A full house once again greeted the Woollahra Philharmonic Orchestra in their favourite venue the St Columba Uniting Church in Woollahra, Sydney. It is quite a square space with a cosy, intimate feel and lovely acoustics. The audience can abandon the main seating and place themselves along the choir seats on the sides of the performance space if they want to be close to the orchestra. It’s a great way to introduce children to the individual instruments.

Starting with a pared down group of just 15 players, they began with Eight Instrumental Miniatures by Stravinsky. This is a quirky little collection of pieces originally written as 5 finger exercises for the piano which were later individually orchestrated. With nimble rhythms, the majority of the miniatures were performed by woodwind, often finishing when you wouldn’t expect them to, as is a signature characteristic of Stravinsky’s writing. 

Next came Guest violin soloist Darcy Dauth, ex-Australian Youth Orchestra and currently completing his Bachelor of Music with the Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University. He began with Dvorák’s lovely Romance for Violin and Orchestra, starting out a little tentative, then relaxed and the confidence grew as the piece progressed with wonderful support and guidance from conductor Lee Bracegirdle.

Final piece before interval was the well known Tzigane (pronounced tzee-GAHN), the perfect vehicle for any violinist to express the hidden gypsy inside. Dauth stretched himself out and filled the phrases with life, clearly enjoying the freedom of the piece. The audience loved it and gave enthusiastic applause at the close.

The second half of the concert featured the work that gave inspiration for the concert title. Robert Schumann’s first Symphony was inspired by his new wife Clara he’d married just a few months before. In her own diary Clara reported how she felt the piano Schumann usually composed his works for did not have sufficient scope to fully express what he had in his imagination and that she fully intended to press him to write for full orchestra. 

With the joy of his new marriage (after a long legal battle with her father who wanted to prevent it) and Spring being in the air (which is a big thing once you lived through a bitter German winter), Schumann was in a high vibe with creative juices flowing, ready to create his first major work. He sketched the entire symphony in about 4 days and completed the full orchestration within a month. The four movements offer different aspects and moods of Spring from gentle evening to playtime outside and “Spring in full bloom”. The orchestra filled out all the space using full brass, double bass and timpani doing a great job with never a dull moment. 

There’s something very special about this “in-betweeners” orchestra allowing new performers to mix with professionals.  It has a wonderful community feel offering precious performing opportunities which is supportive and nurturing for tomorrow’s professional musicians.

The Woollahra Philharmonic Orchestra will next be performing 30 November and 1 December in their concert “All for Love” featuring Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. 

Check out their website here: https://www.wpo.org.au