Review of TSO Fireworks concert, Hobart

Review of TSO Fireworks concert, Hobart

Fireworks
Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra
Oliver Gooch, conductor
Sara Macliver, soprano
Yoram Levy, trumpet
Federation Concert Hall

Music by Georg Phillip Telemann (1681-1767) consisting of a “French” overture and a series of varied dance movements opened the program. Aside from a couple of untidy entries near the start, elegant string playing, in period style with light vibrato and articulation, marked the TSO’s performance of the “Ouverture – Suite in G, La Bizarre TWV 55:G2” under the direction of Oliver Gooch. Works by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) featured in the remainder of the concert. Soprano Sara Macliver presented three arias from ‘’Alcina’’ and ‘’Giulio Cesare in Egitto’’ with fine accuracy and control.

The greatest musical satisfactions were to come in the second half. Three more arias were highlighted by ‘’Let the bright Seraphim’’ from “Samson” where MacLiver’s brilliant coloratura was heard to great effect against splendid work from principal trumpet Yoram Levy. Best of all was the encore, the meltingly beautiful ‘’Lascia ch’io pianga” from ‘’Rinaldo’’, here daringly taken with a slight quickening of the middle section before a return to the opening tempo. Finally, Gooch thrillingly directed “Music for the Royal Fireworks” with perfectly tuned winds and splendid brass playing.

Peter Donnelly

Potter: Piano Concertos Nos 2 & 4 CD review – a little gem

Potter: Piano Concertos Nos 2 & 4 CD review – a little gem

Diminutive Cipriani Potter (“Little Chip” to his chums) was an early 19th-century British star of the keyboard, introducing London audiences to the piano concertos of Mozart and Beethoven and writing four of his own, plus nine symphonies – but who knows his name today?…

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LIMELIGHT Alina Ibragimova: We musicians deal with compassion

LIMELIGHT Alina Ibragimova: We musicians deal with compassion

In turbulent times, says the Russian-British violinist touring Australia, compassion becomes the stock in trade of composers and musicians…

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Review of Dark Mofo + the TSO, Silence

Dark Mofo + the TSO
Silence
Federation Concert Hall

“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.”

This pertinent quote from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was explored in this event conceived by Rainer Jozeps. There was no applause, performers and audience sat in near darkness. Barber’s elegiac ‘Adagio for Strings’ was played with hushed, drawn out intensity by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s strings led by concertmaster Emma McGrath, with Elgar’s heartfelt ‘Sospiri’ and Yoshimatsu’s ‘And the Birds Are Still’ sustaining the atmosphere. Pianist Tamara-Anna Cislowska made sensitive contributions in works by Peteris Vasks, Joseph Schwantner, and Arvo Pärt. The mood of repose, with ever-longer pauses, created a sense of calm and inward focus for many, a challenging unease and agitation for some, judging by the cough quota as the performance progressed. Eventually silence achieved total supremacy with John Cage’s infamous 4’ 33”. I, and several audience members I spoke to afterwards, found the whole experience intensely therapeutic and left refreshed. It also occurred to me that a concert like this could have comprised brand new pieces by some of our brilliant local Tasmanian composers. I wonder if the movers and shakers at MONA might consider commissioning music for future arts festivals!

Peter Donnelly

Maria Grenfell tutors young composers in TSO project

Maria Grenfell tutors young composers in TSO project

Leading Tasmanian composer and educator Maria Grenfell is working with budding new music makers in the coming months. Together, they’re crafting a series of works inspired by our environment, as part of the TSO Composers’ Project…

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GUEST BLOGGER: Chorus member Beth Warren on TSO Chorus trip to Berli

GUEST BLOGGER: Chorus member Beth Warren on TSO Chorus trip to Berli

In May this year, 27 members of the TSO Chorus headed to Berlin to perform in Mitsingkonzert 2017 alongside choristers from all over Europe and with the highly acclaimed Berlin Radio. TSO Chorus alto Beth Warren reflects on this extraordinary event in her guest blog post.

