Climate change, fake news, wars near and far, anxiety, illness, a slowing economy: they occupy our minds and lay siege to our spirits. No wonder we return time and again to Shostakovich’s Symphony No 7, begun in a Leningrad (St Petersburg) besieged by German forces and given its first performance in that still-threatened city in 1942 by a defiant orchestra comprising civilians and soldiers.
This unforgettable concert featured the combined forces of WASO and nearly 30 young music students from the Australian National Academy of Music. Maestro Simone Young, surely one of the most thrilling conductors of our troubled times, marshalled her troops before leading an assault on Sergei Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, Op. 64 – dividing to conquer by having first devised her own suite of movements from this attractive ballet score.
Whether in the Act 1 Introduction, the famous Dance of the Knights, the Finaleto Act 2 or Juliet’s Death and Funeral, Young accentuated Prokofiev’s unerring sense of theatre, as much as his extraordinary orchestration and deceptively original melodies, with bold, balletic gestures. The orchestra responded with a steely, visceral sound: clean and sharp as a newly-forged blade.