Left – Sara Macliver (photo Frances Andrijch). Cover – Paul McMahon
The Western Australia Symphony Orchestra (WASO) closed their Master Series for 2011 with a memorable evening at the Perth Concert Hall, featuring Mozart’s glorious Mass in C Minor as well as an unexpected tribute, a world premiere and a Ravel piece.
Conductor Paul Daniel introduced the evening with enthusiasm, announcing that there would be a surprise performance to start with – a piece which had been composed for long-time WA arts advocate, Margaret Sears. The six minute Halcyon was a delightful appetiser, a stirring and majestic tribute to Sears, who was in the audience.
Ravel’s Pavane for a Dead Princess, originally written in piano form and earning Ravel instant acclaim, was an enchanting sample of this French composer’s rich body of work, casting a spell over the audience.
Next up was the world premiere of Two Memorials – WASO composer-in-residence James Ledger’s tribute to two composers – John Lennon and Anton Webern. The Western Australian native was interviewed prior to the performance, explaining that both composers to whom he paid tribute had been shot dead and giving the audience some insights into the fascinating composition.
This introduction should have prepared me for the sinister overtones of Two Memorials but after the relative gentleness of the first two pieces, I was still caught unawares by the darkness of this slasher film meets psychedelic, trippy Beatle piece. The eerie sounds of the harpsichord were overlayed with alternate tempos building to a violent climax. It certainly achieved its aim of paying tribute to these disparate composers and creating a feeling of foreboding and I must admit I breathed a sigh of relief when it was finished.
The soothing sounds of Mozart’s mass followed the interval – the unfinished large scale work was allegedly written in gratitude for the recovery to full health of his fiancé Constanze, who later performed the soprano part at its premiere.
The WASO chorus filled the hall with celestial sounds and the soloists were first-class. Soprano Sara Macliver is an opera veteran and dazzles as a soloist. One of the highlights was the pairing of Macliver and second soprano Penelope Mills, whose counterpoint was a pleasure to hear. Tenor Paul McMahon and baritone James Clayton (recently enjoyed by Perth audiences as the pompous Falstaff), when they finally had a chance to stretch their vocal chords towards the end of the evening, added a richness to round out the soloists.
The grand scale of Mozart's beautiful piece was displayed by the rich textures of the orchestra, the depth of the chorus and the agility and aptitude of the soloists.
A fitting end to WASO’s Master Series for 2011.
West Australian Symphony Orchestra presents
Venue: Perth Concert Hall
Dates: 25 & 26 November, 2011