Perth Concert Hall
reviewed by Neville Cohn
Mahler’s massive Symphony No 1 is a challenge to even the most experienced of professional orchestras. How, I wondered, would an ensemble of young people, nearly all still in their teens, fare in traversing one of the toughest and most exhausting of all orchestral terrains?
Let it be said at once that for sheer commitment, this young orchestra deserves laurels. And Christopher van Tuinen’s calm podium presence and steady beat did wonders in coaxing a unified response from his forces, no small achievement considering the relative inexperience of the players and the many challenges the score poses. No less to WAYO’s credit, was the particularly meaningful contribution of the brass section which, more often than not, brought a professional sheen to its playing. Tempi were finely judged throughout and, crucially, the shifting moods of the work were evoked with more than ordinary skill.
I listened with pleasure to the playing of Joel Bass, winner of the 2012 Woodside Concerto Competition.
Hovhaness’ Fantasy on Japanese Woodcuts is not for timid soloists. It is villainously treacherous and requires way-above- average skill with the mallets and an iron nerve to negotiate its intricacies – and this Bass did with professional aplomb. There was not a dull moment in a performance I cannot too highly praise not only the physical command this young musician brought to everything he played but his remarkable ability to reveal the demon that lurks behind the concerto’s tidal waves of notes. Throughout, van Tuinen took the WAYO through an accompaniment which was finely gauged to not only accommodate each subtlety of the solo part but also the challenges posed by the score. Bravo!
credit: Jon Green
Mozart’s overture to The Marriage of Figaro was less uniformly persuasive. Certainly, the strings needed a more uniform tonal sheen. But this should not discourage the orchestra from tackling more works of the classical era which might to advantage figure more prominently in WAYO’s programs. They require a disciplined focus, the practice of which can only be to the long-term advantage of the orchestra.