Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Adelaide Town Hall. 6 Sep 2019
On a cold early spring evening, hearts were warmed and spirits uplifted with sublime performances by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra of Vaughan Williams’ Symphony No.5 in D and Brahms’ Piano Concerto No.2 in B flat.
There is a program of sorts attributed to Symphony No.5 in D – one of humanity striving for betterment as in The Pilgrim’s Progress – but, as suggested in James Koehne’s program notes, “…we should avoid ascribing to it an excessively programmatic or narrative reading: the music can happily be left alone to communicate for itself.” And communicate it did! Internationally renowned conductor (and music commentator) Mark Wigglesworth manifestly has a deep understanding of the English symphonic tradition and this reading of Symphony No.5 in D is significant, especially in the beautiful slow third movement, in which he coaxes delicately articulated phrasing from all sections of the orchestra. There is perfect aural balance, and the woodwinds and horns are at the top of their game.
Stephen Hough makes a welcome return to Adelaide and from the very first notes he plays on the mighty Steinway – a brief but impossibly beautiful passage in dialogue with the horns – it is clear this performance is also going to be special. The piano part in Piano Concerto No.2 in B flat is less virtuosic than Brahms’ first piano concerto, but it presents significant technical challenges. It must be tackled head on without holding back and risking it being underplayed. Hough admirably rises to the challenge and in the fourth movement he handles the rhythmic contrast and the wit of the jazz-inflected Hungarianesque folk tunes with aplomb. The communication between Hough and Wigglesworth was palpable and when the piece ended both were greeted with exuberant wolf whistles (even from ‘mature’ ladies!) more frequently heard at pop concerts!
Wigglesworth is rapidly becoming a favourite with Adelaide audiences, and the ASO management has been astute to secure him as Principal Guest Conductor. Long may the association continue.
When: 6 Sep
Where: Adelaide Town Hall