Left - Matthias Pintscher. Cover - Tristram Williams
It's basically impossible not to enjoy a performance by a symphony orchestra, no matter what they're playing. The rich, stirring sounds wash over you and never fail to warm the soul.
To attend a performance by an internationally renowned orchestra such as the Melbourne Symphony in an intimate setting such as CUB Malthouse is an even greater treat. It should come as no surprise then that the second of MSO's Metropolis 2009 Series concerts - Osiris - was as great a joy as you would expect.
The Metropolis Series is a chance to hear a diverse range of works that have not been widely performed. The young but accomplished German conductor Matthias Pintscher has programmed the 2009 Series, tracing his formative influences in the French tradition and combining this with some of his own works as well as new works commissioned as part of the MSO's Cybec 21st Century Australian Composers Program.
The Osiris concert comprised four very different works. The first, the Australian premiere of Archeologia del telefono, composed by Salvatore Sciarrino, could be regarded as a musical history of the telephone and its human context. It's a composition that's as odd as it sounds, especially towards the end as orchestral instruments mimic the sounds of dial tones and mobile phones, but you can't help but be taken in by the soundscape.
Moda, by Sydney composer Elias Constantopedos, is an entirely different affair. At just 26 years old (the same age as this reviewer), Elias is something of a wunderkind, graduating from the Sydney Conservatorium of Music with Honours in 2005 and having already composed and produced several full-length dance works in collaboration with dance choreographer Vicki Van Hout.
Moda was commissioned as part of the MSO's Cybec 21st Century Australian Composers Program and Elias was in attendance for its world premiere performance as part of the Osiris concert. Asked by conductor Matthias Pintscher what he believes is the identity of a 21st century Australian composer, Elias, looking relaxed and sounding decidedly Australian, says Australia is part of a global community and he must therefore look all over the world for inspiration.
Inspiring stuff indeed, as is Moda itself, an exploration of musical fashions and trends from throughout the 20th century. It has the feel of a film soundtrack; varied styles but with a theme running throughout.
The third composition, entitled Nobody knows de trouble I see, is a one-movement trumpet concerto by Bernd Alois Zimmermann. It's based on an African-American gospel song and accordingly a Hammond organ was wheeled onto the stage to evoke the sound of a Gospel church. The mood of the composition is dark yet proud, with a moving performance on trumpet by soloist Tristram Williams (who in his spare time, somewhat incongruously, is part of an electro-acoustic band called DIODE.)
The eponymous final composition is a work by conductor Matthias Pintscher. Another Australian premiere, Osiris is inspired by the story of the Egyptian God who was murdered and torn into pieces by his brother Seth, before being reassembled and brought back to life by his wife (and sister!) Isis. The work begins with a wholesome totality of sound and traces the story musically through mournful sorrow and then intricately, piece by piece, that original sound is rediscovered, though as a reflection of what has occurred, it doesn't sound quite the same or as wholesome as before.
Osiris, both the composition and the concert overall, was a wholesome, if at times somewhat challenging, delight. If you enjoy listening to a live orchestra perform (and who doesn't?) but you'd like to try something a little different, take the opportunity to see the final two concerts in the Metropolis Series 2009. Each performance is something uniquely special.
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Metropolis Concert 1
Venue: Merlyn Theatre, CUB Malthouse
Date/Time: Saturday 2 May at 8pm
Bookings: mso.com.au or Ticketmaster on 1300 136 166