It was mighty close to a full house at the Perth Concert Hall this week for the WASO Morning Symphony, Beethoven and Brahms.
There’s something jolly invigorating about hearing live classical music before noon, and WASO didn’t disappoint with its interpretation of works by the two great masters.
Under the baton of conductor Peter Moore, the state ensemble opened with Beethoven’s compelling Egmont: Overture.
Beethoven composed this stirring piece for the revival of Goethe’s drama Egmont at the Burgtheater in Vienna in 1810.
He wrote encouraging to Goethe of “this wonderful Egmont”, but it was clearly the political aspect of the story that inspired him the most.
Egmont led the resistance of the Low Countries (today’s Benelux nations) against the French invasion, and the subsequent resistance to Spanish domination of the region. Beethoven had strong feelings about such invasions and subjugations, primarily because Napoleon was more or less running amok in Europe at the time.
The themes of liberation and martyrdom heavily influenced his stirring creation.
The Overture involves ingenious and beautiful use of all sections of the orchestra.
An ominous introduction, expressed through tone and mounting progression, presages impending doom. Then a stately sarabande (Iberian dance air) rhythm seems to evoke the stern intentions of the Spanish Duke and his army.
The main allegro theme suggests the Flemish drive for liberation, but once more the unsettling Spanish theme wafts back in a codetta, and Egmont’s tragic execution is conveyed by sustained soft chords.
But the world soon comes to rights when the flame of an uprising is kindled by the hero’s death, and the music swells into the resounding Victory Symphony and the Overture ends in glory. Stirring stuff, indeed.
On to Herr Brahms and his Symphony No. 4. in E minor.
This was the last Brahms symphony and one of his most complex and popular. It is rich in allusions and may well have been inspired by Shakespeare’s play Antony and Cleopatra, which Brahms had researched.
It opens with a theme of great beauty, carried by a nostalgic and passionate swell of melodious sound.
The movement unfolds with an uncanny tension, the music progressing gently, then bursts forth in a crescendos of passion.
The Andante Moderato movement evokes recollection and expression of longing, before seeming to call to mind an atmosphere of historic legend, this being primarily evinced by the woodwind section.
Things go up-tempo in the Allegro giocoso with its rustic flow, jaunty cadence and gentle tinkling from the triangle.
It is not until the finale, built in the form of a slowly swelling wave of rhythm and instrumental vigour, that we find Brahms returning to his trademark, audacious style.
The orchestra, now alive with movement and energy, offers no respite in musical momentum and rolls on, concluding perfectly with a captivating coda.
Thank you, Johannes!
The morning audience then shuffled happily out of the PCH and off to lunch, the glorious compositions of two of the world’s greatest men of music resonant with one and all.
The WASO had done it again!
For more information about upcoming WASO concerts and events go to www.waso.com.au