The Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra joined with musicians from the Australian National Academy of Music in a concert of epic scale, featuring Strauss to Stravinsky in the Federation Concert Hall.
The stage was full – among abundant sections of strings and brass we were also graced with two harps and an organ – and Ligeti’s Lontano opened the night. The piece was slow to unravel, and wrapped its way around the concert hall as the musicians dispersed its sound. In this way, it gave space for us to observe the physical sensation of the music in our ears. Sustained, drone-like tones from the orchestra seemed to resonate deep within our heads and, through this immersion, forced us to observe the concept of sound. This is perhaps a reason that parts of the 1967 work found its way into films such as The Shining and Shutter Island – each drawing us into psychologically complex journeys of the mind.
The work was painstakingly slow but never dull – instead, we could move with it between each instrumental section and admire their impressive timbres. The piece eventually evolved into a wave of sound with controlled intonation from the group (despite often grotesque dissonances). It was a wise decision to open with this work, whereas the following Strauss piece Also Sprach Zarathustra may have been a more obvious selection.
We heard the movements of the symphonic poem rolled into one, but commencing with its renowned Introduction: Sunrise. This was made popular among general audiences through its starring role in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was a strong starter but even more important was the opportunity it gave to listen live to the less famous movements. And these spoke to us with just as much presence as the introduction. Throughout Of Joys and Passions, The Funeral Song, Night Wanderer’s Song, and more, we were taken on a journey of moods which progressed quickly and skillfully. The orchestra moved from liftingly romantic, to explosively tense, and reserved brooding in the space of what seemed an instant. A well programmed work for the coming-together of an orchestra this size.
Post-interval, the TSO and ANAM players engaged in a performance of even deeper intensity, proving their high stamina by the end of the night: this was exhibited through their performance of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Written as a ballet, the composer’s primitivism caused an uproar at its 1913 premiere. While the audience may not have reacted with shock and violence on this occasion, the orchestra certainly portrayed sounds to that effect and in particular through Danse des Adolescents (Dance of the Young Girls), and Glorification de l’elue (Glorification of the Chosen Virgin). This high-impact work secured a fantastically rowdy response from the audience – this time because we’d have loved to listen on for longer.