W.A.Symphony Orchestra

Perth Concert Hall

reviewed by Neville Cohn

At the weekend, a thrilling concerto performance that brought many in the audience to their feet – and a dance score given magical treatment that reached for, and touched, the stars –  were presented for concertgoers who filled almost every corner of the Concert Hall with choir stalls packed to capacity.

Tchaikowsky’s The Tempest must surely be the master’s dreariest offering. This was only the second time that The Tempest has appeared on a WASO program. I hope never to listen to it again.  Just the other day, the WASO’s fine playing of extracts from The Nutcracker ballet emphasised yet again its delightful essence. It is still as popular worldwide as ever – but The Tempest score and orchestral parts should be placed in the darkest, dustiest corner of the WASO’s library – and left there indefinitely.

Behzod Abduraimov hails from Tashkent in Uzbekistan  – and he plays the piano as if it was invented specially for him. He took a near-faultless journey through one of the toughest piano scores ever written, making light of its fearsome challenges with brilliance and high style. It was only briefly during the work’s most famous variation – No 18 – that focus blurred briefly. That apart, Abduraimov was peerless, each variation the sonic equivalent of a flawless gem. It’s not often that Perth audiences give musicians a standing ovation but that was very much the case here – and thoroughly deserved, too. The orchestra was in splendid form – and rightly acknowledged by the soloist in a blizzard of applause.

There was an encore. With the pianist bathed in pale pink light, he gave a faultless account of Liszt’s La Campanella.

Later, there was more musical magic with Jaime Martin drawing from his forces a superb response to Stravinsky’s Petrouchka. Like Wagner, Stravinsky was a most unpleasant person – condescending, sarcastic and anti-semitic. But, again like Wagner, he was unquestionably a genius – and Petrouchka is one of the finest fruits of that unique mind. It’s scored magically – both harmonically and melodically.  From first note to last, the WASO players were – in the best sense – on their musical toes as they brought faultless rhythmic bite to the score.  Poetry as well as dramatic intensity were beautifully balanced as the players responded to the conductor’s baton. Under his direction, the score burst into life, conjuring up its poetry no less meaningfully as its moments of melancholy and high drama. Laurels to trumpeter Brent Grapes for a first rate contribution – and the same could be said of principal clarinet Allan Meyer – and Graeme Gilling,

impeccable at the piano. This was a performance to cherish. Bravo!