When a familiar favourite rises above the routine there’s no more appreciative audience than WA Symphony Orchestra’s regular following at Perth Concert Hall.
This weekend it was concert master Laurence Jackson’s turn in the limelight, and both he and the band made the most of the occasion for Mozart, Bruch and Tchaikovsky.
Bruch’s Violin Concerto No.1, a gem of the Romantic repertoire, tends to be played either with steely resolve or mellow melancolia, but Jackson was stoically resistant to extremes; weighing each tentative note of the opening solo passage for its fullest value.
Cadenza-like musings summoned the full ensemble before a florid and sonorous statement of the first theme, single and double-stopping by turns fluid and dramatic.
When the second figure came around it had an expressive, yearning quality, unlocking a feverish flourish in the orchestra — conductor Guy Noble not afraid to unleash the romantic tension underlying the piece.
Jackson’s return to cadenza mode seemed to find extra spectrum in the harmonics. When he rolled seamlessly into the second, Adagio movement, he tapped the other end of the range with delicacy and resonance; just enough vibrato holding the tone true and limpid.
The theme’s reprise in full strings was dynamically well balanced and the return of the solo violin more poignant at each entry, with fine lyrical clarity and constant presence even in the fastest of high phrases.
Leading into the Finale, urgent strings and winds seemed to demand fire in the fiddle, but Jackson struck a balance in attack both measured and tuneful.
There was also balance between minimalism in the solo and power within the ensemble. Which band is going to drown its own concert master, after all?
Nor did it challenge an at-times idiosyncratic reading of rhythm that maintained tension until a rousing conclusion, with loud cheers and multiple ovations from the hometown crowd.
The evening had opened to warm, rich tones in brass and woodwind, ceding to lilting strings, for Mozart’s Magic Flute overture.
The theme of the opera is backward-looking, echoing the mystical tales of the Baroque era, but the music quickly rushes towards the future, with a glimpse of a Romantic life not fully realised in Mozart’s early death.
The brass and wind choir, a harbinger of Bruch and Tchaikovsky’s era, were given full rein, Brent Grapes and Peter Miller making the most of German trumpets often associated with later works.
After the break, Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.4 brought horns and lower brass into play, the thunderous opening fanfare cascading down through the register and back up again, the hand of fate idiom morphing to melancoly in woodwinds and dance macabre in strings; devolving into a darkly mysterious swirl, rising and falling like the vicissitudes of fortune.
Interplay between woodwinds made the most of WASO’s leading voices, dancing attendance with Alex Timcke’s timpani on gossamer-like strings; building intensity to confront a repeat of the opening blast, mixing and repeating.
Noble handled rhythmic and dynamic transitions easily, with more firepower in the climax to the super-sized first movement than many a full symphony.
Liz Chee’s oboe introduction to the second, Andantino, stanza was light and mournful, balanced by warmth in the harmonic progressions of the ensemble, rising over fatalistic brass and timpani.
For the Scherzo, the pizzicato chorus across strings maintained close control — an odd passage in an otherwise emotionally complex work — woodwinds interrupting the reverie with a jaunty ditty before brass intoned a sterner version of the theme.
Attacca in every sense into the Finale (Allegro con fuoco), notes scattered in a flurry of kinetic energy across all departments.
It’s the sort of brash, big band sound that WASO does so well and Noble delivered all that, returning to the climax for an impromptu encore, celebrating all the way.
WASO is back in the Concert Hall on Thursday at 11am for Beethoven’s Egmont Overture and Brahms’ Symphony No.4, under the baton of WA luminary Peter Moore, returning on Friday and Saturday at 7.30pm and Sunday at 5pm, for Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, played by local prodigy Shuan Hern Lee, and the Brahms, all under Moore’s baton.