All for Love | Woollahra Philharmonic Orchestra

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Image by Geoff Sirmai

For the final concert of the year, Woollahra Philharmonic Orchestra invites guests Laurie Liskowski and Cindy Sims for a concert all about love. Including three pieces spanning the 19th and early 20th centuries, the program featured unusual solos for French horn, bassoon, flute and clarinet amongst the other beloved symphony members.

Opening with a selection of movements from L’Arlesienne Suite by Georges Bizet, originally composed as incidental music for the French play The Girl from Arles by Alphonse Daudet. While the play was a reported failure, the “Prelude” went on to great commercial success as a recognisable anthemic tune. The strings begin the action before a wave of morale boosting from woodwinds, and then the cellos and horns together. For this first movement, the orchestra seems to engage with episodic entrances where each section plays an announcement before the saxophone (Rachel Down) and clarinets slow the momentum down for an ethereal harp (Marjorie Maydwell) sequence. As the piece progresses, it lets go of the opening grandiosity for an emotive delicacy with prominent violin segments before returning for the closing movement with gusto and an upbeat percussion section.

For the second piece, the orchestra are joined by Laurie Liskowski and Cindy Sims on French horn for Friedrich Kuhlah’s Concertino for Two French Horns. The piece has a slow, sombre opening that precedes the horns’ regal and serious tone. At times the horns play off each other while at other times they seem to relay or contrast rhythms for extra interest. Written as a single movement, the piece has as organic flow between the full orchestra and the soloists as they ebb and flow for the most effective support. The closing episode becomes quite playful after such a heraldic and grand piece with some unusual warbling or puttering sounds on the horn to fade out.

With the last piece came a warning about the impending increase in volume as Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet contains the customary drama of adapting Shakespeare’s play to music and was intended for a bigger space than St Columba’s Uniting Church. Woollahra Philharmonic Orchestra chose a selection of the piece’s movements, composed to be performed with a ballet, to demonstrate the great variety of Prokofiev’s composition. The opening movement “Folk Dance” contrasted with the rest of the program with its upbeat and lively quality that sets the scene for much action to follow. Following along with the action of the original tragedy, there were great tonal and narrative shifts between each movement with some unexpected featuring of instruments like the flutes (Martin Cohen and Verity Cash) and clarinets (Julian Alder and Michael Eidel) in “Juliet as a Young Girl” and the bassoon (Anna Yerbury and Clare Payne) in “Scene (the Street Awakens)”. Lots of use of percussion (David Lockeridge, Brad Lucas, Isaac Smith, Thomas Waller) added depth and detail with bells, drums, and triangle as distinct from the crystal clear strains of the violins.

To send off the year under the flamboyant conducting of Thomas Tsai, the All for Love program found fun and novelty in classical pieces perhaps more quickly recognised outside the orchestral context.

All for Love was played at St Columba’s Uniting Church from November 30th – December 1st

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