Kildea guides symphony orchestra to greatness

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Paul Kildea. Photo: Penny Bradfield
Music / “ACTEWAGL Llewellyn Two”, The Canberra Symphony Orchestra, at Llewellyn Hall, June 19. Reviewed by TONY MAGEE.

MAESTRO Paul Kildea has an eclectic conducting style, some of which is very reminiscent of the great Fritz Reiner. Tiny, almost imperceptible movements of the stick somehow coax his players into life with total precision. At other times, he explodes into body language and gestures of almost “Bernstein-esque” proportions.

These combined skills served to sweep the Canberra Symphony Orchestra through a concert of great enjoyment. Opening with a joyous performance of the overture to Mozart’s Opera “The Marriage of Figaro”, through to a captivating performance of Rodrigo’s “Concerto Madrigal”, and then a new work by Kenneth and Kirsten Lampl in memory of cellist Nelson Cooke, as well as a majestic and powerful rendition of Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 8”.

Slava and Leonard Grigoryan Raz

Brother’s Slava and Leonard Grigoryan were the guitar soloists in the Rodrigo and played with everything required to make this work a performance of true delight. It was sensitive and delicate at times, at other times there were powerful and commanding Spanish rhythms as well as duets of such grace and beauty. All of this, combined with their almost telepathic mode of musical communication, served to make this work the highlight of the evening.

The orchestral playing to support them was beautiful, often delicate. The wind section were called upon in the first three movements of the piece in intimate interplay with the soloists, the stings just delicately playing pizzicato in support. At one point I noticed the viola section just tapping their bows on a string – such is the delicacy of the writing at certain points during this piece.

Later in the work, the string section expanded the sound into a lush orchestral wash, supporting the soloists with great style – almost as if a vast ocean was keeping them afloat and safe.

The Grigoryan’s had several really special moments which stood out for me. At the end of the Pastoral movement they finished with tender harmonics. The Fandango movement opened with stirring high intensity strumming. In the two sections marked “Andante nostalgico” there was a fascinating question and answer dialogue between the two guitars as well as an extended cadenza, in which they both displayed their world class skills, at one point quoting from the composer’s other great concerto, “The Aranjuez”.

The Lampl’s “Elegy for two Cellos and Orchestra” (incorrectly titled in the program as “cello and orchestra”) was given its world premiere. It is simple in chord construction, beautiful and quite reminiscent of a Hollywood film score style of composing. Lush, but reserved strings backed the quietly respectful duet cello melodies played by the seasoned and highly professional David Pereira and astonishing new comer, 15-year-old Benett Tsai, who was once a student of Pereira’s.

In the fine tradition of the old adage “never perform with animals or children” young Tsai came through with a tone projection and intensity in his playing that shone through so brightly and was emotional, heartfelt and very moving.

To finish, Beethoven made a triumphant conclusion to this excellent evening of music. Beethoven has been featured a great deal on Classic FM over the last two weeks, due to his being voted most favourite composer by the Australian listening public in the recent ABC Countdown. Kildea once again demonstrated his considerable conducting skills in manipulating and guiding his orchestra through the massive range of dynamics, tempos and orchestral textures to make this symphony the great work that it is.

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