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Energetic end to a ‘satisfying’ concert

ANU Orchestra in Concert. Photo: Peter Hislop.
Music / ANU Orchestra. At Llewellyn Hall, May 26. Reviewed by GRAHAM McDONALD.

THE ANU Orchestra is made up of School of Music students studying orchestral instruments, with the pre-concert publicity suggesting they were augmented to some extent by musicians from the Canberra Symphony Orchestra.

Conductor Max McBride has been directing such ensembles for many years and has brought this current crop of young musicians to a high standard.

The orchestra performs standard repertoire material, in this case a movement or two from symphonies by Beethoven, Brahms and Tchaikovsky as well as a short Vivaldi “Concerto for Two Cellos” in a pared back chamber orchestra format.

The concert opened with the first movement from Beethoven’s “Symphony No 2” with a minimal brass section of only two trumpets, following the original scoring and using natural trumpets (with no valves). This was well balanced and most enjoyable.

After the addition of more brass and a couple of horns, the concert moved on to the first movement of Brahms’ “Symphony No 2”. This challenged the orchestra rather more, with a very quiet opening from the horns and brass sections which did push the dynamic control of the musicians. Once the music got moving all was fine, though there were a couple of momentary slips of cohesion that were quickly remedied, but the performance was a little underwhelming.

After a reset for a chamber orchestra of 14 strings in addition to the two cello soloists, the next work was the Vivaldi “Concerto for Two Cellos in G minor”. This was again, most enjoyable performed, with some fine solo cello playing from James Monro and Gabriel Fromyhr, well supported by the other string players. The second movement was especially well done with the two soloists accompanied only by the other two cellos and bass for a delightfully sonorous effect.

The final part of the concert consisted of the third and final movements of Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony No 4.” The third movement is built around all the strings playing pizzicato before being quietly joined by the brass and winds for a most pleasant and interesting sound. The energetic final movement brought the concert to a satisfying end, with the tuba adding some wonderful bottom-end grunt to the overall sound.

The ANU Orchestra returns to Llewellyn Hall next week for a fundraising concert in support of the Australian Red Cross Ukraine Crisis Appeal and Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders).

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