In Maestro Lee Bracegirdle’s inaugural program since being appointed Chief Conductor and Artistic Director of the Woollahra Philharmonic Orchestra, the spring program was a bold welcome to the new season with some beautiful classics played wonderfully by the full orchestra. Equally exciting was the accompaniment by two internationally renowned soloists to the concert’s proceedings.
The orchestra started the program with a very familiar piece: WA Mozart’s “Overture to The Marriage of Figaro“. It’s a bouncing and enjoyable piece meant to allude to the comic opera full of shenanigans and hilarity to follow. This fast-paced piece was a wonderful welcome for the audience as it conjures up images of happiness and love, very fitting for a spring concert.
The following piece, Sinfonia Concertante for Flute and Clarinet in B Flat Major, Op 41 by Franz Danzi, was where the orchestra came to life. The light and lilting score was playful and full of joy. Featuring the soloists Bridget Bolliger on flute and Dimitri Ashkenazy on clarinet, this was a real treat for the audience. Bolliger and Ashkenazy bounced off each other with interest and connection, sometimes playing against each other in an innocent rivalry but then joining forces for beautiful partnerships. They played so beautifully and were so admired by the audience, they couldn’t avoid giving an encore. This second piece was wilder, a bit more dramatic than the Danzi in its use of emphatic trills, sweeps, and flourishes. It was a pleasure to see these performers through another piece. If the flute and clarinet don’t represent spring with their twisting and buzzing through the air, I’m not sure another instrument can compare.
Finally, Maestro Bracegirdle introduced the most challenging piece of the concert, the Brahms. He explained how divisive Brahms’s work can be with his insistence on the music standing on its own. Symphony No 3, though, is inspired by the composer’s life motto “free but happy”, another fitting representation of a breaking spring. This piece is dramatic and it swept the orchestra up in the way it crescendos to such heights before crashing into nearly no sound at all. This piece is big and bold with an underlying tension between the joy of freedom and the threat of loneliness that independence brings. It was dynamic and bombastic and unusual as only Brahms can be.
The spring program for the Woollahra Philharmonic Orchestra was a wonderful way to welcome the season with a little bit of something for everything. Starting familiar, moving into beautiful and uplifting, and into unusual but still enjoyable, the selected pieces created a unique concert that was beautifully performed. We can only wait to see what summer will bring.
Grandeur was performed at St Columba Uniting Church September 8th – 9th.