Part of the Vivid Music program. the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra was in fine form for this exciting ,challenging concert that included two world premieres.

Guest conductorFabian Russell led the Orchestra elegantly yet energetically with precise control.

The concert began with Maurice Ravel’s Le tombeau le Couperin , a work dedicated to friends and acquaintances the composer lost in in the first World War While. Inspired by Couperin, the work is distinctly 20th Century.

The first movement with its shimmering harp and strings rippled and flowed .The second movement opened strongly and featured the woodwind. The melody was passed around the various sections of the Orchestra and then a second bouncy, bounding melody was taken and developed. The third movement was mostly a dialogue between the string sections that builds to a sweeping crescendo then calms and becomes lyrical, almost birdlike but with rumbling undertones beneath. The fourth movement was off to a crashing furious opening, the Orchestra a whirlwind that led to the violent scurrying conclusion.

Kate Moore’s Piano Concerto: Beatrice was a world premiere and featured soloist Vivian Choi, who wore a long ,sparkly silver gown). It began with a shimmering xylophone and quivering hovering strings. ( the first movement is entitled Ariel) Eventually the whole orchestra joins in and Choi was spiky on the piano .

We hear a defiant emphatic melody, Choi is passionate and ripples sharply on the piano , very fast and contrary. The Orchestra has a pounding, martial like melody. A different, relentless , driving melody is repeated with slight ebbs and flows in the music. Choi has a fiery explosive solo leading to a crashing volcanic crescendo. This changes and the piano ripples and flows lyrically. A different, insistent melody on the strings is emphasised and repeated again with sharp arpeggios and emphatic woodwind. All of which takes us to the breathless, crashing, tumultuous end .

To take us to interval Choi played an encore, also by Moore : Spin Bird ( 2008) inspired by the book Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. It was dappled , darting, shimmering, flowing, soaring and circling – like Jonathan who distances himself from the flock to practise and improve the art of flying and diving, Choi showed off her impeccable bravura technique moving very fast through all major and minor keys in a rapidly evolving passage where each note is replaced one at a time by the next note in a breathless progressive sequence.

The second half opened with the announcement of the 2019 102.5 / Willoughby Symphony Young Composer Award – introduced and presented to Callum O’Reilly by the General Manager of Willoughby City Council , Debra Just. Daniel Riley won the APRA Encouragement Award.O’Reilly is just 22 and a student at WAAPA .

O’Reilly’s work Winter Suite for Solo Trumpet and Orchestra was jazz inspired and featured David Johnson on trumpet. It began with a brisk vibrant dialogue between trumpet ( the music seemed to curl) and orchestra. The second section ,with soft pizzicato on strings was slower and richer with sultry, slinky trumpet. Then came a delicate undertone of strings with a plaintive lament by the trumpet. The final section opened breathlessly, explosively fast with darting , leaping trumpet which led to the final animated discussion between trumpet and orchestra.

Then we heard Beethoven’s Symphony no 6 in F .Op 68 ( PASTORAL) in a very rich multi layered performance . The first movement began softly then builds, pulsates and ebbs and flows in a discussion between the various sections of the Orchestra. Listen out for the cuckoo sounds. The dynamic second movement in sonata form with repeats was slower and statelier. Then came a circular waltz like melody, taken repeated and developed with woodwind again making birdlike sounds. The strings pulsate underneath the swaying infectious melody with avian flute and woodwind .Breathlessly fast scurrying strings interrupt with the woodwind being quicksilver fast and darting. The melody is taken and developed, rises to crescendo and then recedes .The Orchestra becomes fiery and tempestuous with quivering strings. An elusive calm briefly descends then a rocking ,palpitating melody is repeated, taking us to the sudden forceful ending.

Running time allow 2 hours 20 minutes including interval.

The WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA : PASTORAL played at the Concourse Chatswood 1 and 2 June 2019.

Featured image : Composer Kate Moore