W.A. Symphony Orchestra

Perth Concert Hall

reviewed by Neville Cohn

On Saturday, Shostakovich’s Festive Overture was informed by a sense of immense gaiety, an ideal way to launch an orchestral program. Brass calls and woodwinds in fine fettle brought the overture to genial, pulsing life. The joie de vivre that lies at its heart was evoked to the nth degree by visiting Israeli conductor Dan Ettinger, a conductor who knew exactly what he was doing. The roar of approval that greeted the conclusion of the work was thoroughly warranted.

Ettinger has conducted opera at Covent Garden and New York’s Metropolitan Opera. He has also made a DVD of Wagner’s Ring cycle of operas directed by Achim Freyer as well as conducting the Ring at Tokyo’s New National Theatre.

Unlike its heyday when it featured in the repertoire of just about every pianist in Europe from Liszt down, Mendelssohn’s Piano Concerto in G minor is seldom heard these days. On Saturday, the featured soloist was Argentine Ingrid Fliter, gowned in black with a floral motif. After some initial blurring and slips of the finger, the soloist retrieved the initiative, marshalling Mendelssohn’s floodtide of often ferociously taxing notes with gratifying skill and elan.

Violas were in particularly fine fettle in the slow movement with Fliter revealing its introspective, lyrical essence with very real understanding. And in the finale, the soloist gave us a scintillating account in a way which allowed the composer’s ideas to be heard in the most meaningful of ways. From first note to last, Ettinger took the WASO through an ideal accompaniment.

Warm, protracted applause was rewarded by a perhaps overlong encore – the first of Chopin’s published waltzes – played with a flair and fluency that informed the music with a delightful buoyancy.

There wasn’t an empty chair – with many standing – to listen to Tim White’s first rate pre-concert talk, brimming with fascinating fact. For those standing further back, though, there was a need for greater sound amplification.