Monday, 24 August 2015

WASO Brahms Festival



 Perth audiences have heard the London Philharmonic’s pristine version of Brahms’ First Symphony (2009) and the Berlin Philharmonic’s lush Second Symphony (2010). Most recently the WA Symphony Orchestra gave a perfunctory, rather aimless performance of Brahms’ Second Symphony (2013). Brahms' music can be so bleak and as WASO's two week Brahms Festival began I wondered would it be grim or glorious?


On Friday night under principal conductor Asher Fisch the densely packed First Symphony unfolded with clarity. The orchestra’s cohesion was breathtaking as they eased in and out of phrases and negotiated the gear changes where Brahms’ juxtaposing ideas dive, rush and halt. Fisch delineated between foreground and background layers to avoid muddy texture. His genius became apparent as he contoured both the micro spaces between phrases and the macro sweep of the symphony to shape Brahms that was tender, life-affirming and majestic. Add to this the golden sound of the strings, the heart warming horn solos and the organ-like wind section and the result was quite simply glorious.

Brahms’ Second Symphony the following night seemed less well-rehearsed. Entries were less coherent and the presto movement was not intact. But then there was the delicate pianissimo opening, the thrilling race to the end and in between the finely sculpted adagio where a fierce inhalation from Fisch summoned thick swells of sound from the violins. Neither perfunctory nor aimless, this was a lyrical and visceral performance revealing how much Fisch has shaped this orchestra.

Zukerman and Forsyth
Brahms’ Violin Concerto was performed by Pinchas Zukerman with an extraordinarily bold, flexible sound. The heart of the performance was his seemingly effortless cadenza with its smooth scales and feather-like high trills. He was joined by cellist Amanda Forsyth on Saturday night for Brahms’ Double Concerto. The husband and wife team were synchronised and Forsyth’s extroversion gave a dance-like energy to the work.

Brahms’ remaining two symphonies and two piano concertos will be performed this weekend; expect landmark performances that could sit proudly on any international platform.


This review copyright The West Australian 2015.


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