W.A.Symphony Orchestra

Perth Concert Hall

reviewed by Neville Cohn

It says a great deal for the skill brought to bear on Rachmaninov’s Symphony No 2 that, at work’s end, I’d have been more than happy to listen to it all over again. It’s a lengthy work; it runs for an hour. But here, time flew. The Second was written when the composer was 35 and, at last, fully recovered from the devastating effects of depression that had made some of his earlier years almost unbearable.

If, by some miracle of time travel, the composer had been able to attend and listen to this performance, I’d like to think he’d have gone backstage afterwards to shake the conductor’s hand – and even to give a very, very rare smile. It is so easy, in a work like this, for a listener’s attention to wander if the performance is an indifferent ramble. But not here. Throughout, there was an intensity of focus that allowed every measure of the work to exert its magic.

From the very first moments, with cellos and double basses uttering their dour notes in the most impeccable way, the entry of the violas left one in little doubt that we were on a journey likely to be memorable in the best sense. And that it most certainly turned out to be. It was abundantly clear, too, that Nicholas Carter was the man for the job. Musically astute, focussing on fine detail but never losing sight of the overall dimensions of the work, he took his players through a performance to be remembered for the best reasons.  Spacious but never extravagantly so, with finest focus on detail (but never for a moment sounding fussy), we listened to responses now noble, now passionate, and at times gentle – and near-volcanic at moments of high emotion.

In the Scherzo, joyful brass in impeccable form very effectively evoked the movement’s celebratory essence. And in the Adagio, we listened to Allan Meyer’s impeccable skill on clarinet as the inherently yearning quality of the score registered. Here was the very apotheosis of beauty that embraced the listener in a shawl of sonic delight.

Is there a more joyous symphonic finale that that of Rachmaninov’s Second? It was a paean of joy delivered with impressive skill.

Yet again, this audience of senior folk was impeccable in its concert manners, never clapping between movements – only at the end. And was that splendid response deserved? I’ll say it was. Bravo!!