The Western Australian Symphony Orchestra(WASO) roared back to life last week with its sensational Carmina Burana concert.
Running over four nights, the rousing and beautifully performed evening of Bernstein, Grieg and Orff was a fitting way to let Western Australians know that their orchestra is back with a vengeance.
Under the baton of the dynamic conductor Jessica Gethin, the WASO, WASO Chorus and solo artists James Claytone (Baritone), Perry Joyce (Tenor) and Amy Manford (Soprano) carried the audience to musical rapture.
This was Gethin’s debut with the WASO following an eight-year stint with the Perth Symphony Orchestra and numerous prominent engagements over east and abroad.
Make no mistake, this was a world-class performance of all these beloved, stirring and evocative compositions. While very familiar to classical fans, the execution was nearly faultless and all sections of the ensemble seemed imbued with a sense of joyful release at their return to stage.
Bernstein’s Candide Overture was a vibrant and exultant way to kick off the evening with crisp and scintillating use of the brass, wind, strings and percussion bringing the American classic to life.
This clarion call was followed by a stirring and lilting rendition of Peer Gynt: Suite No.1, a well-crafted exercise in orchestral colour, dynamics and instrumental flamboyance.
The Suite No. 1 begins with the evocative Morning Mood. “I imagine the sun breaking through the clouds at the first forte,” Grieg wrote. Aase’s Death depicts not Peer’s wild fantasies at his mother’s deathbed, but rather her desolate anticipation of death in quietly crooning strings. Anitra’s Dance – “a soft little dance which I am very anxious should sound delicate and beautiful.” It certainly did.
The entire piece was beautifully interpreted and seamlessly played by all sections.
Carl Orff’s famous cantata, Carmina Burana, was a sensory delight.
The piece is divided into three sections – Springtime, In the Tavern and The Court Of Love – preceded by, and ending with, an invocation to Fortune.
The name has Latin roots – ‘Carmina’ means ‘songs’, while ‘Burana’ is the Latinised form of Beuren, the name of the Benedictine monastery of Benediktbeuren in Bavaria.
So, Carmina Burana translates as Songs Of Beuren, and refers to a collection of early 13th-century songs and poems that was discovered in Beuren in 1803 – although it has since been established that the collection originated from Seckau Abbey, Austria – and is now housed in the Bavarian State Library.
The composition, one of the most frequently performed choral works of the 21stCentury, is arguably the perfect arrangement for voice and instrument and fades and builds emotionally and musically throughout. The WASO choristers added a deep rhythmic and sonorous backing to the piece and the soloists told the story with finesse and vigour.
Perth soprano Amy Manford was wonderful, going through the high scales with ease and passion; tenor Perry Joyce’s somewhat twitchy and humorous role was loads of fun; while baritone James Clayton covered the requisite introspection, rage and even drunkenness of his role with flair and depth.
Meanwhile the orchestra, full of verve, filled the Concert Hall with resounding melody and playful interpretation. Indeed, this is a composition they know well, and it shows.
At times an enthusiastic and accomplished Gethin almost danced on the podium as she urged her musicians on to ever greater brilliance and gusto.
It was quite a night! Welcome back, WASO!
WASO is back at it again this week with Dvorak’s Symphony Number 8. For details, to book visit