Power & Paradise

Woollahra Philharmonic Orchestra. St Columba Uniting Church. Saturday 30 and Sunday 31 March, 2019.
Reviewed : March 30, 2019
Photo : provided

Woollahra Philharmonic Orchestra’s mission is to “bring musical enrichment to the community, providing a professional attitude towards innovative and enjoyable concerts”.

Quite ambitious? Maybe, but the orchestra, established in 1996 by local amateur musicians with the support of the local council, has grown in strength and stature until today it boasts fifty regular members “from all walks of life, of all ages, and includes amateurs, students and professional musicians”.

These fifty talented musicians perform four public performances a year in the beautiful St Columba church – where they also rehearse each program for at least 8 to 10 weeks. That’s not just dedication, it’s commitment, and passion for the music that they love. The acoustics of the church lends power to music, and thus the title of their first program – Power and Paradise­ – seems somehow appropriate.

In this, the first of four seasons in their 2019 program, the orchestra is led by Lee Bracegirdle.

Power was an apt description for the first item on the program: Mozart’s famous ‘last’ symphony, the Jupiter Symphony (Symphony No 41 (K. 551) written in 1788, three years before his death. For almost an hour, the various themes and motifs rose and echoed as Bracegirdle led, and the musicians followed, lyrically at times, in rousing fanfares at others. It is certainly and ‘opus’ and one the orchestra embraced with delight.

Delius’ Walk in the Garden followed. Gentler, this excerpt from his fourth opera, A village Romeo and Juliet, is more descriptive with its themes of “escape, alignment with nature and tragic love”.

Phillip Shovk, one of Australia’s leading concert pianists and chamber musicians, joined the orchestra for Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 2 in C Minor. Together they explained musically why this is regarded as the composer’s most popular concerto. Shovk led brilliantly, but the orchestra was with him all the way, and the response of the audience was more than appreciative, drawing Shovk back for two encores.

This is a very elegant way for local music enthusiasts to spend a Sunday afternoon. The ticket price is reasonable, afternoon tea is available at a small cost – and the music is skilfully rehearsed and expertly performed.

The next concert will be on Saturday 22nd and Sunday 23 June. Titled Destinations and Adventures, it will be conducted by John Buckley.

Find out more at www.wpo.org.au

Also published in Stage Whispers magazine