L’Arlesienne Suite – Georges Bizet

Concerto for two French Horns – Friedrich Kuhlau

Extracts from Romeo and Juliet – Sergei Prokofiev


Conductor: Thomas Tsai

Guest soloists: Laurie Liskowski and Cindy Simms


There was a dramatic finish to the 2019 season for Woollahra Philharmonic last weekend with a full orchestra crammed into the performance space in the program “All for Love”. As Guest Conductor, Thomas Tsai took the podium. He has previously been engaged as Chief Conductor of the SBS Radio and Television Youth Orchestra, also Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the North Sydney Youth Symphony. Musicality is not something that can be taught like a skill. It comes from within and this conductor’s musicality is outstanding. Tsai directed most of the program from memory drawing the orchestra through the works, without need of a score, bringing out the strengths of each section.

The orchestra launched into the program with Bizet’s L’Arlesienne Suite which was originally written as incidental music for a since-forgotten play. The music lives on and nowadays it is hard to imagine such magnificent music being a framework for anything else, it stands so well on it own. Flowing between excitement and gentleness Tsai drew the best from the players, stretching their interpretative abilities. Great work from this wonderful mash up of up and coming musicians, teachers and veteran professionals.

Following was the Concerto for two French Horns by Friedrich Kuhlau featuring guest soloists Laurie Liskowski, ex Elizabethan Trust Opera and Ballet Orchestra and the Willoughby Symphony and Cindy Simms, ex Queensland Symphony Orchestra and Royal Australian Navy Band. Kuhlau was from a similar time to Beethoven so there is much influence in the work of Beethoven’s style and structure. Kuhlau has his own unique voice to add and the conversation between the two horns as well as with the orchestra kept it interesting throughout. The final bars were like a farewell with the orchestra french horns playing phrases echoed by the muted soloists as if they were riding away on horseback. The audience loved this concerto and gave the soloists 3 curtain calls.

The second half crammed even more musicians into place for extracts from the much loved ballet Romeo and Juliet by Sergei Prokofiev. It’s a dramatic work with more dark than light in keeping with the tragic storyline. The best known tune from the ballet is in the ball scene where Romeo and his friends sneak in hidden behind masks. There is a very formal dance titled “Montague and Capulets” also known as “Dance of the Knights” alternating between an arrogant, high minded strut and a gentle introduction to Juliet as a debutante. It requires great confidence from the musicians and the orchestra rose beautifully to the challenge. Outstanding brass, great percussion. Being a tragedy, it’s difficult to choose what musical extract to use to finish a concert. They decided to use The Death of Tybalt, a highly dramatic piece leaving the writer struggling not to get up and stagger through the slow death herself. Once known well, it’s difficult to not fall deeply into the dramatic depths of this music!

A wonderful rounding off to the season. There is no orchestra around Sydney with a greater love for its community and fellow members. We look forward to seeing what they have to offer next year. 

Find out what’s happening in their 2020 season on their website: http://wpo.org.au