Impressive works superbly performed by a brilliant WSO

by | Apr 22, 2024 | Ambassador thoughts, Choirs, Composer, Orchestras, Piano, Premiere

Willoughby Symphony Orchestra | Emperor

April 20, 2024, The Concourse, Chatswood, NSW

This was a particularly well-balanced concert from the WSO with three unfamiliar works followed after an interval by one very popular one.

ray linNothing can be more unfamiliar than a first performance and we were treated to the winning entry for the WSO Young Composer of the year. Voyage of the Silk Road by Ray Lin takes the listener on a fascinating journey through varying landscapes and fabulous tales. Surprisingly tonal for this age, there are many fortissimo passages with the timpani and percussion getting a real workout. After a quiet passage, it ends with a blast of triumph. The Willoughby Symphony Choir accompaniment added to the mysterious nature of the piece.

Gustav Holst’s Somerset Rhapsody written ten years before The Planets is based on three tunes from rural Somerset. First a “sheep-shearing song” begins with a sublime tune on solo oboe, the second, “High Germany”, is a march depicting soldiers going to war, while the third, “Lover’s Farewell“, represents a fair maid’s weeping goodbye to her war-bound lover. The latter was familiar to me and overall the work had a flavour which made me want a glass of cider!

Ralph Vaughan Williams combines his penchant for adapting pre-baroque music and his love of sacred music in his Benedicite which is basically a glorification of the Creation. Triangles and bells introduce the lower voices of the choir before a percussive lightning crack introduces the soprano solo. Eden Chifroni is Sydney bred and trained. She has won numerous awards including the prestigious Demant Dreikurs Song competition. She has an impressive vocal range and a strong soprano voice, which she needed as the orchestral backing was often loud. In summary, an impressive work superbly performed by what has become a brilliant and accurate orchestra.

It’s lucky that Beethoven never heard the moniker “Emperor” being applied to his fifth Piano Concerto – Only five years earlier, he had angrily torn up the dedication to his Eroica Symphony that he had made to Napoleon when he declared himself Emperor! It certainly is a majestic Concerto and the composer doesn’t hold back, only rarely straying into a minor key. Neither did the soloist Winnie Su hold back. A memory lapse in the first movement seemed to spur her on and the controlled power that she showed in the last movement was astounding. Winnie Su was also born and bred in Australia. She has won numerous awards including the North England Concerto competition and the Beethoven competition.

Luke Spicer has conducted in many countries including England, Germany and Italy and has been guest conductor of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. He appeared to galvanise an orchestra whose praises I have already sung and synchronised the choir and instrumentalists to produce a great concert.

 

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