Sunday, December 16, 2018


Conductor: Leonard Weiss
Organist: Calvin Bowman
Wesley Uniting Church, Forrest 15 December

Reviewed by Len Power

For their third concert, Canberra’s newest semi-professional musical ensemble presented a fine program of three works – one orchestral suite by Bach and two organ concerti by Handel with Calvin Bowman as soloist on the Wesley Uniting Church organ.  The program was conducted by Leonard Weiss.

The first item, Orchestral Suite No. 1 in C major, is said to have been composed by Johann Sebastian Bach in the period 1717 to 1723 while employed as Kapellmeister for the German Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen.  This is the first known example of secular orchestral music that Bach composed.

Leonard Weiss conducting the Canberra Sinfonia
The seven movements in French Baroque style were nicely played by the orchestra, especially the sprightly Gavotte and Minuet movements and there was fine playing by the trio of bassoon (Jordan London) and oboes (Lucy Preece, Timothy Elphick) in the Bourreé movement.

After interval, Australian organist and composer, Calvin Bowman, joined the orchestra for the two Handel organ concerti.  Bowman is the only Australian composer to have been exclusively featured on the Decca recording label apart from Percy Grainger.  As a performer, he was nominated for a Helpmann Award for his single seventeen hour playing of the complete Bach organ works at the Melbourne International Festival in 2009.

Calvin Bowman playing Bach with Leonard Weiss conducting

Six Opus 7 organ concerti were written in London between 1740 and 1751 for performance during Handel’s oratorios.  In this concert, concerti 1 and 4 were presented.  Calvin Bowman played both works superbly with strong and well-balanced support from the orchestra.  The final movement of the No. 4 concerto was especially well-played.

Photos by Peter Hislop

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast in his ‘On Stage’ performing arts radio program on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3.30pm on Artsound FM 92.7.