Having seen The Musician Project back in June, I knew we were in for a treat and I wasn’t disappointed. This is a large orchestra of young musicians mainly in their 20s, full of professional dedication and youthful enthusiasm, led by inspiring educator and conductor Max McBride. The Verbrugghen Hall has probably the best acoustic of any concert hall in Sydney. These concerts deserve to be a sell-out and the small audience numbers in no way reflected the quality of the performance.
Music from a different world
The first of the two works presented was incidental music by Schubert for the play Rosamunde. McBride re-arranged the order of the pieces which made more sense as a symphonic presentation, rather than the chronology presented for the play. The overture for Die Zauberharfe was inserted at the beginning which made for a grand and cheerful opening, well balanced by placing the strong Ent’ace 1 at the end. The full and richly-textured “bookends” and the Ballet Music 1 present a strong side of Schubert that is rarely seen in the more reserved symphonies. The performance was disciplined but executed with palpable enjoyment.
It occurred to me that this music was from a different world, where a play included a full orchestra in the pit to provide “incidental” music. These days, it’s a rare treat to have any live musicians involved in plays at all.
Apart from some unexpected dark twists in the Rosamunde suite, there was not a lot here to challenge the listener. But with a concert of emotionally engaging, well played, beautiful romantic orchestral music, you’ll hear no complaints from me.
Surging romanticism from Brahms
Brahms’ Symphony in C Minor was a totally different kettle of fish. His brilliant first symphony, which was some 20 years in the writing, has all the tight architectural structure of Beethoven’s symphonies, but is filled with Brahms’ surging romanticism.
McBride’s double bass view of the world brought out strong lines from the strings and brass. I loved the dramatic presence of the contra-bassoon cutting through the texture. There was a genuine freshness in the interpretation.
From the opening timpani section to the exquisite oboe, clarinet, horn and violin solos in the slow movement, and the haunting grand melody in the final movement, the musicians played as a single unit with a single common purpose. They were together musically and emotionally.
There were very many cold-shiver moments as the orchestra embraced us with their edge-of-the-seat intensity. This was a wonderful concert indeed. Let’s fill that hall next time!