Having grown up watching and listening to WASO, Northern Lights was a welcome return after not hearing them for a number of years. Three varied pieces created a diverse and enjoyable concert showcasing the orchestras’ skill as a leading state orchestra.
WASO's classic series is music from the core classical repertoire; although I confess I only recognized the Dvorak piece. This concert, the first in the 2008 Classics Series was the Australian debut of Norwegian conductor Arild Remmereit. His energetic and passionate conducting was enjoyable to watch.
WASO have rearranged their layout since I last saw them. The double basses now sit behind the first violins and cellos, and I noticed that for this event, no sound barriers were used between the horns and the rest of the orchestra. I was more impressed then, at the orchestras’ ability to bring the sound down almost to nothing then build it again to fortissimo, ably conducted by Remmereit.
The first piece was titled Isle of Bliss by Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara. It was a short twentieth century piece full of pathos and emotion. Rautavaara states that the fantasia is based on the themes around a ‘peaceful island haven’. The orchestration called for a reduced horns and percussion / timpani section, with the melody mainly in the strings. It began in a cheery fashion, but I found it full of sentiment, although I had trouble following the themes as it chopped and changed.
Carl Nielsen’s Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra was a delight to listen to. World renowned clarinetist Dimitri Ashkenazy brought so much energy and enthusiasm to the piece, moving with the music almost to the point of dancing. In a break from normal orchestra etiquette, he began by introducing the piece and explaining that the musician Nielsen wrote it for suffered from bipolar disorder. In effect, Nielsen wrote this into the piece, and the audience was treated to moments of great serenity closely followed by wild passages as the clarinet raced up and down the octaves. Ashkenazy's skill was highlighted in the virtuoso passages and it was his interaction with the unusual use of snare drum that I found particularly enjoyable. My only negative comment was that the snare at times overruled the fine clarinet sound - and I was sitting furthest away from it.
For me, the highlight of the night was the orchestras Symphony No.7 by Antonin Dvorak. First performed in 1885 in London, No. 7 is a dark, powerful and solemn piece. It is the only symphony he was commissioned to write and it is by far his most ‘tragic’ piece. Dvorak stated that his symphony “must be capable of stirring the world, and may God grant that it will”. And indeed it does, at least in this fine performance from WASO.
The piece in D Minor begins with a ominous three note pattern and it is these first bars of music that return time and time again throughout the piece. During the second movement there were pockets of calm serenity where various wind instruments highlighted short, melodic subjects.
The final movement of the symphony crescendos repeatedly, almost march like, showcasing the tight control and skill of the orchestra, before ending in a more elated major mood. With all its darkness and sadness, it was a wonderfully poignant piece to end the evening.
West Australian Symphony Orchestra presents
Isle of Bliss Rautavaara
Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra Nielsen
Symphony No.7 Dvorak
Arild Remmereit Conductor
Dimitri Ashkenazy Clarinet
Venue: Perth Concert Hall
Dates/Times: 8pm, Friday 14 & Saturday 15 March
Tickets: $20.00 - $73.00
Bookings: WASO on 9326 0000 or www.waso.com.au