2013 Adelaide Symphony Orchestra Gala

Adelaide Festival Centre. 15 Feb 2013

The opening gala concert of the ASO’s 2013 season belonged to Croatian born pianist Dejan Lazić.  He played Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto with flair and style, and gave it such freshness that it was almost as if we were listening to a new composition being played for the first time.  Lazić sat at the piano, with shirt untucked, in almost the same way that the rider of a Harley Davidson does:  far back in the seat and with full arm extension.  His gestures were grandiose and emotional, almost arrogant, but precision and sensitivity was never sacrificed.  Every note of the difficult score was carefully articulated, and it was almost as if he was dislocating the hands from each other rather than playing both hands strictly together as written.  Maestro Volmer masterfully controlled the orchestra – he is surely at his best with the music of Russian and other eastern European composers – and the dynamics and dialogue between the piano and orchestra was perfectly balanced.  It was a breathtaking performance and the audience erupted into ecstatic applause within a nanosecond of the last note being played.

Dejan Lazić is compulsory programming for the ASO in the future; maybe playing his own transcription for piano and orchestra of the Brahms violin concerto?  I’d like to hear and see that!

The Rachmaninov was bookended by the ever popular Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra by Benjamin Britten, and the iconic Symphony No. 5 by Beethoven.  Both of these compositions show the orchestra off to best effect with every instrumental section having its own moment in the musical sun by announcing a theme or providing an important development.

Everyone knows the 5th – it has the most famous four-note opening of any composition ever written and it has been recorded countless times.  In searching for a fresh and new way to interpret it, some conductors insist there is evidence that Beethoven intended it to be played quickly, while others favour it being played more slowly and with gravitas.  I favour the latter approach, and I think Volmer does too, but to be entirely successful, the cellos and double basses need to be unleashed to extract the visceral nature of the piece.

So, what makes a gala concert?  Is it just the musical programming; important but popular compositions played well by a large orchestra?  I think not and I hope that the ASO management might give some thought to this.  Future ‘gala’ concerts might be marketed differently.  For example: patrons could be encouraged to dress up in their finery; to enjoy food and wine before, during or after the performance (special deals with restaurants around town?); a souvenir program that is fundamentally different to what is normally available; having the conductor speak to the audience from the podium; having mini musical ‘events’ in the foyer before the concert starts, and during interval, and at the end; and having the bar open when the show is over.

It wasn’t a gala as I understand the term, but the evening was musically superb!

Kym Clayton

When: Closed
Where: Festival Theatre
Bookings: Closed