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Maria Grenfell's swooping melodies make spirals

Maria Grenfell's swooping melodies make spirals

Taking inspiration from Strauss and New Orleans “slave songs”, Grenfell has written a new work for clarinet and bassoon…

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WATCH MARIA INTRODUCE THE PIECE ON YOUTUBE

Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra team up with the Australian Ballet

Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra team up with the Australian Ballet

The Australian Ballet will bring romance to Tasmania when it presents the quintessential romantic ballet Giselle at the Princess Theatre, Launceston on June 28.

The Tasmanian performances of this critically acclaimed production, also touring regional Victoria and New South Wales, will feature the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s 2015 recording of Giselle, which was made specifically for The Australian Ballet…

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Rygg’s Ulver to play Dark Mofo; then with Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra

Rygg’s Ulver to play Dark Mofo; then with Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra

Kristoffer Rygg is fretting at the prospect of coming to Hobart for the first time. It’s not because of the long journey he and his band Ulver will have to make from their native Oslo for their Australian debut next month, or about any sense of foreboding concerning the Tasmanian capital. The singer and composer’s chief concern is about locking in with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra when they get here.

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Speech by Sir Jonathan Mills AO at 2017 Chairman's Lunch

Speech by Sir Jonathan Mills AO at 2017 Chairman's Lunch

Ladies and gentlemen the great maverick Aussie composer, Percy Grainger, provocatively said “if something was worth doing it is worth doing badly”. What did he mean? He meant take a risk, get going, try something out and don’t be worried of failing. The world is dying of good taste; the world is dying of people who take no risks whatsoever. My exaltations to all of you is to suggest that you are on the cusp of something truly great in Hobart, and in Tasmania, and this is the time to re-double your efforts on behalf of culture and ensure culture can do for your community in what I have observed first hand of what it has been able to do for a community like Edinburgh in 1947…

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The Examiner: Marko on the mark

The Examiner: Marko on the mark

TSO Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Marko Letonja continues to build his stellar reputation as one of the world’s leading conductors of opera. Currently in Stockholm, Letonja is undertaking the phenomenal task of conducting Wagner’s grandiose musical drama The Ring with the Royal Swedish Opera May 24 – 29.

Featuring world-renowned soprano Nina Stemme in the iconic role of Brünnhilde the epic cycle of four works, considered one of the largest and most ambitious projects in the opera canon, spans up to 16 hours and is rarely performed in its entirety.

Stemme, and Australian heldentenor Stuart Skelton, appeared with The TSO in 2016 under the baton of Letonja in Hobart in an acclaimed concert performance of Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, with both singers reprising their roles direct from The Metropolitan Opera in New York in a major cultural coup for Tasmania.

TSO Director Artistic Planning Simon Rogers said Letonja’s landmark engagement with the Royal Swedish Opera was a colossal achievement.

“Conducting Wagner Operas is like a marathon at the best of times, however conducting the Ring, especially in this format with all four operas performed consecutively, is like running several marathons in a week,” he said.

“It is enough to test the stamina and concentration of all the artists, particularly the conductor.

“It demonstrates how fortunate we are to have Marko as our Chief Conductor in Tasmania.

“He works in the very best opera houses in the world and is keen to bring this experience and world class operatic soloists to us on an ongoing basis, such as Nina Stemme and Stuart Skelton last year, and Elena Maximova and Marcelo Puente this year in Carmen.”

“During his tenure, it has been Marko’s vision to increase the amount of vocal and operatic repertoire being performed by the TSO, which is good for the artistic health of the orchestra and provides variety in our programming.

