Willoughby Symphony Orchestra | Dedications
Sunday May 21, The Concourse, Chatswood
I came to this concert specifically to hear the world premiere of a new orchestral work from the winner of The Young Composer Award and was delighted to be treated to a full-bodied program that celebrated the power of human connection, paying homage to the profound bonds between composers, their muses, and the individuals who inspired their creative endeavours.
To begin, WSO’s Concertmaster Maria Lindsay lead the strings unconducted to weave together the vibrant rhythms of Béla Bartók’s Romanian Dances, a collection of spirited and evocative pieces that transported the audience on a journey through the rich musical traditions of Romania. They embraced the intricacies of Bartók’s folk-inspired melodies with a captivating energy.
Associate Conductor Dr Sarah Penicka-Smith then took control of the orchestra while Lindsay transformed into soloist to perform Alla Pavlova’s lush Monolog written as a tribute to Pavlova’s violinist father, and a dazzling performance of Australian jazz legend Tommy Tycho’s Violin Concerto, dedicated to Lindsay herself. Before interval Lindsay (with musical partner in crime Penicka-Smith) dazzled us with a playful encore of Vittorio Monti’s Czardas. They were both obviously having a great deal of fun racing each other through the frantic passages, and hamming up the schmaltzy glissandos and pauses, both in complete control of their instruments, what joy.
Then, the piece I was waiting for. 2023 Young Composer Award winner Klearhos Murphy’s work Prayer for Makronissos was dedicated to his great-grandfather who was wrongfully exiled to a prison camp during the Greek Civil War. With powerful lyrics based on a traditional Greek Orthodox prayer used in times of hardship this was not simply a well structured orchestration but an emotive work which embodied the composer’s personal connection to the music. The evocative sound of tolling bells which began the work made the audience sit up and listen and what followed was a nicely crafted vertical integration of the various instruments of the orchestra and choir which created a warm blanket of sound to tell this tragic story, now immortalised in music.
The Young Composer Award, presented by the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra, and now in its 19th year, aims to encourage and promote the talent and creativity of emerging composers in the orchestral music field. The winning composer’s piece is selected based on its artistic merit, innovation, and overall impact, all highly evidenced in today’s premiere by Murphy. The prize not only provides recognition and exposure for the young composer but also offers a valuable platform for their composition to be heard by a professional orchestra and audience. The 2023 award was made possible though Mark Wakeley’s generous support in memory of partner Steven Alward.
The final work on the program was Antonín Dvořák’s lesser known Hero’s Song, a single-movement symphonic poem. Dedicated to an unspecified hero it is a work characterised by its grand and expansive nature. Dvořák employs a wide range of orchestral colours including brass fanfares, sweeping string melodies, and vibrant woodwind solos to create a vivid sonic landscape which conveys a sense of heroism, struggle, and ultimate victory which were ably articulated by WSO, an extremely competent orchestra. Overheard in the foyer, “They just keep getting better and better!”.
Each work in this concert showcased a unique dedication, revealing the intimate stories and personal connections that breathed life into the music. Congratulations Klearhos Murphy and Willoughby Symphony Orchestra and Choir It was an afternoon of giving, and we as an audience gratefully received your beautiful music.