28 March 2014

Astoroids and Flash Gordon

I can actually spell asteroids and the link to Flash G is tenuous but it amused me. This was the first concert of another season of the Canberra Symphony Orchestra. It’s our local orchestra, part-time, and they do a great job. They are also well liked in the community. I think I read the CSO is the only orchestra in Australia that has sellout seasons, and that’s with very little government sponsorship. CSO is not funded like a capital-city, ex-ABC orchestra, but it survives and I hope it thrives. That said, I was not enamoured by the program but enjoyed it none-the-less. First, Modest Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain in the most common orchestration by Rimsky-Korsakov. Modest is an appeaaling name. So was the music, bold and mystical, threatening, dramatic and lots of fun. Then Mozart’s Violin Concerto no.5 performed by soloist Barbara Jane Gilby. She’s well known to Canberra audiences as the normal concertmaster for the CSO. Mozart is always perfect and this is a well known piece. I was amused by the weight of the horns and especially tuba which was so obvious when they passed the playing to the strings, relatively quiet as they were. It’s a piece that Barbara has played through her musical life, and she made her own take. Barbara encored with Massenet’s Meditations, all soppy, romantic, attractive and presumably the theme music for reams of period TV shows, and impossible to dislike. My favourite piece of the night followed the interval. It was Re-collecting Astoroids by Elena Kats-Chernin. The pun on the title is a reference to Astor as in Piazzolla as well as Elena’s approach to writing a piece dedicated to Piazzolla, collecting and recollecting but not quoting. This was a work in five movements. I thought I’d recognised several then I read the second movement quotes her own Peggy’s Rag. It’s not complex music, but the melodies are lovely and insinuating and I think it’s the orchestral colours that really attract me. I just find this more relevant to our times than the rural idyll although romantic themes of threat and danger may suit popular TV series. Then, to finish, the big show for the night. This was Liszt’s Preludes. Brassy, majestic, regal moving to romantic and trills and country idyll then film chases and action movies. Not his fault, of course, but Megan tells me this was used as the theme for the early Flash Gordon circa 1950s (?). I found it more interesting musically than Elena’s tune, more complex intersecting lines and counterpoint weaving through melodies, but sounding imperial European, so dated, to my ears. But, again, lots of fun, and we left laughing easily over the Flash Gordon connection. Congrats again to the CSO. It was an amusing concert and well received and well played. Much enjoyed.

The Canberra Symphony Orchestra performed Mussorgsky Night on Bald Mountain, Mozart Violin Concerto no.5, Kats-Chernin Re-collecting Astoroids and Liszt Les Preludes. Tom Woods (conductor) conducted and Barbara Jane Gilby (violin) soloed in the Mozart.

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