Music Review: ASO Claim – InDaily

It’s not the usual thing that happens before a classical concert, but ushers hand out earplugs and warn patrons, “The first half gets pretty loud.” I mumble, “No thanks, I’d like to hear the music,” but grab a pair anyway – just in case. Maybe the new trombone concerto performed by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra hits rock concert volume, I think, because Respighi Fountains of Rome surely it won’t.

Earplugs would have ruined things, in fact, like another contemporary piece on this program, Lisa Illean’s Silent Whisper The end of the countrywould have been totally inaudible.

But to the Respighis first. A respected British musicologist, the late John Waterhouse, once described his three glorious Roman-themed symphonic poems, including fountains is chronologically the first, as “chocolate box” music. And it is still claimed that they possess little more than superficial charm.

Hearing them perform well, as the ASO does, one could hardly agree. Pines of Rome is, of course, the biggest, and when played hard enough, it can raise the roof quite enough – as nearly happened when Nick Carter ran it into Town Hall in 2019.

Fountains of Rome, on the other hand, is a more subdued, dreamy work, which evokes mood with the greatest subtlety. Brad Cohen was conducting the orchestra on this occasion, and one was immediately reminded of how beautiful and seductive Respighi’s music was, while realizing how understated it could be.

Arabesque melodies on oboe and clarinet wind and wind against a feathery background of strings. The result is so fragrant and decorative that it may seem to tickle the senses, except that the harmonic substructure is also so well constructed. Respighi has all the sophistication of Richard Strauss.

The tempos were a little slow in this performance, which meant that all that delicate fabric didn’t quite hold together. It felt like things were too languid and lacked momentum.

Oh yes, volume level. Fountains of Rome gets loud when you get to the exuberant, gushing “Fontana del Tritone”; and here, Cohen and the ASO picked up the tempo and threw some good energy into the performance.

The ASO presents Affirmation at Adelaide City Hall. Photo: Claudio Rachella

Then to the new major work of the evening, that of Joe Chindamo Cork Concerto for trombone and orchestra, which the ASO recently commissioned. Chindamo, a jazz pianist and composer from Melbourne, is widely known to jazz audiences, but has written a series of classical works for orchestra and various chamber combinations that show him to be both versatile and extremely talented.

With any new work, you have to be ready for anything, including, let’s say, disappointment. Not so here. Cork comes across as a satisfying, exciting, and stylistically assured piece. Thanks to his background in jazz, Chindamo isn’t at all shy about incorporating popular musical elements, and along the way, we’ve come across Mickey Mouse-like cartoon references and nods to Bernstein. . But everything was so well put together. The harmonies, though recycled, rose with pride and warmth.

Chindamo has a way of putting things in the ear, and we want to hear it again. So Cork – its name borrowed from Edgar Allan Poe because of its contrasting drama – can become a repetition, a work that sticks. His cause was aided by the formidable playing of soloist Colin Prichard. Principal trombonist of the ASO since 2018, he has taken on all its delicate technical requirements with bravado.

There was not one but two new works in this program. It’s good to see a little more audacity on the part of the ASO. The end of the country, by London-based Australian composer Lisa Illean, was a completely different proposition, calling for a radically uncluttered orchestra with string octet, harp and piano at its heart. A tantalizingly beautiful piece, it consisted of the quietest sonic streaks and trails that seemed to be forever suspended in the air. He kept his concentration on the razor’s edge.

Sibelius’ mighty Symphony No. 5 showed Cohen at his best. As with much of this Finnish composer’s music, there is warmth to his cold-tempered writing, and Cohen has struck just the right balance. His direction was smooth and consistent. The ASO seemed in its heart with this symphony, feeling its surging crescendos as one and playing with refinement. The violins were particularly clean and sweet. Guest concertmaster Alexandra Osborne is expected to be invited back to conduct them in another concert.

Hearing a trombone concerto for the first time in living memory – at least in my memory – got me thinking about how the ASO could be more adventurous in its choice of concertos. Another soloist he would do well to invite for something different would be David Elton. Originally from the ASO, this outstanding trumpeter has performed with many of the world’s finest orchestras and is now a member of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. In fact, he was back in Adelaide the same weekend with organist Anthony Hunt in the St Peter’s Cathedral concert series, and it was wonderful to hear him again and witness the musicality at the highest level of each of them.

The claim was presented at Adelaide City Hall on Friday. The next ASO Master Series concert will be Joy (with works by Mozart, Rachmaninoff and Korean composer Unsuk Chin)at the Hôtel de Ville on 27 and 28 May.

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This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas.

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