This is a heroic tale on a Wagnerian scale. Legendary Danish King Valdemar disturbs the natural order when he falls in love with a young maiden Tove . Erotically obsessed with each other the king takes her his seaside castle in Gurre. Only problem is that his wife, Queen Helvig  also lives there.  When Tove is murdered he curses God for his loss, and for his blasphemy is doomed with his vassals for eternity. Schoenberg puts all this to music and the result is a two hour orchestral masterpiece.

From the beginning with its pastoral beauty  and simplicity , the condemnation and punishment of Valdemar in a fortissimo wall of atonal chromaticism , to an ending of a homage to the sun signifying a return to the natural order , we are on a  musical voyage like no other. The Viennese also thought so. They wept and cheered at the finish for fifteen minutes at its first performance conducted by Franz Schrecker in Vienna in February1913.

The dramatic breadth and scope of Schoenberg’s vision requires a  concomitant commitment of resources on a vast scale. The performance sees the SSO expanded to 140 musicians and there are four gigantic golden harps on stage with ten horns and nine percussionists. 285 Choristers from the Sydney Philharmonia Choir, the Melbourne as well as the Tasmanian Symphony Chorus combine in a heroic spine chilling explosion of sound.

The voices of Simon O’Neill (Valdemar) Ricarda Merbeth (Tove) Deborah Humble (Waltaube)Sava Cemiv (Peasant) Andrew Goodwyn Klaus the Fool) and Warwick Fyfe ( Speaker) , add a unique dimension to the cataclysm of sound and cascading chaos of an SSO in  full throttle, all directed superbly by Simone Young. She is quite simply world class and 2024 will see her debut at Bayreuth conducting Wagner’s Ring Cycle.

Concert review by John Pollak