‘INEFFABLE’:WOOLLAHRA PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA @ ST COLUMBA CHURCH

Above: Oboist Callum Hogan joined WPO and conductor Daniel Pini for this concert event. Featured image: Daniel Pini leads the orchestra in Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ Symphony. Photos: Paul Nolan.

This concert with guest conductor Daniel Pini returning to Australia began with an orchestral arrangement of a Song Without Words originally composed for piano. This work was a special start to the concert in two ways. This piece was not one of Felix Mendelssohn’s many Lieder Ohne Worte but from his sister Fanny Hensel’s Opus 8 of  846.

Also exciting is the fact that cellist and conductor Daniel Pini’s arrangement  for orchestral of this work is heard in world premiere, being penned especially for this concert event. Pini’s arranging is detailed and meticulous. It offered a sizeable and satisfying shift from the keyboard to orchestral mapping.

Next on the programme was another visitor-this time from Sydney and the SSO was oboe soloist Callum Hogan, performing the quite open, sunny and beautiful ensemble-feel of the Richard Strauss oboe concerto. Hogan’s poignant cantabile and especially his seamless unravelling of long filigree with a keenly shaped forward direction was a pleasure to perceive.

In particular the second movement’s plaintive song was beautifully shaped by this soloist and WPO’s unified sympathetic accompaniment.  As in many oboe concerti throughout history, there is such a wide  expressive range for the soloist to explore. Hogan gave us satisfying colour, mood and articulation shifts, from meditative stillness to breathtaking agility.

Cadenza work in the two sections surrounding the 3rd movement  punctuated the group synergy effectively and wowed the audience repeatedly as Hogan’s commanding performance leapt between gesturing and registers.

Beethoven’s ‘Eroica’ Symphony (No 3) is dense, sprawling and extended. It was a dramatic and structural gargantuan to end this chameleon of a concert. Pini’s fit and obviously joy-filled direction was satisfying to watch as he guided the orchestra cleanly through the architecture. Beethoven’s structure here was well signposted.

It was a pleasure to experience Pini’s excellent tempo choices. The stamina of WPO players was obviously inspired by his energy and solid, impressive, joyous presence at the podium.

Above: Callum Hogan performed Richard Strauss’ Oboe Concerto with Daniel Pini and WPO. Photo: Paul Nolan.

Also important to the momentum of this sprawling work was the conductor’s attention to the lighter nuances but the deliberate nature of the Beethovenesque outbursts as well as clear building and maintenance of large climaxtic moments.

The solemn and lengthy second ‘marche funebre’ movement was extremely eloquent. Like the first movement, attention to architecture and Beethoven’s expansion of form to suit the bold expressiveness required was well outlined.

The wind and brass soloists and choirs in particular handled Beethoven’s tossing of material about and gilding textures with spirit, surprise, taste and well coursed shape. Brass in the third had a warm tone in choral voice with sensitively shaped moments of emphasis. Wind and brass heard separately or together where provided a commendable creation of shifting atmosphere on many occasion.

Timpanist David Lockeridge also provided precise and spirited timbre throughout. Driving Pini’s keen, suitable tempi, it was heroic and strong at all times.

The ‘Eroica’ Finale was led with fierce air-pinching fight by  this conductor. As throughout the work it succeeded with this orchestra because of clear timekeeping as well as ideal pacing of the material.

Contrasts of texture and character were most excellent in this final movement, where no signs of true exhaustion slipped through the determined musical mesh. This was admirable, even after three mighty battle-style movements of Beethoven’s new order of lengthy, anthemic symphonic construction.

And as for the musicianship, spirit and finding options for new directions or pathways to climaxes, this conductor was unflagging in discovering nuanced detail, maintaining and escalating momentum as he shared an innate interpretative and expressive fitness.  He could have gone on to perform Beethoven’ s 5th straight away with equal intensity and poise.

We were treated well enough though with the length and quality of new and established repertoire, a rarer concerto and an old favourite in this concert, repeated the following day to crown a substantial weekend of music making.

 

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