When Miriam Margoyles, doyenne of stage, film and TV told the capacity audience in the Festival Theatre that we were going to be “feasting on sound” she hit the proverbial nail on the head. The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra then served up a sumptuous feast of delicious music in delectable style, under the energetic and masterful baton of its young Principal conductor, Nicholas Carter.
The Cunning Little Vixen Suite by Leos Janăcek was an unlikely appetiser, especially for the considerable number of children in the audience, but served with the suggestion that their “vixen-sharp ears” could discern the story that was being expressively told by the orchestra, it was made more suitably digestible. Carter’s neat control brought out the expressive unity of the strings as well as the grandeur of the full passages of this quite complex work – almost filmic in its jumping from scene to scene: exploring, chasing, questioning, and affirmative answering.
Benjamin Britten’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra was a perfect entrée, especially when elucidated with Margoyles’ rhyming narration, introducing each section and instrument of the orchestra. She showed how Britten so cleverly announces Purcell’s theme, and then takes it apart in various variations and puts it all together again. Then, after every instrument has had a go, they all come together in the final fugue, expertly led by the woodwinds, as each section follows another into the fray until the brass brings back the original theme to a triumphal finish.
After the interval (which according to the free program , didn’t exist, but the Festival website insisted that it did), the Dessert in the form the Polovtisan Dances from Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin came before the main course. The well-known and recognisable tunes from these delectable dances were further enhanced by subtle lighting changes and projection onto the sound shell, as the orchestra responded energetically to the youthful energy and exuberance of the conductor, especially in the demanding fast passages and changing rhythms.
Then came the main-course-moment the children had been waiting for. Miriam Margoyles came back to her story-telling chair and introduced all the instruments – somewhat fewer in number – needed for representing the characters in Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. She then charmingly and engagingly told the story, teaming smoothly with the orchestra. (Such is the undoubted talent of one who admits she doesn’t really like children, and did not really know this work!) Again, the ASO proved its talent and flexibility in expressively uniting the music with the narration, bringing the concert to a most satisfying conclusion, so that all went away replete.
Adelaide Symphony Orchestra
Peter and the Wolf
Narrated by Miriam Margolyes
Venue: Adelaide Festival Theatre
Dates: 11 – 12 March 2017
Tickets: $89 – $30
Part of the 2017 Adelaide Festival