W.A.Symphony Orchestra


Perth Concert Hall

reviewed by Neville Cohn

Over the decades, I have lost count of the number of times I’ve listened to Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue. Many of these performances were impressive – but Shuan Hern Lee’s account of the much loved Rhapsody was in a class of its own: it was unforgettably fine. With fingers that know few fears, young Lee reached for – and touched – the stars. Stylistically impeccable and presented with rare clarity, this was a performance to cherish. Unsurprisingly, young Lee’s virtuosity prompted a blizzard of cheers, with some of the audience standing as they clapped in appreciation of an extraordinarily fine reading. If ever there was a reason to offer an encore, it was this audience reaction. Instead, and oddly, conductor Elena Schwarz came on stage and took the WASO through a frankly lacklustre reading of  Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance opus 48 no.8.

Earlier, we listened to bass James Clayton in Madamina, il catalogo e questo from Mozart’s Don Giovanni. Clayton’s account bordered on the faultless. Blessed with a beautiful voice, he sang as if the aria had been written specially for him. Strings played beautifully here. This was a highlight of the afternoon. Later, Clayton was joined by tenor Paul O’Neill in the much loved  In the depths of the Temple from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers. As well, O’Neill sang Nessun Dorma from Puccini’s Turandot with a finely focussed voice.

The WASO Chorus earned laurels as well. Its contribution gave splendid point and meaning to Borodin’s ever popular Polovtsian Dances. This was a consistently sensitive offering. We need to hear this polished choral ensemble more frequently. The Polonaise from Tchaikowsky’s Eugene Onegin needed a more emphatic beat, though.

Glinka’s rousing overture to Ruslan and Ludmilla made its mark in a most positive way. So, too, did the famous  Intermezzo from Mascagni’s Cavalleria rusticana. Under Elena Schwarz’s direction, WASO’s playing of its opening moments was informed by an entirely appropriate tenderness. But in Aaron Copland’s Appalachian Spring, the playing sounded rather uneven. Lee’s brilliance in the Rhapsody, however, more than made up for this disappointment.

The Hot 6

Hot 6

New Orleans Hot Jazz

The Sewing Room, Wolf Lane

reviewed by Neville Cohn

If it was jazz, New Orleans style, you were after, then The Sewing Room in the CBD’s Wolf Lane was the place to be.

Hot 6
Photo: Maree Laffan

Jam-packed with aficionados, many standing as they bobbed and swayed to rhythms belted-out by musicians of The Hot 6,  it was emphatically evident that this ensemble knew very well how to deliver the goods – and it did so with immense elan. What style and energy the players brought to their performance. They delivered the goods big time. It was the real thing – and without a dull moment from go to whoa..

From time to time, the players stepped down from the venue’s tiny corner-stage and walked in procession about the crowded venue as I listened, fingers in ears, to jazz classics presented at often-dauntingly high decibel levels. Considering how very crowded the venue was, it’s surprising how the ensemble managed its rounds of the room without bumping into anyone, especially Anthony Dodos carrying an immense Sousaphone wrapped around his body like some enormous brass anaconda.

I particularly liked The Hot 6’s presentation of Sheik of Araby. It glowed with splendid tone, not least from Adam Hall’s trumpet, its playing like a golden thread through the evening, It held  the attention from first note to last. This was especially so, too, in St James Infirmary Blues, the piece that Louis Armstrong made so famous. And it was certainly in good hands at The Sewing Room. This, like so much on the program, radiated authenticity.

Throughout the evening, Bronton Ainsworth did wonders on drums. His offering was rhythmically immaculate.

Let’s Get it On was another great jazzy gem. And Kate Pass, in a number of pieces, did well on both trombone and double bass.

This was a splendidly exhilarating program.