The orchestra takes sides with students

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Guest soloist Andrew Blanch on guitar. Photo: Peter Hislop

Music / Side by Side Chamber Orchestra. At Llewellyn Hall, May 24. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.

ORCHESTRAS around Australia help inspire student musicians along their path to the professional world, but here the Canberra Symphony Orchestra actually gives students a chance to perform with it side by side.

Guest soloist Andrew Blanch on guitar and student pianist Mia Huang along with staff and students from the ANU School of Music and the Canberra Symphony Orchestra (CSO) under conductor Max McBride presented a program of much-loved chamber music.

Beginning with just eight string players and Andrew Blanch on guitar for Vivaldi’s “Guitar Concerto in D Major”, this intimate setting created a wonderfully clear and direct sound. Blanch’s classical guitar was slightly amplified, and this made the balance sit just right against the eight players in Llewellyn Hall.

The enchanting, slow movement offered a unique close experience of this most famous tune. This timeless music that moves along at a walking pace never sounded better and it was played with a real feel for the music by Blanch.

The lively and well-balanced third movement had some lovely expressions between the double bass and David Pereira on cello and the guitar, which the audience warmly applauded.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Piano Concerto No. 17 in G Major” K. 453 performed by pianist Mia Huang and the combined forces of the CSO and School of Music staff and students sounded so clear and bright, they made this the standout work of the night for this reviewer.

Soloist Mia Huang performs with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra. Photo: Peter Hislop

Huang who sits upright yet relaxed and played with no sheet music knew the piece inside out. She even added special touches in timing to give the concerto more weight. Her balanced playing fitted the elegance of the piece perfectly.

At times, Huang could have given the music more presence through a greater dynamic to compete with the orchestra, but her accuracy and sensitivity for the music could not have been better. In the solo sections for piano, her playing stood out with for its timing and volume. The extra emphasis she added to the tempo put her signature on the piece.

Conductor Max McBride presenting a program of much-loved chamber music at Llewelyn Hall. Photo: Peter Hislop

The slow movement with its sad song was made more poignant by the woodwind players who were exceptional all night. The whole work gelled especially well, though it was hard for part of the audience to see the conductor as the piano sat centre stage hiding Max McBride who added his special touches throughout the night.

If composers are going to write 101 symphonies, by the time they get to 99 they might have run short of musical ideas, but not Haydn. His “Symphony No. 99” the seventh of his monumental London Symphonies had such a variety of tone colours throughout, where again, the woodwinds not only led but gave the symphony breathing room was a joy to hear.

This was a concert of musical charm and delight. Every performer created beautiful sounds. This reviewers only complaint is that Canberra does not get to hear them side by side more often.

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