As always, this Sydney Symphony concert was awesome and also very interesting as it brought together three different styles, orchestra layout and specific mood. The conductor David Robertson (Chief Conductor and Artistic Advisor starting in 2014) is a wonderful communicator and he introduced this contrasting and inspiring program.
It started with Vaughan Williams and his most famous work ‘Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis’ (1909). When you see it live, the most fascinating part is the unusual setting of the orchestra. There are three strings ensembles, physically separated, of diminishing sizes. The theme is repeated by the three distinct ensembles at different times and various harmonies building to an impassioned climax.
When you hear it you feel as if you have heard it before… the timeless melody can be heard as something old or new. I thought it would be a great music for a movie – and I was right, it has been used in the film ‘Master and Commander’!
Then we were treated to Thomas Adès’ Violin Concerto – Concentric Paths (2005), written for and performed by the talented Anthony Marwood. The best part was David Robertson’s interactive explanations of each three movements with sound examples by Anthony Marwood and the orchestra. I am not a contemporary music fan and I am used to more classical grounds but the helpful explanations, the brilliance and verve of the solo violinist, as well as the pleasure to listen to a piece by a living composer, made it really convincing and inspiring.
After the interval we were finally given what we were all waiting for. Tchaikovsky’s Pathétique Symphony No. 6 (1893). Tchaikovsky himself admitted he has put his whole soul in this symphony and he considered it his best and most sincere work. In the end, this became the last piece he composed as he died twelve days after seeing the first performance and correcting a few notes.
This music fills your head and heart – it takes you to another place.
If you didn’t hear this fabulous piece, please do listen to it on youtube, download it on ITunes (or pick up an old fashioned CD recording if you prefer) – as most people say the greater your familiarity, the greater your enjoyment – and then try to see it live, it is really worth it.