Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. Grainger Studio. 2 Feb 2024
The Adelaide Symphony orchestra’s 2024 program includes a number of themed series, including the Sanctuary Series, so named because the music is presented as an immersive experience that focusses upon the deeply relaxing and meditative qualities inherent in the program. Indeed, the audience can choose between standard seating or yoga mats and has no choice about how and when to applaud the orchestra – applause is forbidden, and one’s enjoyment is expressed through silent but deeply felt appreciation. The ASO has been presenting such programs for several years, and there is one more in August this year. They are popular, and deservedly so. The pomp and circumstance of traditional orchestral concerts is stripped away, and it’s all about giving flight to one’s own personal response to what is heard.
Fragmentation featured four compositions, all of which are based on lyrical ‘fragments’ to create larger works. In some respects, each is like a dream, where the source musical material is deceptively simple and comparatively brief but seems more expansive.
The highlight of the program was a beautifully rendered performance of Graeme Koehne’s The Persistence of Memory. Receiving its world première in 2014 by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, it was written in memory of Guy Henderson who served as principal oboe of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra for some 31 years (1967-1998). Written for oboe and string orchestra, it begins delicately with a single violin and cello which announce a hauntingly serene melody that is soon taken up by the ensemble and developed by the obo, played most beautifully by Joshua Oates.
Interestingly, the Koehne was enveloped by Wagner. The concert began with an Australian première performance of Salvatore Sciarrino’s recent composition Languire a Palermo (Languishing in Palermo), composed in 2018. It is constructed around a melodic fragment composed by Wagner during a visit to Sicily in the early 1880s and is described by Sciarrino as capturing the “sounds of Sicily”. It is an eclectic work but unforgiving: its success turns on precise phrasing, managing delicate changes in contrasting tempi, and purposeful dynamical balancing. Conductor David Sharp managed most of these demands.
The Sciarrino gave way to a lush performance of Wagner’s Siegfried Idyll. The piece had almost enigmatic and deeply personal significance for Wagner himself, but this didn’t entirely come through and the performance perhaps lacked a little heart.
The Koehne was followed by Gavin Bryars The Porazzi Fragment composed by Gavin Bryars. Towards its conclusion, the piece quotes a brief unpublished piano theme composed by Wagner, but which was never used by him. Like the Koehne, the music is nostalgic and lamenting, but intensely soothing and an entirely appropriate conclusion to a satisfying and immersive concert.
When: 2 Feb
Where: Grainger Studio