Review / Soloists bring balance and brilliance

Photos by Peter Hislop

BOOKENDED by works of Beethoven, this concert by the National Capital Orchestra, under the direction of Leonard Weiss, had some highs and not-so-highs.

Opening the program was Beethoven’s overture to his only opera, “Fidelio”. This was the last of four he wrote for the opera, with which he wrestled for many years, revising it three times. Unfortunately, a couple of sections of the orchestra weren’t quite in tune and this marred the performance, which otherwise was quite fine, if a little stilted at times.

Next was Haydn’s Symphony No 49, nicknamed (by the publisher) “La Passione”. The tuning problem continued into this work and was especially noticeable in the first movement Adagio, which, like “Fidelio”, seemed stilted. Overall the performance was fine enough if quite subdued, even for a work that is somewhat sombre anyway.

The second half of the program opened with a work for piano/four hands by contemporary Australian composer, Martin Wesley-Smith. It was something of an odd fit in a program otherwise devoted to classical orchestral music, but “My Brother Jack”, played by Edward and Stephanie Neeman provided a welcome lift to spirits. It is a splendid work, based on the French folk song “Frère Jacques”, and is quite demanding for the players, weaving as it does through the melody from one end of the piano to the other. There are some strange timings, syncopations and a great deal of expression with some sudden extremes, too. The Neemans did the work very proud indeed.

Closing the concert was the main work, Beethoven’s “Triple Concerto for Violin, Cello and Piano in C Major”. The soloists were CSO concertmaster, Barbara Jane Gilby (violin), David Pereira (cello) and Edward Neeman (piano). This was a very fine performance.

There’s a lot of musical action going on between the soloists themselves as well as between them and the orchestra. Melodies pass from one to the other and back again all the way through and it is quite a job for the conductor to keep everything going. Leonard Weiss did this superbly, keeping the orchestra at just the right volume level and in beautiful balance both within and with the soloists. The orchestra responded magnificently and created a real sparkle to support and enhance the performance of the soloists.

Communication between the soloists is vital in a work like this and all three were masters at it. Timing, volume and tempi were impeccable, there was brilliant balance of sound between them and all three were perfectly attuned to each other. No one soloist outshone another, but each was virtuosic in their own right, so the result was very much one-for-all and all-for-one, concluding what, overall, was a very enjoyable concert.

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