the Christmas concert coming up and organize your 2017 tickets so you don’t miss out!
Running time 2 hours 20 minutes including one interval.