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W. A. Symphony Orchestra

WASO Chorus/ St George’s Cathedral Consort

Perth Concert Hall

reviewed by Neville Cohn

Ravel’s Sheherazade doesn’t feature frequently in concert programs. It’s formidably difficult to bring off successfully – and over the decades, I’ve sat through some sadly deficient accounts of  this masterpiece. But I am happy to say that at the weekend, Ravel’s score flashed into frankly magnificent life.

Siobhan Stagg

At every level, excellence was apparent. Asher Fisch’s direction was beyond reproach – and the highest praise must go to soprano Siobhan Stagg who sounded as if the music had been specially written for her. It abounded in enchanting vocal subtleties and flawlessly shaped phrases. This was artistry of the rarest kind, sonic heaven, an offering that would surely have moved even the grumpiest of concertgoers. I look forward very much to listening to this most impressive soprano again.

Indeed, just as Mrs Gaskell once so memorably said of Anthony Trollope’s novel Framley Parsonage, I wished this performance would go on forever. And, near-miraculously, even the compulsive clappers who had earlier sabotaged Mozart’s Symphony No 40 by bursting into implacable applause between movements, in the Ravel work the applause brigade was stunned into respectful silence here – a considerable achievement.  I’d gladly have listened to Sheherazade all over again, not least for choral singing of impressive order. This would be ideal material for a WASO CD. Master flautist Andrew Nicholson was at his persuasive best here.

I was relieved, as I’m sure others would have been, that there was no intrusive applause during the Ravel performance, hand clapping that broke out like an unsightly rash between movements of the symphony. Despite this irritation, though, the skill with which Fisch and the WASO presented the inner movements and the finale of Mozart’s magnificent work, enabled the listener to experience the composer’s miraculous ideas to the nth degree. Bravissimo!

Poulenc’s Stabat Mater is music of a very different stripe. It’s been around for nearly 70 years – but it will never be numbered among the composer’s most loved works. This was the first time ever that the WASO had programmed it. And under Fisch‘s direction, the work unfolded near-faultlessly. There was powerful, dramatic treatment of Cujus animam as was the case in Quis est homo. Stagg was at her most powerfully intense in Let me be wounded. Laurels in particular to the WASO Chorus and St George’s Cathedral Consort who sang very gently and so clearly in Let my heart burn. This was a most meaningful change of mood and a fine contrast to an intensely dramatic Vidit suum.

The Hot 6

New Orleans Hot Jazz
The Sewing Room, Wolf Lane

reviewed by Neville Cohn

If it was jazz, New Orleans style, you were after, then The Sewing Room in the CBD’s Wolf Lane was the place to be.

Jam-packed with aficionados, many standing as they bobbed and swayed to rhythms belted-out by musicians of The Hot 6,  it was emphatically evident that this ensemble knew very well how to deliver the goods – and it did so with immense elan. What style and energy the players brought to their performance. They delivered the goods big time. It was the real thing – and without a dull moment from go to whoa..

From time to time, the players stepped down from the venue’s tiny corner-stage and walked in procession about the crowded venue as I listened, fingers in ears, to jazz classics presented at often-dauntingly high decibel levels. Considering how very crowded the venue was, it’s surprising how the ensemble managed its rounds of the room without bumping into anyone, especially Anthony Dodos carrying an immense Sousaphone wrapped around his body like some enormous brass anaconda.

I particularly liked The Hot 6’s presentation of Sheik of Araby. It glowed with splendid tone, not least from Adam Hall’s trumpet, its playing like a golden thread through the evening, It held  the attention from first note to last. This was especially so, too, in St James Infirmary Blues, the piece that Louis Armstrong made so famous. And it was certainly in good hands at The Sewing Room. This, like so much on the program, radiated authenticity.

Throughout the evening, Bronton Ainsworth did wonders on drums. His offering was rhythmically immaculate.

Let’s Get it On was another great jazzy gem. And Kate Pass, in a number of pieces, did well on both trombone and double bass.

This was a splendidly exhilarating program.