Violinist Alexandre Da Costa..Pic Lawrence Lebat

A marvellous concert by the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra, energetically led by Dr Nicholas Milton. The Orchestra was in fine, robust form.

Beethoven’s powerful Egmont Overture, op. 84 was first ,with its strong blaring opening and strident strings. It was volcanically emphatic and passionate with its spinning melody and crashing turbulence, that was at one point balanced by a lilting two sided conversation between the various elements of the Orchestra. Also important is to note how the horns and trumpets were featured. Next year the Orchestra will be celebrating 250 years since Beethoven’s birth and this was a taster.

The bulk of the first half consisted of Bruch’s Concerto No. 1 in G minor, op. 26 featuring Australian-based Canadian virtuoso soloist Alexandre Da Costa.The work is Romantic in style and is in three movements , largely in sonata form .The Orchestra was strong and dynamic throughout , shimmering , quivering and bubbling when supportively accompanying Da Costa.

Da Costa as soloist was full of leonine confidence and charismatically dominated the stage, giving a performance full of virtuoso bravura that dazzled .His stylish solos ranged from fiery and dramatic to tender , heartbreaking and lyrical. The encore was an exquisite, lyrical soaring solo violin version of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah incredibly moving.

After interval came Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D major, aka TITAN, in a thrilling crashing performance. It was HUGE in scale with an augmented Orchestra that was crammed onto the concert platform. We heard the five-movement symphonic poem of 1893 version in a specially slightly reduced version for the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra created by Daniel Dean. Mahler evokes the feel of walking in a forest and being surrounded by nature.Folksong and fugue and a sort of funeral march are included .

The work opens with soft strings (dawn?) then becomes fluid yet quivering with tension.Can you hear the bird calls ? At first it is a bit tentative then becomes vibrant and jaunty with glistening strings.There are huge, broad brushstrokes of orchestral music ,fiendishly scurrying strings and a galloping atmosphere with crashing timpani leading to the breathless firecracker conclusion of that section.

A brisk, circular melody is then stated and passed around the Orchestra leading to a crescendo yet there are soft rustling strings. Solitary woodwind is then followed by gliding lilting strings .
Then in another segment the six( ! ) double basses state the low, rich fluid melody with snaky sinuous woodwind. Listen out for tiny hints of another Mahler work – Songs of A Wayfarer. Crash! Bash!  From the drums and anxiously trembling strings urgently sound.

The Orchestra becomes madly tempestuous, things calmed down a little after the storm , with the melody stated, taken and developed then yes while there are some quieter moments with tremulous, lyrical, flowing strings bright insistent horns and buzzing strings lead to the turbulent conclusion.

A thrilling concert that had the audience cheering .This was the Orchestra’s penultimate concert for the year , the last one being their Christmas one.

Running time 2 hours including interval.

Willoughby Orchestra played the Concourse on the 2nd and 3rd November, 2019.

Dr Nicholas Milton AM conductor
Alexandre Da Costa violin
Willoughby Symphony Orchestra

Program :
Beethoven – Egmont Overture, op. 84
Bruch – Concerto No. 1 in G minor, op. 26
Mahler – Symphony No. 1 in D major

Featured image : Violinist Alexandre Da Costa. Pic Lawrence Lebat