Sydney Symphony orchestra Simon Tedeschi concert reviews


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The Concert Hall at Sydney Opera House was packed tonight around all four walls with a mix of subscribers, tourists from the 3 cruise ships in town and groups of high school students. A lovely light program assured an enjoyable evening and some relief from the humid 30 degrees outside.

Guest conductor Andrea Molino launched the orchestra into a wild, attention grabbing contemporary piece to open the concert. “The Bright Day Clarion Calls the Quaking Earth” was composed by Brisbane based composer Paul-Antoni Bonetti. Surprising and ever changing, it began with percussion, cellos and double bass using harsh, attacking staccato. As more sections of the orchestra were added, the uneven rhythms felt reminiscent of Leonard Bernstein. The piece evolved into a hip hop feel then reduced down to muted trumpet and swooping violins that could easily be used as a movie soundtrack. From here, it built once again to a great crescendo with trombones adding clapping to the percussion, strong brass and dance worthy pounding. The audience erupted with enthusiasm and even more so when they discovered the composer was on hand to accept their adulation. A tall, lean figure topped with a high ponytail loop of hair, Bonetti respectfully thanked the conductor and orchestra before taking his final bow. It was a highly popular piece especially suited to the many teenagers in the room.

Following was concert pianist Simon Tedeschi who is well familiar with school’s concerts. He’s also well familiar with Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue having performed it many many times. Generally, the concert soloists who start their professional performance work early often lose their sense of playfulness. Not so with Tedeschi who performed his first Mozart piano concerto in the Sydney Opera House when he was just nine years old. Playfulness might easily be Tedeschi’s middle name with his wonderful comedy shows that introduce classical music to school children and his escapades into Jazz with associates such as pianist Kevin Hunt and violinist George Washingmachine.

Tedeschi’s Rhapsody in Blue is ever changing, particularly in the solo parts where he has more scope to bounce the tempi around. There were a couple of places where he bounced against the orchestra but all was put right again fairly quickly. The interpretation has become so much his own, it is hard to imagine the work being written in the 1920’s. It almost feels like a spontaneous monologue expressing ideas and emotion as a most natural conversation. He worked well with Molino and once again the audience burst into loud applause. A sweet little sampling of 1930’s jazz made the perfect encore. It was a short first half to the program with about 30 minutes of music but already, the people were feeling happy and satisfied. If it ain’t broke, why fix it?

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Sydney Symphony Orchestra at the Concert Hall of Sydney Opera House.

Second half, Molino did not appear on the podium but had secretly sneaked in with the musicians and planted himself behind the strings in front of the woodwind. So the strings appeared to begin by themselves in a more curious piece “Central Park in the Dark” by 20th Century American composer Charles Ives. Ives is an interesting character, one who kept the day job so he could write whatever he wanted. Hence, he had no need to please the crowd with commercialised, stereotypical tunes that did not suit his quirkiness.

This piece began with the strings murmuring along in unison following a very simple melody. There was a sense of unease about it. Who is hiding in wait behind a tree? It didn’t feel safe. As the work progressed, odd sounds and songs were thrown in, usually clashing against one another. After all, if you were in a park listening to the sounds around you, it’s unlikely they will begin at the start of a bar. 

Another lovely connection in the program, this piece features some snippets of the Tin Pan Alley song “Hello! Ma baby”. Gershwin spent his early musical years working on Tin Pan Alley which is a small district in New York beside Broadway where many music publishers had their offices.

Ives own description of the piece:

“The strings represent the night sounds and silent darkness – interrupted by sounds from the Casino over the pond – of street singers coming up from the Circle singing, in spots, the tunes of those days – of some “night owls” from Healy’s whistling the latest of the Freshman March – the “occasional elevated”, a street parade, or a “break-down” in the distance – of newsboys crying “uxtries” – of pianolas having a ragtime war in the apartment house “over the garden wall”, a street car and a street band join in the chorus – a fire engine, a cab horse runs away, lands “over the fence and out”, the wayfarers shout – again the darkness is heard – an echo over the pond – and we walk home.”

Composed in 1906 and designed to be a soundscape of the park 30 years before that, the piece was devoid of any mention of motorcars. The clash of noises must have incredibly modern for a 1906 audience however, once you pass by the biggest drama of a cab horse escaping and crashing through a fence, all becomes silent and mysterious again. The strings are back to murmuring their simple melody and now it becomes much clearer they represent that background murmur you get in any city. It’s a place that is seldom completely quiet, no matter how late at night. A very interesting piece. Two pianos were required, the grand featuring guest principal Catherine Davis and a little upright with Simon Tedeschi humbly joining the team.

To top off the evening was a wonderful medley of music from Bernstein’s West Side Story, another lovely link to New York. The orchestra were superb with a long line of percussionists bopping away along the back row (seriously, who can keep still during West Side Story?)

As an advocate for modern music Molino was the perfect choice for this program. With legs astride, drawing the most out of the orchestra, Molino worked the full program without manuscript in front of him. Considering the complicated work presented it is an astounding achievement to have memorised the full orchestral score. Molino is clearly well ahead of many other conductors in terms of brain capacity. Let’s hope we see a lot more of him with the larger orchestras and opera companies around Australia.

It was a wonderful night over all. A superb curation ideally suited to newcomers to the concert hall. Let’s expect it will encourage the high schoolers to attend more frequently in the future and keep our orchestra thriving.



Andrea Molino – conductor

Simon Tedeschi – piano

Sydney Symphony Orchestra


The Bright Day Clarion Calls the Quaking Earth by Paul Antoni Bonetti (born 1981)

Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin (1898-1937)

Central Park in the Dark by Charles Ives (1874-1954)

Symphonic Dances from West Side Story by Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990)

Related links

Sydney Symphony upcoming concerts:

Simon Tedeschi website:

Whatson at the Sydney Opera House:

Fun facts about George Gershwin: