Saturday, June 22, 2019

Grigoryan Brothers Rodrigo concerto highlight of the evening

by Tony Magee

Slava (left) and Leonard Grigoryan. Photo courtesy ABC RN
Maestro Paul Kildea has an eclectic conducting style, some of which is very reminiscent of the great Fritz Reiner. Tiny, almost imperceptible movements of the stick somehow coax his players into life with total precision. At other times, he explodes into body language and gestures of almost Bernsteinesque proportions.

These combined skills served to sweep the Canberra Symphony Orchestra through a concert of great enjoyment opening with a joyous performance of the overture to Mozart’s Opera “The Marriage of Figaro”, through a captivating performance of Rodrigo’s “Concerto Madrigal”, a new work by Kenneth and Kirsten Lampl in memory of cellist Nelson Cooke and a majestic and powerful rendition of Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 8”.

Brother’s Slava and Leonard Grigoryan were the guitar soloists in the Rodrigo and played with everything required to make this work a performance of true delight. Sensitive and delicate at times, powerful and commanding Spanish rhythms at other times and duets of such grace and beauty, combined with their almost telepathic mode of musical communication, served to make this work the highlight of the evening.

The orchestral playing to support them was beautiful, often delicate. The wind section were called upon in the first three movements of the piece in intimate interplay with the soloists, the strings just delicately playing pizzicato in support. At one point I noticed the viola section just tapping their bows on a string - such is the delicacy of the writing at certain points during this piece.

Later in the work, the string section expanded the sound into a lush orchestral wash, supporting the soloists with great style - almost as if a vast ocean was keeping them afloat and safe.

The Grigoryan’s had several really special moments which stood out for me. At the end of the Pastoral movement they finished with tender harmonics. The Fandango movement opened with stirring high intensity strumming. In the two sections marked “Andante nostalgico”  there was a fascinating question and answer dialogue between the two guitars as well as an extended cadenza in which they both displayed their world class skills, at one point quoting from the composer’s other great concerto, “Aranjuez”.

The Lampl’s “Elegy for two Cellos and Orchestra” (incorrectly titled in the program as “cello and orchestra”) was given its world premiere. It is simple in chord construction, beautiful and quite reminiscent of a Hollywood film score style of composing. Lush, but reserved strings backed the quietly respectful duet cello melodies played by the seasoned and highly professional David Pereira and astonishing new comer, 15 year old Benett Tsai, who was once a student of Pereira’s. In the fine tradition of the old adage “never perform with animals or children” young Tsai came through with a tone projection and intensity in his playing that shone through so brightly and was emotional, heartfelt and very moving.

To finish, Beethoven made a triumphant conclusion to this excellent evening of music. Beethoven has been featured a great deal on Classic FM over the last two weeks, due to his being voted most favourite composer by the Australian listening public in the recent ABC Countdown. Kildea once again demonstrated his considerable conducting skills in manipulating and guiding his orchestra through the massive range of dynamics, tempos and orchestral textures to make this symphony the great work that it is.

First published in City News Digital Edition, June 20 2019