07 May 2015

A rare confluence

Now this was a strange one. The Canberra Symphony Orchestra performed something I'd heard just a few weeks earlier from the National Capital Orchestra. Such a concurrence is pretty rare but it gives you a particular view. The work was Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherazade and it was played post-interval by both orchestras. I had been mightily impressed by NCA but I felt CSO had an additional sheen. Not just because CSO had a full complement of basses (four not 1, and including a common player, David Flynn). I have played orchestral music now for a few months and performed two concerts and I find I am listening differently. The backline behind the strings - flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, horns - are taking on more presence. I noticed the flutes with and without piccolo and how insistent the little thing is (and so easy to transport)! Same with some shaken percussion that strangely came at me from behind, bouncing off the back wall (just a row behind me). I really enjoyed the brass which was particularly competent this night, trumpet, trombone, tuba. And the timpani. And Barbara's solo violin. And, I think unusually, the two cello parts, where the principal cello bows and the rest play pizz. Scheherazade is attractive but it's not my favourite for the night. I find it rich and swelling but too simple and repetitive and the story is offensively misogynist.

The first set started with Matthew Hindson Boom-box. It was short but exciting, more fanfare than backstreet funk. I heard Africa and standards and West Side Story more than Harlem and break dancing, but I liked it lots. Then Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto no.1 B flat minor. This was my favourite, perhaps partly because I knew it well given we had a record in my childhood home. Great orchestral melodies, ecstatic and virtuosic piano, a startling touch of Gershwin or 20th century in a cadenza in the second movement, ratty key. Absolutely attractive and done very nicely by pianist and orchestra.

This was a great outing from the CSO and I never cease to be amazed that they do this with such a limited performance schedule. These guys don't play together daily like many professional orchestras. The Canberra Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Nicholas Milton. Hoang Pham (piano) played the Tchaikovsky.

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