The final time Zelman Orchestra gave a significant public efficiency it was within the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, the place many members of the rain-jacketed viewers have been sheltering beneath umbrellas of their socially distanced pens to listen to Luke Kinds’ No Pal however the Mountains: A Symphonic Tune Cycle. Any discomfort was greater than compensated for by the shifting poetry of Afghani refugee, Behrouz Boochani, and the standard of the efficiency. Baritone Adrian Tamburini was in nice voice and Zelman Symphony was in nice kind.
Nearly precisely one 12 months later the pandemic continues to be with us, albeit in much less deadly kind, and political selections nonetheless trigger untold struggling. Now we now have one other wave of refugees – Ukrainians fleeing their devastated properties. So what to program? Ought to a Russian composer be featured? Fortuitously, Zelman Symphony’s conductor, Rick Prakhoff and visitor artist, Kristian Chong, thought that Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No. 2 in F main could be a superb selection. It was. Earlier than taking part in Sibelius’s Fifth Symphony, Prakhoff defended his resolution – not that it actually wanted defending. He instructed us how members of his circle of relatives are from Kyiv and the way Ukrainians thought of music by Russian-born composers as their very own. In addition to which, of all Russian composers, Shostakovich is thought for his battle with Stalin’s reign of terror, making a piece by him notably acceptable.
Two back-to-back piano concertos is a giant ask for any pianist, and Kristian Chong mentioned that this was the primary time he had undertaken such a feat. As one in every of Melbourne’s most skilled and technically expert artists, the big viewers was delighted that he had; many would have attended for simply that cause.
Mozart’s fascinating Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor is a well-liked work, which Chong carried out with notable readability and finesse. A dramatic orchestral introduction, paying homage to Don Giovanni, noticed the start of some commendable work from the horns, flute, bassoons and oboes – the start of what proved to be an exceptionally strenuous exercise for these gamers all through the night. The piano enters alone in a extra meditative temper, however issues quickly warmth up and proceed, usually in within the type of a dialogue between piano and orchestra, with contrasting concepts juxtaposed, even inside the cadenza – so rigorously formed by Chong. The gradual motion, entitled “Romance”, begins quietly however stormy passages of thrilling virtuosity interrupt till the tranquil melody reasserts itself. After additional drama and contrasting moods within the finale, the top of the second cadenza didn’t fairly go to plan. There was, nevertheless, a commendable restoration from a barely early entry by the orchestra – a credit score to Prakhoff’s clear course and gamers’ presence of thoughts. As with most of Mozart’s works, together with the top of this concerto, issues ended fortunately. Younger pianists within the viewers will need to have been impressed by Chong’s fluid, apparently easy command of even essentially the most demanding passages.
Shostakovich wrote his Second Piano Concerto in 1957 to rejoice his son Maxim’s 19th birthday and his commencement from Moscow Conservatory. By then Stalin was useless and life had taken a extra optimistic flip, and that is mirrored within the primarily cheerful character of the concerto. With extra gamers – two extra horns, two clarinets, one other flute and a piccolo – the orchestral texture turned denser. A bassoon launched the energetic theme of the opening Allegro motion, adopted by clarinets, oboes and at last an unobtrusive piano. There was some full, wealthy sound coming from the orchestra on this motion, with pleasingly resonant contributions from the decrease strings. In the direction of the top, the piano’s scales and tremolos have been briefly submerged by the orchestra’s full-bodied taking part in of the primary theme, solely to resurface in a closing fast outburst of playful vitality. The Andante struck a extra subdued, romantic be aware, whereas the ultimate Allegro featured dance rhythms and was usually extra flippantly orchestrated. Pizzicato strings, some passages of terribly bell-like tone from the Chong’s piano, and a jubilant ending left the viewers smiling.
Contemplating the continued social distancing restrictions for rehearsals, the selection of a troublesome Sibelius symphony was decidedly formidable. The work calls for extra brass, together with a solo trumpet, to supply the darkish, forbidding environment of the primary motion, which was efficiently conveyed. Though not all string gamers appeared to have the ability to handle a number of the tremolo passages, it actually didn’t matter – even absolutely skilled gamers have been recognized to skip a couple of notes right here and there. In the long run, the power of key gamers and Prakhoff’s well-defined course resulted in a commendable efficiency on the entire. The 4 horn gamers deserved the primary of the conductor’s particular acknowledgements, as did the wind gamers and timpanist.
Zelman Symphony can chalk up one other profitable outing that includes a warm-hearted sense of neighborhood and a few distinctive music making.
Heather Leviston reviewed Zelman Symphony’s live performance of music by Mozart, Shostakovich and Sibelius, that includes pianist Kristian Chong as visitor artist, carried out within the James Tatoulis Auditorium at Methodist Women’ Faculty on March 26, 2022.