Conducted by the effervescent and enigmatic Paul Daniel, the West Australian Symphony Orchestra’s Mozart and Elgar Classics Series was a wonderful evening of music. Mozart’s Symphony No 34 was contrasted with Korngold’s Cello Concerto before the evening was rounded out by Elgar’s dramatic and powerful Symphony No 2.

Fancy finger work was needed throughout Mozart’s Symphony No 34, not only from the strings, but the winds, and all rose admirably to the occasion. In particular the third movement was set at a frantic pace, and I remained fascinated not only by the sound, but being able to watch orchestral member’s hands race up and down the instruments. The Oboe had a key role in the third movement, and whilst played well, lacked the clarity and depth of sound from where I was sitting to be heard clearly.

Korngold’s Cello Concerto, with WASO’s principal cellist Rod McGrath as the soloist, was the highlight of the night. Born in Czech, but growing up primarily in Vienna, Korngold was writing music from a young age, with two operas and orchestra works completed before he turned 20. He is mostly remembered for his work in the US on film scores in the 1930’s – late 1940’s, most famously The Adventures of Robin Hood (for which he won the Oscar for Best Original Score, 1939). Korngold was amongst a group of composers who moved film scores away from mere atmospheric music, to large scale scores that he considered “opera without singing”.

His Cello Concerto in C major evolved from his score for Deception, a 1946 film about a love triangle that ends badly. It is f course a very filmatic piece, abstract yet romantic in its fullness, and Daniel conducted the orchestra superbly through the light and dark moments. McGrath played with emotion and depth and at the encouragement of the audience (after multiple bows), returned to play another piece.

Elgar called his Second Symphony “the passionate pilgrimage of the soul”. Although not as popular as his first, it none the less is a stunning piece of work. It is obviously a passion of Daniel, as he introduced it with a fascinating insight into the world of Elgar and the clues he put in the Symphony, which are only revealed through Elgar’s letters and notes to family and friends. Daniels’ short speech gave the audience a fascinating insight into the music, and added an extra element to the work.

A full romantic orchestra performed the Symphony, which was at times full of energy and exuberance, and at others a tumult of cascading sounds. Repetition is a key element in the piece as are short, 2 – 8 bar themes. The second movement (Larghetto) is powerful for the vast grief it portrays, and it’s almost a relief to move onto the crazy Rondo of the third movement.

Interestingly, for all its power and grandeur, the piece ends on a quiet note, with the key theme returning briefly before the orchestra stills. WASO was splendid in this last movement; bringing the night to its restful, peaceful end.

West Australian Symphony Orchestra presents

MOZART Symphony No.34 K.338
KORNGOLD Cello Concerto
ELGAR Symphony No.2

Conductor Paul Daniel

Venue: Perth Concert Hall
Dates/Time: 7.30pm, Friday 16 & Saturday 17 July
Tickets: $25 - $77

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