The brief of the Musician Project Orchestra conducted by Max McBride is to “provide a powerful, unique and vital training opportunity to aspiring orchestral musicians”. The large orchestra made up of mainly 20-something-year-old musicians and is supported by a bevy of eminent mentors from the various major orchestras around the country.
Nothing like a student orchestra
Let me say immediately however that this orchestra sounds nothing like a student orchestra. From the opening bars of the Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major (Op 77) the phrasing was subtle and the articulation was delicate. McBride had the full and intense attention of the focussed orchestral players. The warmth of the resultant sound and surging emotions demanded by Brahms, were there in spades. With younger orchestras, the domination of brass tone is often a problem. Not here, the texture was always balanced and subject to the musical effect required. A satisfying sound indeed.
The soloist Xenia Deviatkina-Loh achieved great beauty of tone in her high “filato” notes and her first movement cadenza was excellent. However, while playing with the orchestra, her timing was occasionally ragged; rushing into the next phrase and beating the conductor to the punch. Nor did she always balance her tone with the orchestra. Sometimes one had the impression of someone practicing alone in her studio rather than having had adequate time with the orchestra.
A privilege to hear Nielsen’s Symphony 3 rarely performed in Australia
The Symphony 3 “Sinfonia Espansiva” (Op 27), written around 1910 by the Danish composer Carl Nielsen is rarely performed in Australia, and I have never heard it played live before, so it was a privilege to hear it presented here. The expansive scale the name implies was well handled by conductor and orchestra both. Very different in texture to the Brahms, here the brass was often “off the leash”. The piece has a huge dynamic range, from the grand opening and a wild and expressive waltz, down to the gentle second movement which includes a short section of baritone and soprano vocalise (for no immediately explicable reason) and folk music references and fugal sections. The final fourth movement coda was thrilling.
The future of orchestral music in Australia is bright
The enthusiasm, focus and dedication of the musicians in this orchestra is impressive indeed. The orchestra is worthwhile in its own right, but if it is the training ground for our next crop of professional orchestral musicians, the future of orchestral music in Australia is bright. Thanks Max McBride for your vision.
The Musician Project | Brahms and Nielsen | 2:30pm Sunday 21 June, 2015 | Verbruggen Hall, Sydney Conservatorium