“Marko has been enthusiastically embraced by Tasmanian audiences in his time at the TSO, with markedly increased subscription numbers each year…”

Full article available at http://www.examiner.com.au/story/4687730/marko-on-the-mark/

Review Live Sessions: ★★★★½ Classical music in a contemporary venue

Review Live Sessions: ★★★★½ Classical music in a contemporary venue

Red Shed, Hobart Brewing Company May 20, 2017

I escape the chill of the evening when I step into the Hobart Brewing Company’s Red Shed on Saturday night. The mulled spiced cider on the menu sounds warm enough to entice me. But first I head to a Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra staff member to collect my tickets at the door for this performance and I ask, “do you mind if I bring in a drink from the bar?” He replies with a smile: “Of course you can – it’s a pub gig.” This is the concept of Live Sessions, the TSO’s new concert series that brings musicians from the orchestra out of the concert hall and into casual spaces. The Red Shed is just a block away from the Federation Concert Hall on Hobart’s waterfront, but the vibe of this concert creates and entirely different musical world. The venue is packed with people – younger than most attending a typical TSO gig – sipping wine and eating pizza. To the shed’s left is the looming silver brewery itself, where beer is made on site. To the right is a little wood fire, and in the space between are bar stools next to old wine barrels, which are topped with candles. Concertgoers sit and stand and chat….

Read more at LIMELIGHT

Reaching a new audience - crowds flock to outdoor Live Sessions

Reaching a new audience - crowds flock to outdoor Live Sessions

In an effort to reach a wider and more diverse audience, the TSO last year inaugurated the Live Sessions. Held in the Hobart Brewing Company’s Red Shed at Macquarie Point, last year’s two concerts featured a chamber-sized TSO performing music by Barber, Bartók, Vivaldi and others. Full bar service was available during the concerts (pizza too!) and buttoned-up concert-going rules were thrown to the wind. That said, audiences remained remarkably attentive – the musicians were playing within arms’ reach so it was difficult not to be mesmerised by the musicianship – and responded with unbridled enthusiasm.

On the strength of last year’s successes, this year’s Live Sessions commenced with an outdoor concert featuring the Wind, Brass and Percussion of the TSO with guest artist vocalist Maria Lurighi, on 4 February. Held in Red Square at Macquarie Point, adjacent to last year’s Red Shed venue, the concert attracted a capacity audience of 600. An easy-going mood prevailed. Bean bags were provided (thank you RACT!), many concert-goers brought camp chairs, and food trucks were on hand to feed the masses. To top it all off, the summer weather was perfect. Music ranged from the Afro Cuban Concerto by contemporary American composer Valerie Coleman, to Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasileiras No 8 to the classic bossa nova number, “The Girl from Ipanema”. In addition to the TSO, solo musicians performed between sets and a lively after-party kicked off with Latin-inspired group, Chupacabra.

A post-concert survey revealed that:

  • 46% of the audience was aged under 45
  • 37% hadn’t attended a TSO concert in years, if at all
  • 95% would attend another TSO Live Sessions

Respondents gave the concert an overall rating of 4 out of 5. Comments included, “nice to see the TSO in a more casual environment”, “wonderful venue and great concept” and “well done, a great initiative!”

The TSO Live Sessions are made possible through the generous support of Blundstone, Clemenger Tasmania, Foot & Playsted, Graeme Wood Foundation and the Hobart Brewing Company. Thank you all!

China Tour resounding success

China Tour resounding success

Cultural diplomacy a winner for Tasmania

Let’s start with some statistics: nine concerts in seven cities over a two-week period covering 1,600 kilometres. The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra’s tour of the Chinese provinces of Jiangsu, Fujian and Shanghai, under Chief Conductor Marko Letonja, was gruelling but immensely rewarding. The tour brought the TSO and all things Tasmanian to one of our major trading partners, fostering cross-cultural goodwill and building awareness of our island state. The first of the nine concerts took place in the city of Suqian (population 4.7 million) on 29 December 2016 and the last in Shanghai (population 25 million) on 7 January 2017. In between, the TSO gave concerts in Zhenjiang, Fuzhou, Putian and Xiamen as well as a New Year’s Eve concert in Nanjing, in which the orchestra was joined by the Jiangsu Performing Arts Group Symphony Orchestra.

