19 August 2017
War out the door
It was the Canberra Symphony Orchestra playing another Llewellyn concert, this one nominated Horn and it was just a series of pleasures. First up was the crowd-pleaser, Borodin Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor. Well, it's a rollicking thing with memorable themes, enough to make it into the popular repertoire as Strangers in paradise and it's got particular relevance for me. I'd heard it played very capably by choir and orchestra of the combined Canberra Grammar Schools in the wonderful CGGS hall when it was a revelation to me as a newcomer to classics. Easy listening, perhaps, but exciting and melodious and inviting. CSO did a great job. Then the matter of the horn. Hector McDonald played Richard Strauss Horn concerto no.1 Eb major. HM has been 27 years as a principal at the Vienna Phil amongst his illustrious career in Europe, but he started out here, in Sydney and later Canberra, playing in Llewellyn Hall and with the CSO. Some old band mates were playing behind him on this night. He's obviously not so well, as he explained later, but his playing is sweet and pure, so another pleasure. He encored with a bit of Vienna, playing Johann Strauss Sweet tears with harp accompaniment. Then the final pleasure, not at all a frivolous thing: Prokofiev Symphony no.5. Apparently it was written with WW2 outside the door, first performed with cannon in the background. It's big, unrelenting, mobile and flexible and tactical as war is and battles are. An overwhelming experience only enhanced by taking a seat in the front row, under the cello, in Dave's line of sight, not too successfully trying to follow Nicholas Milton. But what a work! I'd listened to some that morning and it seemed heavy and tortured but in life it was powerful, forceful, varied and, again, unrelenting. Fabulous and capably done by the orchestra. So, a wonderful concert with all manner of styles and all manner of receptions. Great stuff.
The Canberra Symphony Orchestra played Borodin, Strauss and Prokofiev, under Nicholas Milton (conductor) with soloist Hector McDonald (horn).