It is two and a half years into Alexandre Da Costa’s appointment as associate professor at the WA Academy of Performing Arts. On Friday night 26th August the Canadian violinist led the elite students from the Indian Ocean Ensemble in a concert which, while not flawless, revealed that his enthusiasm and immense musicality are rubbing off.
The concert, titled Vienna to Berlin by Night, opened with a darkly flavoured performance of Richard Strauss’ Capriccio. The ensemble (supplemented by teaching staff) captured Strauss’ weighty Germanic soundworld and over this Da Costa’s gleaming ‘Di Barbaro’ Stradivarius violin sang with haunting beauty.
The masterworks by Beethoven and Schoenberg as promised in the publicity didn’t eventuate. Instead the remainder of the concert featured Viennese waltzes by Johann Strauss which revealed there are still some obvious growth areas.
The waltzes were arranged for harmonium, piano and string quartet by Berg and Schoenberg. The smaller ensemble size meant there was nowhere to hide and issues with pitch and timing began to emerge. Lagunen-Walzer lost its poise as the rhythm tumbled forward filling all the spaces between notes. Wein, Weib und Gesang suffered from clashes in tuning. I admit I expected better.
What the students lacked in fundamentals they made up for with spirit. Decisive leadership from the first violin in Rosen aus dem Suden gave the dance a playful energy that was a reminder of the waltz’s origins as a rustic folk dance. Kaiser-Walzer (written in tribute to the Kings of Germany and Austria, a historical note which would have illuminated the theme of the concert had it been explained to the audience) had moments of delicacy and muscle, the addition of flute and clarinet adding to the fairy-floss sweetness.
The large ensemble regrouped with Da Costa at the helm again for an elegantly impassioned Blue Danube and the famous Radetzy March which was supplemented by percussionists and enthusiastic audience participation. It was a fitting finale to a concert that for all its technical flaws showed spirited musicianship.
This review copyright The West Australian 2016.