Melbourne Symphony Orchestra | Brahms Violin Concerto and more
March 11, 2023, Hamer Hall
Elena Schwarz, conductor
Clara-Jung Wang, violin
When programming this concert much more thought went into the repertoire than the title might suggest. Starting a concert with an overture, such as Natalie Williams’ Fourth Alarm, is conventional but also satisfying to the listener. Written for large orchestra, the overall sound immediately grabs the audience. Rapid movement, constant drive and a build to the final section held the interest in a work that at times gave a cinematic impression. My feeling at the end of this work was that one listening was not enough. I’m sure there was ample musical development and innovation that I just didn’t pick up. In essence, I was swept along in a totally enjoyable ride, but would love to hear more.
Moving to the symphony as the second work, rather than the concerto, allowed the big orchestral set up to remain on stage. Tonally it also provided a smooth transition from the first work. Martinu’s Symphony No. 1. at around 40 minutes duration, fitted comfortably into the first half. Whilst every audience member’s experience is different, for me this meant this work, that needed the most ‘listening attention and thought’, came earlier allowing me to listen with fresh ears, but also to sit back later and simply enjoy the concerto. Like Fourth Alarm, this symphony was not one I was familiar with, so I will have some homework to do and it’s now in a playlist for future listening. In particular, the 3rd movement, the Largo, was sublime. Ominous undertones and huge weighty chords held the attention of the hall and showed us the MSO at its best.
Born to famous opera singers, the South Korean soloist Clara-Jumi Kang followed the path of child prodigy; an incredibly young start to lessons, European studies, Julliard, overcoming injury, competition success, and a soloist career. Her performance of the Brahms was intense, particularly in the first two movements. She showed absolute concentration and dedication to the mood. The final movement allowed us a glimpse of her enjoying the giocoso character with clear joyous dialogue with various sections of the orchestra. An obvious affinity with Brahms leads me to suspect that her 2016 recording of the Schumann Romances and Brahms Sonatas would also be a worthy listen. An appreciative audience were then sent home after an encore of unaccompanied Bach.