Adelaide Town Hall. 28 Sept 2012
Everything on the Master Series Nine concert programme was a first for the ASO, and two of the pieces featured Michael Collins one of the world’s leading exponents of the clarinet. The eclectic programme began in contemporary USA and concluded in Russia from a century ago. The journey was a musical sampler of some of the most significant styles of the last one hundred years, and the ASO was as impressive as ever, but the programme didn’t really have the impact on the audience that it perhaps should have. Yes, they left contented but this reviewer didn’t get the sense that they hungered for more.
The concert began explosively with the wonderfully inventive, fun, quirky, up-beat and deceptively unpretentious ‘Gnarly Buttons’ for clarinet and chamber ensemble by esteemed modern American composer John Adams. With his imposing stature guest conductor Hannu Lintu established a disciplined tempo, control over the complex rhythms and dynamics, and allowed the pared down orchestra to extract the full range of musical material offered up by the piece, while allowing Collins to demonstrate his virtuosity on the clarinet. The audience greeted the final notes with explosive appreciation. They are ready for more Adams, surely!
‘The Tempest – Suite No 2’ by Sibelius followed and the mood immediately became more relaxed as the lyrical melodies of the eight short pieces play out the not too gentle story of Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’.
After the interval Collins joined the ASO in Debussy’s ‘Première Rapsodie’ for clarinet and orchestra. Collins played the piece with palpable understanding and sheer pleasure. He was able to effortlessly punch through the orchestra when needed without shrillness or any loss of the lyricism that the piece demands. Originally Debussy wrote the rhapsody for solo piano and clarinet and later orchestrated it himself. Interestingly Collins performed the original in recital with Australian pianist timothy Young just a few days ago in the Elder Hall. What an absolute delight and privilege to be able to hear both versions played by the same principal artist just a few days apart. Bravo Recitals Australia and bravo ASO for such wonderful programming!
The concert concluded with the demanding and long ballet score ‘The Fairy’s Kiss’ by Stravinsky. The piece is derivative of Tchaikovsky but it is unmistakably Stravinsky, with its dissonance, rule-breaking orchestrations, incessant and driving tempos, and the occasional oasis of pure lyrical melody. The piece allowed the ASO brass and woodwind sections to shine. The audience were appreciative, of course, but were more so of the preceding Debussy and probably wished the evening had have finished with the Adams.
Where: Adelaide Town Hall