Sibelius Symphony No.2
Adelaide Town Hall. 30 Nov 2012
The last concert in the ASO’s Master Series for 2012 was immensely satisfying: it had vitality, variety, and virility. It was flirty and flippant, it was earnest. It was sensuous. It was one the best concerts in both programming and execution that the ASO has delivered this year.
Eduard Tubin (1905-1982), whose symphonies have all been recorded by fellow Estonian Maestro Arvo Volmer, is not as well known to concert audiences as his music deserves, and the ASO has served Adelaide audiences well by programming his Suite from ‘The Goblin’ for the first performance by any of Australia’s principal orchestras. The Goblin is a ballet suite about a ghostly man-made creature and draws heavily on Estonian folk tunes collected by Tubin. The eleven miniatures that comprise the suite, which barely lasts twenty-five minutes, are widely varied in their orchestral colour, rhythms and melodic styles. In the ‘Buck Dance’ once could almost hear the influence of Aaron Copeland’s Rodeo Suite! The entire suite was toe tapping – it was fun – and the audience loved it.
The world renowned pianist Steven Osborne teamed with the ASO’s own Matt Dempsey (trumpet) in an incisive interpretation of the Concerto No. 1 for Piano, Trumpet and Strings by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975). The orchestra last performed this ever popular concerto three years ago, but tonight’s performance by Osborne has surely set a new standard. It was crisp, playful, balanced, and tightly controlled. Volmer ensured the string orchestra provided a well structured and not-overpowered voice with which the piano and trumpet could enjoy a scintillating dialogue.
The finale of the concert was the deeply moving Symphony No.2 by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957). I recall many years ago listening to a ‘talking letter’ from a friend who was speaking as she was driving through sweeping highways in glorious mountainous county in Oregon. She was listening to the symphony at the time – I could hear it clearly – and the cadence and dynamics of her voice rose and fell with the impassioned music, particular in the sensuous fourth movement. That was my first experience of ‘the second’ and I have been moved by it ever since. At first I thought that Volver was overpowering the piece, which appears to be an increasingly frequent criticism of mine – I shall need to think about this, and perhaps it is an idiosyncrasy of the acoustic of the Town Hall – but I was soon won over and fell captive to the hauntingly beautiful melodies and open textures that suffuse the work. I thought of Oregon and of my distant friend as the third movement transitioned with controlled but increasing tension and erupted with almost orgasmic force into the main theme of the final movement.
Volmer and the musicians of the ASO were at the height of their powers in this concert, particularly in the symphony, and were exceedingly generous in playing an Encore of the nationalistic and evocative ‘Finlandia’ by Sibelius.
The audience left well satisfied but hungry for next year’s season to begin. Got your tickets?
Where: Adelaide Town Hall