Left - Emma Pearson
Beethoven’s Ninth sold out 3 performances at the Perth Concert Hall. The composition is unarguably a classic masterpiece, an example of humanity reaching for the divine.
This performance, as part of the Emirates Masters Series, began with the Australian Premiere of Perth born Liza Lim’s Pearl, Ochre, Hair String. The piece is said to have been inspired by the pearl shell carvings of the WA Kimberley region. It was a modern work with strong use of percussion (there were 3 musicians in this section compared to just the one required for Beethoven’s Ninth). Another interesting instrumentation choice was the inclusion of the serrated “guiro bow” used by the solo cello at the beginning of the piece. The bow hair is wrapped around the stick to create an uneven playing surface, and the sound produced is granulated and created to inspire the vision of the shimmering surface of a pearl. There were also some distinctively Australian sounds representative of our native fauna and birdlife.
A short interval followed the 20 minute “support act” and we returned to hear the Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op.125 Choral.
Critics have, in the years since its premiere in 1824, had plenty to say about Beethoven’s Ninth. It has been attached to significant events ranging from Hitler’s birthday celebrations in 1938 to the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989 and now to it being the official anthem of the European Union.
Led by the highly accomplished Paul Daniel, Principal Conductor and Artistic Adviser of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra, the musicians held the attention of the captivated crowd until the conclusion of the 67 minute piece. However, something seemed slightly uncontrolled about the way that Daniel held the musicians together. Perhaps it was the body or work itself that created that appearance, given that is had been described as possessing “demonic energy”.
The fourth (and most well known movement) “Ode to Joy” was one of the highlights. The WASO chorus were powerful, passionate and well rehearsed. The soloists Emma Pearson (soprano), Sarah-Janet Dougiamas (mezzo soprano), Aldo Di Toro (tenor) and Jose Carbo (baritone) were charismatic and most capable.
One of the most powerful orchestral sections in the fourth movement was when the celli and bassi together marked out a tantalising rhythm so softly that the audience, barely breathing, strained to absorb the elusive sound. So seductive was that initial stage that when the violas joined and the volume quickly swelled it was almost an unwelcome release from rapture.
Thunderous applause that went on for many minutes and many returns to the stage for the conductor, soloists and chorus director Marilyn Phillips indicated how much the Perth audience enjoyed their evening with the work of Ludwig van Beethoven.
West Australian Symphony Orchestra presents
Conductor Paul Daniel
Venue: Perth Concert Hall
Dates/Times: 7.30pm, 25 – 27 November, 2010