Conductor Carol,yn Watson

Featured photo – Guest artist,  Artistic Director of Ensemble Offspring, Claire Edwardes

Under the enthusiastic, precise and dynamic baton of Carolyn Watson, garbed dramatically in red and black, Willoughby Symphony Orchestra were in fine form with their latest concert, MIRACLE.

The first work gave the program its umbrella title, being Haydn’s Symphony No 96 in D The Miracle, so called because of the tale of the work’s premiere when a chandelier fell from the concert hall ceiling and narrowly missed the audience!

The first of the ‘London ‘ symphonies, it is in four movements and there were hints of the Beethoven symphonies and some surprises. The work begins dramatically with a strong, crashing opening and emphatic strings. The second movement contrasted with lyrical and stormy sections and had a quite balletic atmosphere full of airy elegance.

The third pulsating movement was more a dynamic conversation between the various orchestral sections and featured a marvellous oboe solo. The last movement had a very fast opening with darting strings and scurrying flute. The piece featured something of a teasing feel with bubbling flute and woodwind taking us through to a thrilling finale.

Extreme contrast was provided by amazing guest artist Claire Edwardes in Dr Daniel Rojas’ Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra, Rojas is the 2017 composer in residence and it was great that he was in the audience for this performance.

Dr Rojas is an award-winning composer specialising in the Latin American aesthetic. Chilean born, Daniel draws from his heritage and a broad musical palette that includes Latin American indigenous, folk, classical and popular traditions, as well as Western classical and jazz techniques.

Tall, imposing and dressed in a striking red gown Edwardes performance was powerful and hypnotic. Internationally acclaimed percussion soloist, chamber musician and Artistic Director of Ensemble Offspring, Edwards received the 2013 prestigious Australia Council Music Fellowship, She is also the first person to take home the APRA AMCOS Art Music Award for Excellence by an Individual three times.

Dr Rojas’ concerto was divided into three parts – Serpentine, Ebb and Soiree, The opening section pulsated with infectious rhythms, inspired by the vast Amazonian rivers. In another section the piece was almost dreamlike.The Orchestra, at this point, mainly played sharp jazz like rhythms. Edwardes had a fiery and spectacular solo.

The piece Ebb uses tango plainchant and chorale references to hint at possible spiritual and/or profane transfiguration. The third and final section opened with Mahler like shimmering melancholy strings.The music rippled and throbbed,  and at times there were echoes of Stravinsky (particularly his Sacre du Printemps). Later there were hints of Bernstein.

There was an intriguing section where Edwardes played the very edges of the marimba with a double bass bow. The finale was a breathless dialogue between Edwardes and the orchestra. Warm, prolonged applause took us to interval.

After the break the Orchestra went straight into playing the concert’s final work,

Mendelssohn’s Symphony No .1 in C Minor in four movements. Hard to believe that Mendelssohn composed this piece when he was just fifteen years old!

This work featured a fiery opening and scurrying strings.The first movement was rather tempestuous, the main melody being stated and repeated with assorted orchestral flourishes and emphatic strings.

The second movement, with a rich tone and sound coming from the Orchestra, was calmer and there was a piercingly beautiful woodwind segment and lyrical strings.

The third movement was mostly bristling and dramatic while the final fourth movement had darting strings in a dialogue between all three main sections of the Orchestra.This movement featured use of pizzicato by the strings at various points, and a delicate clarinet statement, to which was added an extra dimension with a doubling by the flute. Everything lead up to the galloping, rather breathless conclusion.

Concert running times as 2 hours including one interval.

MIRACLE, the latest concert by the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra, was performed at the Concourse, Chatswood on the 17th and 18th June 2017.