As the New Year’s Eve concert demonstrated, the tour was not just about the TSO bringing its expertise to China, but building bridges with local musicians and audiences. One of the centrepiece works of the tour was Tan Dun’s Double Bass Concerto, Wolf Totem, with soloist Stuart Thomson, a work that has deep Chinese affinities and was co-commissioned by the TSO. Inspired by Jian Rong’s acclaimed novel of 2004, Wolf Totem was brought to the cities on tour for the first time thanks to the TSO.

Overall attendances are estimated to have exceeded ten thousand people, with many more seeing the local media coverage throughout the tour. The TSO reached a still larger audience through a radio broadcast of the final concert of the tour, in Shanghai, which is estimated to have reached many hundreds of thousands of listeners. That particular concert included Wolf Totem as well as selections from Elena Kats-Chernin’s Wild Swans and Julian Yu’s orchestration of Alban Berg’s Piano Sonata (commissioned by the TSO).

Over and above the musical connections that were forged, the tour deepened engagement between Tasmania and China. Flow-on effects are expected to be felt in trade, tourism and education. Three of the concerts took place in Fujian Province – Tasmania’s sister province – including Fuzhou, Hobart’s sister city, and Putian, soon to be Launceston’s sister city. State and local government representatives from Tasmania accompanied part of the tour including the Minister for the Arts, Vanessa Goodwin, and Hobart Deputy Lord Mayor, Ron Christie.

The TSO was welcomed in each city by local dignitaries, senior officials and business leaders. Indeed, the concert in Fuzhou coincided with the signing of a friendship agreement with the City of Hobart. The TSO is grateful to the State Government for providing the initial grant to help make the tour possible. The TSO would also like to thank both the Australian Government for its support for the tour, through the Australia-China Council of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Hobart City Council. Special thanks to an anonymous patron who made a very substantial donation to assist with the tour.

Take a Breath with Amy Dickson

Take a Breath with Amy Dickson

Grammy Award-nominated saxophonist Amy Dickson, who appeared as soloist at RACT Symphony under the Stars, took time out to visit Tasmanian school children and give workshops on breathing techniques. Amy’s custom-made program, called Take a Breath, was delivered to students at Risdon Vale Primary School in Hobart and Mowbray Heights Primary School in Launceston. Amy taught students to breathe in through their noses and out through their mouths, and introduced the concept of “elephant breaths” to get the message across. As she pointed out, correct breathing is necessary for a saxophonist and vitally important for us all. We can survive for a period of time without food and a shorter time without water, but we perish in no time at all without oxygen.

Principal Guest Conductor announced

Principal Guest Conductor announced

Johannes Fritzsch will take up the new position of TSO Principal Guest Conductor from the start of 2018. Johannes is no stranger to the TSO and Tasmanian audiences having first conducted the orchestra in 2001 and returned as a guest conductor on many occasions since then. In addition to conducting concerts in the TSO’s main subscription series, he has been actively involved in some of the orchestra’s other activities, notably leading training programs for up-and-coming conductors from all around the country and overseas. “I have always enjoyed working with the TSO,” he said, “it is a very fine orchestra with an extraordinary sense of ensemble, not just musically, but also personally and as an organisation.” Johannes is married to violinist Dr Susan Collins, Coordinator of Strings and Orchestral Music at the Conservatorium of Music, University of Tasmania.

TSO Chorus celebrates 25 years

TSO Chorus celebrates 25 years

It all started back in 1992 with a performance of Verdi’s opera La traviata. Since then, the TSO Chorus has gone from strength to strength, performing not only with the TSO in repertoire including symphonies, masses and operas, but with interstate choirs and orchestras including Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, and the Sydney, West Australian and Adelaide symphony orchestras. In 2012 choristers made their international debut performing with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, and a sizeable contingent will join singers from all around the world in Berlin later this month as part of Mitsingkonzert 2017.

Given the quarter-century milestone, the TSO Chorus Alumni has been formed. All former choristers, chorusmasters, répétiteurs and administrators are encouraged to register and to take part in a range of events, commencing with a “Big Sing” in Federation Concert Hall on Saturday 27 May. For further information and to register, visit tsochorus.com.au/join-us/alumni.