A very exciting concert the latest in the Willoughby Symphony season is ETERNITY , led by guest conductor Michelle Leonard OAM .
The first half of the program was Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B Minor Op 104 with a stellar performance by Bennett Tsai . Leonard conducted dynamically and with great panache and there was finely nuanced balance and excellent rapport between her the Orchestra and Tsai . Tsai gives an amazing , intense, virtuoso performance haunted and at times either fiery or lyrical, passionate and anguished . From the stirring Orchestral opening with its dynamic rhythms we are captivated.
The first richly atmospheric movement is for Orchestra alone with a splendid horn solo. In the second movement after dialogue between Orchestra and Tsai , Tsai shines in the wistful solos and eventually the aching ,flowing melodies gently ebb towards the conclusion . The third movement opened with an insistent marching rhythm , there were lyrical sections contrasted with whirling sections . At one point Tsai is frantic on his cello but this changes to soft and lyrical as if he is searching for something which leads to the crashing tumultuous finale.
For an encore Tsai played an achingly passionate solo – Pablo Casals Bird Song.
The first half had a very fresh, contemporary sound although the music was written in the nineteenth century. The second half was very contemporary beginning with David Basden’s ( arr, Howes) Opening and Eternity – with a rich , warm , lyrical viola as played by Freya Meany and narrated by Noel Cislowski.
Then came Dan Walker’s haunting , reflective Were all the stars to disappear or die – for piano and choir with its surging interweaving voices.
This was followed by Basden arr. Howes Epilougue , for Orchestra , with bubbling , darting flute and woodwind replying .
The major final piece was internationally renowned Australian composer Kare Moore’s Lux Aeterna : VIVID which premiered last year ( and this is the Australian premiere) – a crashing ,roaring wall of sound with both Choir and Orchestra. The work is in three movements outlining three states of seeing and is based on the revelation of Saint John and the vision of Saint Lucy, Saint Francis and Saint Clare. it is based on the Latin Requiem Mass and opens with a glorious counter tenor solo of the Introit : Requiem Aeternam magnificently sung by Oscar Smith.
The rest of the work is based on the Mass but also uses Latin names of mammals , bees ( you can hear the bees buzzing ), butterflies , birds, and an Ent- like relentless march of trees . For the choir , the Kyrie begins softly at first but builds in intensity while the Sancti features tumbling , cascading voices. all leading to the sudden, spiky end .
Running time – 2 hours 10 minutes (approx.) including interval.
Willoughby Symphony and Choir’s ETERNITY was at the Concourse Chatswood on 6 , 7 April 2019