Tag Archives: The Four Seasons

Australian Brandenburg Orchestra

Perth Concert Hall

reviewed by Neville Cohn

A surpassingly fine account of a baroque oboe concerto was the chief joy of the first half of a concert which climaxed with Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. That series of four concertos for violin has been the asthmatic, red-haired composer-priest’s biggest drawcard since being rescued from oblivion some sixty years ago. These concertos have never fallen out of favour since so, predictably, Vivaldi’s all-time big hit drew an audience of some 1200 aficionados who filled the stalls and lower gallery of the Concert Hall to capacity.

The only non-Vivaldi work on offer was Evaristo Dall’Abaco’s Concerto in C for oboe and strings, music I’d imagine might have been new to most. Here, Kirsten Barry scaled the heights, her skill on the baroque oboe, that much mellower, less piercing-toned ancestor of the modern oboe, is phenomenal, producing a near-faultlessly fashioned stream of sound that seduced the ear whether in the charmingly buoyant gigue which opens the concerto or the ultra-civilised minuet movement that brings the work to a close. The stately elegance of the finale was perfectly captured.

Throughout, Barry had the inestimable advantage of an accompaniment by the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra which, on present form, makes it the nation’s most accomplished baroque ensemble.

In The Four Seasons, soloist Lucinda Moon and the ABO pooled their formidable musical skills to glorious effect. Although Ms Moon must long since have lost count of the number of times she has played this quartet of concertos, there wasn’t a hint here of concentration wearing thin. This was no routine, run-of-the-mill reading. Instead, page after page of what must surely be the most enduringly popular of all baroque concertos for the violin, came across as if freshly minted but always within the line and contour of the 18th century. Superbly synchronised, soloist and orchestra were throughout pitted against each other in insightful ways.

Many factors, of course, contribute to performance, not least technical finesse and stylistic integrity, both of which were present in abundance. Over and above these crucial factors, though, was a youthful exuberance, a shared enthusiasm that elevated whatever the ABO touched to impressive levels of achievement.

A rewarding evening also included a Vivaldi concerto for two baroque horns with Darryl Poulsen and James McCrow as soloists. Without either keys or valves, these treacherous precursors of the modern horn are almost impossible to control completely. They pose nightmarish difficulties for players. But notwithstanding a sprinkling of crumpled notes, the soloists rose admirably to the challenge, playing with flair and style to emerge at concerto’s end with honour pretty much intact – no small achievement.

Copyright 2005 Neville Cohn

W.A.Symphony Orchestra – The Four Seasons

W.A.Symphony Orchestra



At the Gallery 3: The Four Seasons
Daniel Kossov (conductor/violin)

Art Gallery of W.A.


reviewed by Neville Cohn


The program leaflet for this concert contained a detailed note by Cathie Travers on After the Requiem, her most recent work. But I deliberately refrained from reading it until I had heard the piece which was given its world premiere performance by the strings of the W.A.Symphony Orchestra for an audience that occupied every seat at the Art Gallery of W.A..


It opens with a sustained single note thus claiming a distant kinship with the opening measures of Borodin’s On the Steppes of Central Asia and Smetana’s String Quartet No 1 (From my Life), the finale of which also has a high-pitched sustained note of dramatic significance; it is the sound that rang in Smetana’s ear as a form of tinnitus that presaged deafness which, more than anything else, tipped him over the edge into terminal madness.


In the right hands, the use of a single note can be a powerful device. And in Travers’ piece, the quietness of this ushering-in of the work was, in its way, more effective than a blaring klaxon in focussing attention on the piece. It gives way to an episode in quasi-folksy style that falls agreeably on the ear, as do measures of a louder, more rhythmically emphatic sort. I particularly liked the effect of high-pitched harmonics that sounded like the twitterings of some angelic aviary. Certainly, listening to the WASO strings upfront and close made for rewarding listening.


A program note provides intriguing information about the genesis of the piece – but it isn’t necessary to know anything about its rationale to derive satisfaction from listening to it. Considered as an essay in musical abstraction, it is more than able to hold its own.

I understand that all fifteen miniatures commissioned by the WASO to mark its 75th anniversary are to be preserved on compact disc. Travers’ piece will be one of the highlights of this collection.

Daniel Kossov, in a white suit, with black, open-neck shirt and shoes, conducted the work and then, directing the WASO strings from the violin – as well as playing from memory (no small feat) – presented Bach’s Violin Concerto in A minor as well as Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.

Although the latter set of four, 3-movement concertos inspired by the changing seasons, is one of the world’s most loved and frequently heard works, it is only very infrequently heard ‘live’ in Perth. So Kossov’s account was of more than passing interest. I found this account as satisfying as that provided by Felix Ayo with I Musici which visited Perth in 1985.


From the opening bars, it was clear that this young musician was the man for the job, bringing a rock solid technique and a fine grasp of style to his presentation. Throughout, Kossov’s colleagues responded to his direction
in an unfailingly musicianly way.

Alan Dodge spoke at length before each work, frequently alluding to this painting or that to illustrate (no pun intended) the points he makes. But, as I am not an art expert (and I imagine this might apply to others who attend these Art gallery concerts) Dodge’ s dissertations, in the absence of images of the paintings, are exasperating rather than enlightening. Would it not make more sense to let us SEE the paintings being talked about. And rather than rabbiting on at length before each piece is played, could it not be arranged for Dodge to give a PRE-concert talk, say at 7:15pm, in the Gallery foyer so that the concert proper can begin on time and be allowed to continue without interruption?

© November 2003