Sydney Camerata

Sydney CamerataPhoto - Maja Baska

The recently formed Sydney Camerata Chamber Orchestra chose Paddington’s Uniting Church for its concert last Saturday December 19, and it is indeed the perfect setting for an ensemble of this size; with beautiful sandstone walls and extremely high ceilings, it offers the perfect acoustic.

Under the direction of artistic director Mathisha Panagoda, the concert included music ranging from Torelli’s seventeenth-century violin concerto Opus 8, no.8 through to Copland’s twentieth-century masterpiece ‘Appalachian Spring’, and whilst the concert was a little on the short side, it made up for this in the quality of musicianship and commitment to the music. The performers clearly enjoyed themselves and the audience caught their enthusiasm early on in the evening. Also pleasing to see was the relatively young age of many in the audience – even some children – who seemed as enthralled with what they were hearing as their parents and grandparents.

The evening started out with the aforementioned Torelli violin concerto and soloist Liz Gormley achieved a light and buoyant tonal quality throughout, quite at home with the improvisatory style of this music. All members of the ensemble communicated well with one another, playing with commitment and enthusiasm and just as you thought the first movement had ended, did you realize that the entire piece was in fact over; a swift little concerto of less than ten minutes.

The following piece was the first movement of the Mendelssohn Octet in E flat major, written in 1825 when the composer was only sixteen. The Camerata played the ‘allegro moderato con fuoco’ brilliantly and I could hardly believe that the number of players for this piece was the same as the previous one. With eight musicians only, the ensemble produced a full-bodied, rich, warm tone belying the size of the group and played with such musicality that when the piece ended, the lack of the second, third, and fourth movements was disappointing; I can only hope that their next performance of the octet will be the entire piece!

Following the Mendelssohn octet was ‘Down Tango’d’, a delightful little morsel if oddly named - I would love to know the origin of the title - written by Australian composer Stephen Yates. This was a nice addition to the progam, not only for the quality of the music making, but also because it is good to hear music belonging to our own place and time. A surprisingly tonal composition, ‘Down Tango’d’ fitted nicely alongside the other compositions and demonstrated the versatility of the orchestra.

The final choice for the evening was Aaron Copland’s ‘Appalachian Spring’, written originally as a ballet score in 1944 and achieving enduring popularity ever since. The story told is a ‘spring celebration of the American pioneers of the 1800s after building a new farmhouse’ and under conductor Luke Gilmour the Camerata successfully captured such images. This piece included a piano which was easily heard alongside the other musicians – not always the case when piano meets orchestra – and following the reflective opening of clarinet and strings, I found myself drifting off into mountain ranges and open spaces. The playing was in turns gentle and thought provoking, then energetic and rhythmic and the perfectly in tune playing of the small wind ensemble (clarinet: Rowena Watts, flute: Lina Andonovska and bassoon: Tamasin Meller) amongst the strings evoked clear images of the American landscape. It was so nice to experience this music live and feel the vibrancy of the performance and the energy of the musicians – quite a different experience to listening in the confines of one’s lounge room.

This concert was a success and if any criticism were to be made, it would be about the length of the program. Whilst some say a short concert is a good concert, the quality of the music making and the deliciousness of the Camerata’s warm, full bodied  sound - not to mention the fantastic repertoire - had me longing for at least another fifteen minutes in which to turn off the outside world and gently drift away …

Sydney Camerata Live in Concert!

Venue: Paddington Uniting Church | 395 Oxford Street, Paddington
Date: Sunday 19 December, 2009
Time: 7:30pm
Tickets: at the door - $20 / $15 / $10

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