Symphony Series 5: Vitality

ASO Vitality 2023Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Adelaide Town Hall. 28 Jul 2023


After a measured performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D, Op.61, Pinchas Zukerman left the stage and ‘high fived’ the concert master and the other first violins who were closest to the front of the stage. Why? Probably because he was physically spent after conducting the orchestra as well as being soloist. Perhaps because legends have earned the right to be flippant, if they wish. He then returned for several bows before playing the uber tranquil Brahms Lullaby (Op.49 No.4 Wiegenlied) as an encore and insisted the audience hum along, which we did! At its conclusion, he acknowledged the tuneful crowd and sent them off into the cold night with that time honoured Aussie phrase “c’ya”! It put a smile on everyone’s face, including the members of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, and the audience forgot that it was only 9:15pm after a 7:30pm start. A shortish concert because the first half of the program comprised only three short pieces (25 minutes in total) and no symphony.


The concert began with the Australian première of American composer Jessie Montgomery’s Starburst. It is an eclectic melody-driven composition which is pop and jazz infused. At times it feels post-modern, and then it hints at minimalism, and then at klezmer. It’s almost dizzying as it fluctuates styles, but that’s the nature of a ‘starburst’.


Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Ballade in A minor, Op.33 saw Zukerman at his best in commanding the forces of the ASO. This was the first performance of this work by the ASO, and the program notes opine that Coleridge-Taylor’s music deserves to be heard more often by Adelaide audiences. The Ballade highlights the woodwinds which often announce moody but gentle and lyrical melodies. Julia Grenfell on flute and Dean Newcombe on clarinet are en pointe.


The ballade was followed by the more familiar Overture to The Force of Destiny by Giuseppe Verdi, and the audience particularly enjoyed Zukerman’s dynamic balance and acute phrasing that deepened the sense of drama and foreboding inherent in the opera.


But it was the Beethoven that brought the crowd, and of course Zukerman, one of the world’s best violinists. His conducting is passionate, with foot stamping and extravagant gesticulation with his bow. Just before the entry of the solo violin in the first movement, he plays a few bars along with the first violins and then authoritatively executes the mini cadenza as the solo violin enters. The ascending octaves are as sweet sounding as they can possibly be, and the sublime musicality of the tones he produces from his violin are a feature throughout the concerto. His cadenzas are uplifting. Full marks to concertmaster Kate Suthers and the section principals, because their thorough and sensitive preparation paves the way for Zuckerman to put his magical artistry on display.


But it was all over in such a (comparatively) brief time!


Kym Clayton


When: 28 Jul

Where: Adelaide Town Hall

Bookings: Closed