I’m having a Beethoven moment.
For a while it was Mendelssohn and Mozart who were my obsessions but now it is Beethoven. The highlight of WASO’s concert on the weekend was the performance of Beethoven’s Fifth, which I thought I’d be sick of by now. But no, it was thrilling.

On Friday I’m heading to WAAPA for a concert of Beethoven’s last three Piano Sonatas performed by Eri Nakagawa, can’t wait.

Below is my review from the WASO concert.

WA Symphony Orchestra
Perth Concert Hall
Review: Rosalind Appleby
copyright The West Australian April 2012

“It is like going to a concert and then going out clubbing afterwards,” said Principal Conductor Paul Daniel. He was describing the dance-like intensity of Thomas Ades’ violin concerto Concentric Paths which WASO were about to perform in the opening concert of the Classics series.

The concerto was composed in 2005 and stretches the definition of a ‘classic’ but the orchestra with American violinist Kurt Nikkanen gave a persuasive performance. Voice-breakingly high violin darted above an orchestral accompaniment heavy with low brass and bass drum. In the grim middle movement the violin line was punctuated by orchestral explosions and overlapped by strings and brass, concluding with a series of long descending phrases. In the last movement the beat alternated between groupings of two and three, giving the effect of a dancer tripping over at regular intervals, or perhaps, as Daniels hinted, classical musicians at a nightclub!

The 21st century classic was bracketed with repertoire representing three centuries of music. Handel’s 18thcentury Music for the Royal Fireworks was conducted with flourish by Daniel. Mark Fitzpatrick led the brass section with bright dexterity suitable to the Baroque era, although the density of the string sound gave a more 19thcentury lushness.

The fireworks theme continued with an orchestral arrangement of Debussy’s early 20th century piano piece Feux d’artifice. Arranger Colin Matthews transported the fluidity of Debussy’s music into an orchestral fantasy world. Shimmering strings and whirling woodwind evoked the glitter of fireworks, while harp glissandi added a touch of stardust.

The 19th century was represented with an undisputed classic of the repertoire, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Daniel brought an uncharacteristic sternness to this compact, intense symphony. The opening movement was fast and angular which was effective but caused disarray; each section of the orchestra had a different speed for the famous ‘fate knocking at the door’ motif. Daniel’s careful contouring of the reflective second movement allowed for space and silence, contrasting with the vigorous fugue of the third movement. Daniel gave the orchestra full reign for the glorious finale, which was delivered with blazing conviction.