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’s Cudmirrah 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.
There was an intimate rapport between the two soloists and the Orchestra in a glorious performance.
The work begins emphatically then there is a lyrical ,aching solo for Smiles on cello, followed by fiery swirls on the violin for Hall. There is an animated discussion between the two which the Orchestra interrupts. The main melodies are restated and passed around the various sections of the Orchestra.
Aching laments are contrasted with spiky sections and the Orchestra surges in accompaniment. One small section has beats that sounds like a clock ticking. The Orchestra was exquisitely balanced and Hall and Smiles gave bravura performances . They were incredibly well matched and both played with equal aplomb and dazzling virtuosity.
The second movement opened with eerie woodwind and featured exquisite, fragilely delicate yet extremely accomplished playing by Hall and Smiles .The main melody was stated, repeated and echoed. The third movement opened in a vibrant, bouncy mood and included pizzicato on the strings .The music for this movement swirls and eddies and at times is dynamically fast and furious surging towards the tumultuous, crashing conclusion. The audience roared its appreciation.
After interval there was a thrilling performance of Dvorak’s From the New World Symphony – Symphony no 9 in E Minor Op.95. The Czech composer permeated this work with haunting and evocative recollections of his native music, coloured by shades of touching tributes to music he became familiar with in America. Variations of tone and style are revealed nimbly juxtaposed in an amazingly unified symphonic entity.
The Orchestra led by Dr Milton gave an eloquent, very sensitive performance full of warmth .
The first movement began deceptively softly but then bang! Crash! The tumultuous full Orchestra invaded. Sharp, spiky strings were contrasted with a sultry flute mini solo and waltz like strings. The strings were at times limpid but mostly very dynamic. Lyrical sections led the surge towards the end of the movement.
The second movement began with lumbering brass and woodwind. A ravishing oboe mini solo with strings murmuring accompaniment followed developing to a crescendo with the hauntingly beautiful lyrical strings. Scurrying woodwind and the crashing turbulent full Orchestra are contrasted with shimmering, aching strings.
The third movement has two main melodies stated, taken and developed in an emphatic performance.
For the final movement, which at times possibly prefigures John William’s scores, a crescendo develops contrasted with quiet segments and a clarinet solo which then leads to the galloping, breathless finale. The audience loved it.
The concert concluded with an encore , one of Brahm’s Hungarian Dances that began explosively fast and had sultry, flirtatious swaying interludes .
There was extended, tumultuous applause.
Running time just over two hours including one interval.
Willoughby Symphony Orchestra’s DISCOVERY was at the Concourse Chatswood 27 & 28 October 2018.