Orchestras are a wonderful indulgence that I’ve recently rediscovered. Sometimes deliciously detailed and subtle; other times blatant and loud; always educated and skilled. These were students, so not quite at the level of our CSO or AYO, let alone the great orchestras we hear on record. The dynamics seemed a bit timid, as if there was a lack of courage or confidence, and the intonation sometimes took a few notes to settle at the start of a few phrases. But that’s a quibble. We call them students because they are learning (not that anyone ever finishes learning in music). But this was a lovely and satisfying performance.
Megan and I both liked the modern Australian composition the best. Szeto’s Energy 1 was variously brooding, bombastic, involving and rhythmically exciting, with staccato and oddly timed orchestral hits, lots of percussion and bass drum, lengthy melodies that seemed unheeding of barlines and a great workout for the brass. The other pieces were Berlioz’s King Lear Overture Op. 4 (no, I didn’t pick the storm scene or Cordelia, but I did like the busy and deliciously contrasting accompaniment on glockenspiel, or was marimba?) and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony no. 1 op. 13 in D minor. These were satisfying, of course, with Berlioz sounding of his classical forebears, and Tchaikovsky more romantically inclined. Megan was disappointed with the thematic development of each composition. I also felt what seemed to me to be statements of themes rather than alterations. But I’m untutored in this field. Look up your Groves for a better review of the works themselves. (BTW, did you know the full Groves Encyclopaedia of Music is available free online to members of the ACT Library service? And the Naxos CD collection as streaming music. Link below.)
Thanks to the ANUSM for another wonderful concert. This is a gem of an institution to have on our doorstep. But then Canberra’s full of such gems. The ANU School of Music Orchestra performed at the Llewellyn Hall with Dominic Harvey as conductor.