The latest wonderful concert by the fabulous Willoughby Symphony Orchestra was entitled FANTASY, regarding stories of sorcery, storytelling and true love.
Conducted enthusiastically and energetically by Dr NIcholas Miltonthe Orchestra was in glorious form and dealt with the quite different styles of playing required for the various pieces excellently . It was a multilayered, beautifully nuanced elegantly precise performance that at times was explosively powerful.
First up was Glinka’s Ruslan and Ludmila Overture (1842) It was played at a fast and furious pace. An emphatic melody for winds, brass and timpani is connected by the surging violins in a tearing hurry. A dialogue develops between the creeping woodwinds and swirling strings, then the cellos sing lyrically with the melody being taken up by the violins and all ends in a tempestuous, breathless finale.
The bulk of the first half was Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E Flat major for violin Viola and Orchestra K 364, as performed by two of Australia’s most exquisite instrumentalists, Ji Won Kim on violin and Caleb Wright on viola. Ji Won Kim wore a beautiful long pale ice green gown, Caleb Wright was in orchestral black.
Both soloists were given equal billing and dazzled in their solos and showy duets. The opening was brisk and emphatic and mostly the work was a dialogue between violin and viola with mini solos. Their playing was many textured and multilayered, full of exquisite delicacy and thoughtful phrasing .At times it was fiery and passionate, at others lustrous , fluid and shimmering. The middle adante movement began as an aching lament and the Orchestra pulsated underneath with a heartfelt shimmering duet for the two soloists. The third Presto section was in a far brighter and bouncier tone leading to the delicious conclusion.
There was thunderous prolonged applause and for an encore Kim and Wright performed Handel’s Passacaglia in G Minor for Violin and Viola in a jaw dropping version that was strikingly different in style to the previous Mozart piece. It began quite formally then dramatically changed – some parts were explosively powerful, others were lyrical and emotional (eg the rather reflective central variation).
The second half, an exotic Turkish delight, consisted of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s orchestral fantasy Scheherazade,( 1888 ) based on the tale of the storyteller princess who tricks a murderous Sultan into letting her live by telling him 1001 enchanting tales. Balletomanes might remember this was choreographed by Mikhail Fokine for the famous ballet by the Ballets Russes starring the legendary Nijinsky and Karsavina.
Both Kim and Wright joined the Orchestra, Kim leading the violins and shimmering as the ‘voice’ of the narrator Scheherazade, or Zobeide (if you are thinking of the ballet version).It was given a lush, dramatic and stirring performance full of fiery passion and sweeping melodies. Ji Won Kim dazzled in the delicate violin solos .The symphonic narrative is divided into four sections and Rimsky-Korsakov’s dazzling creation of being at sea and other luscious sounds is hypnotic .
The composer had originally given the four sections story titles but later changed this. The first section introduces Scheherazade and the Shah , with her tremulous , shimmering voice on violin and his stern, turbulent one and you can hear the ships and the sea .The second and third sections are circular in format with the beginning theme of each movement heard again at the conclusion, in the third movement woodwind have a dialogue with the strings , both ‘voices’ are featured , lush strings occur in the third movement and a crashing, tumultuous section and more brass fanfares lead to a restatement of the main melody and a hushed, lyrical conclusion.
There was great enthusiastic applause for this captivating concert .
Running time 2 hours including interval Willoughby Symphony in Fantasy runs at The Concourse Chatswood 5-6 August 2017