I wouldn’t class myself as your average classical concert goer. Yes, I played the violin at senior school but that was 30 years ago. I’ve even been to the Royal Albert Hall in London for the Proms, but the ticket was a present from my widowed father who was looking for someone to accompany him.
But now in middle age – with children a little older and a bit more time on my hands – I was keen to explore classical music a little further to discover whether I would find a concert an uplifting and enriching experience. What’s more I wanted to see if my 16-year-old daughter would appreciate some of music’s finest classical pieces.
The second of the 2017 St George’s Concert series featured the West Australian Symphony Orchestra Concertmaster - the world-class violinist, Laurence Jackson, and internationally-acclaimed organist and choral conductor, Joseph Nolan. Four concerts are being staged this year. The setting was the magnificent St George’s Cathedral, which is 130 years old and has high arches with beautiful stained-glass windows. As we took our seats, we were told to refrain from coughing and paper shuffling as the event was being recorded by the ABC for broadcast on 97.7 Classic FM.
The concert featured eight pieces, all very different in style and rhythm. The Chaconne in D Minor by Bach was extremely challenging for any experienced violinist. It’s a long solo piece, but the audience, myself included were captivated. It was dramatic and striking and we were left in awe of Laurence Jackson’s talent.
Beethoven’s Sonata number 5 for the piano and violin is also known as the Spring Sonata and is noted as being one of his most finest. The performance made full advantage of the power and range of the instruments. Pianist Joseph Nolan impressed me with his intricate finger work.
I instantly recognised Toccata Symphony number 5 by Widor. I’ve sat through many weddings, and this is apparently one of the most requested wedding day pieces in the world and one of the most popular organ symphonies. It has a sturdy melody and the organist’s feet and fingers were kept extremely busy, maximising the organ’s capabilities.
The West Organ is located on a specially-constructed gallery at, you’ve guessed it, the west end of the cathedral. This organ is one of the largest mechanical action instruments in WA and really is quite breathtaking and fits in so well with the surrounding architecture of the nave. A link up to a screen at the front of the cathedral ensured that we could see quite clearly the organist’s adept and skilful finger work taking place high above.
There was an intermission in the middle and we were served warm and spicy apple juice in the Burt Memorial Hall – just what was needed on one of the coldest winter nights in Perth.
Alison Bevan and Rae Metcalf occupied the neighbouring seats to me and, when the concert was over, we started chatting.
“The standard of playing tonight was exemplary, and what a variety of pieces, the first half included more regular, easily recognised pieces, whilst in the second half they were more-light hearted. Just think about it, these talented composers who created these masterpieces one or two hundred years ago, they’re very complex pieces, it’s just amazing” said Alison.
“Yes, they are both so accomplished. Joseph was playing the organ like a virtuoso, his legs and hands, his whole body worked that organ,” added Rae.
At the age of sixteen I wasn’t sure what my daughter would make of it. It’s hard to get her to sit still, and off her mobile phone or laptop, so a two-hour classical concert, would that have been hard to digest?
“It has been relaxing; the music has real depth and I’m blown away by the violinist and organist,” she said. “It has been a very calming, enjoyable evening and this charming cathedral, which I’ve never visited before, has left me in awe, it’s been the perfect setting.”
I couldn't of said it better. Delightful.
There are two more classical concerts to come in 2017 as part of the St George's Concert Series, Bach to Bernstein (St George's Cathedral Perth) and Handel's Solomon (Perth Concert Hall).
REVIEW BY SALLY GRANDY
Perth-based writer Sally Grandy attended the 2nd concert, The WASO Concertmaster, in the St George's Concert Series in Perth last Monday night. Sally formerly worked as a journalist for the BBC and ITV News in UK for decades, before leaving the shores of Southampton and arriving in Perth in 2013. She is mum to four children and passionate about the written word.