Musical Fireworks | Melbourne Symphony OrchestraLeft - Christianne Stotijn. Cover - Rinaldo Alessandrini.

With sweeping gestures, gleeful flourishing and the occasional exuberant leap, conductor Rinaldo Alessandrini led the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra through an exquisite evening of Musical Fireworks.

Beginning with Handel's 'Music for the Royal Fireworks', this was a program you could really get into, and Alessandrini was clearly the right man to put the musicians through their paces, as crouching, coaxing and beckoning conspiratorially, he drew out the orchestra's full dynamic range.

It was also the right place. The Melbourne Recital Centre is a sorely under-appreciated venue, the warmth and precision of its acoustics and the opulent yet somehow intimate performance space of the Elisabeth Murdoch Hall complement the optimism and finery of the score itself.

The highlight of the evening was the appearance of renowned international mezzo-soprano Christianne Stotijn to perform two scenes from Handel's 'Ariodante' and a scene from his musical drama 'Hercules'. The three selections showcased Stotijn's exceptional vocal talent and emotional range – the drama and intensity of 'Where Shall I Fly' drifted into the tortured melancholy of 'E vivo ancora? Scherza infida' before bouncing back into the bright and hopeful 'Dopo notte'. Stotijn's presence held us all transfixed – her performance swelled with anguish and empathy.

It seemed upon occasion that singer and orchestra intertwined – at one point in 'E vivo ancora? Scherza infida' when the plaintive tones of the bassoon picked up just as the singer's vocals tapered off, before it too collapsed gently back into the haunting atmosphere of the broader accompaniment. Breathtaking moments such as these send a tiny shiver down the spine – a testament both to the skill of the performers and to the insight and suppleness of Handel's composition.

After C.P.E Bach's rousing 'Sinfonia in F (W.183/3)', the evening concluded appropriately with Mozart's 39th Symphony, the final movement's triumphal brass section and mischievous flute sending us on our way with a great sense of forward momentum and a reminder of the courtly amusement the evening had afforded us.


Melbourne Symphony Orchestra presents
Musical Fireworks

Conductor Rinaldo Alessandrini

Venue: Melbourne Recital Centre - Elisabeth Murdoch Hall
Dates/Times: 28 October 2010 @ 8pm; 30 October 2010 @ 6:30pm
Tickets: $125.00 - $75.00
Bookings: www.ticketmaster.com.au