Perth Concert Hall
reviewed by Neville Cohn
I came to the Concert Hall on Saturday evening wondering to what effect the W.A. Youth Orchestra would engage with Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. This is one of the 20th century’s most complex and demanding scores, a work that even the most experienced of fulltime, professional orchestral players needs to approach with caution. It is a score that constantly challenges the players. Its rhythmic complexities are like a musical minefield; there is danger at every turn. And there can be no passengers in a work such as this. Total concentration is essential to avoid this musical enterprise from finishing on the rocks.
A one-hundred-strong WAYO (with more than fifty of its players aged 19 years or more) came through this protracted ordeal with banners flying high.
Performances like this don’t just happen. There would have been a gruelling preparation for this performance, with the WAYO musicians fronting up to rehearsals that ran from 10am to 4pm from the Monday to the Friday preceding the performance as well as during Saturday morning at the Concert Hall. There would also have had to be intensive preliminary study of the score and dedicated supervision by tutors to come up with a result as meaningful as this.
All this investment of time and skill paid handsome musical dividends.
Tze Law Chan presided over events, taking his young charges through a reading that most effectively evoked the powerfully atavistic nature of Stravinsky’s barrier-breaking score. Incidentally, at its first performance in Paris, the work (to choreography by Nijinsky) so infuriated the audience that the gendarmes had to be called to cope with the riot and fistfights that broke out in the theatre. Stravinsky was bundled into a hansom cab to distance himself from members of the audience who might have wanted to assault him – or worse.
There was also a performance of Beethoven’s Emperor concerto with Thomas Hecht as soloist. Apart from trivialising the keyboard flourishes in the opening moments of this most loved of piano concertos, the presentation was most impressive. Here was a reading that took up an interpretative position at the emotional epicentre of the concerto. Not the least of the pleasures of this account was the extraordinary range of tone colours that Hecht brought to his performance, so bringing freshness to familiar notes.
Hecht is blessed with near-infallible fingers; the slowly ascending trills in the slow movement were faultlessly spun. Throughout, wonderfully flexible wrists and an unflagging pace added to the overall impact of the performance. It was a tour de force to which the WAYO players responded with a consistently meaningful accompaniment.