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Sibelius Violin Concerto (Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra)

by Madonna

The attention of a large audience was immediately grabbed by the forceful energy and excitement of young Australian composer Harry Sdraulig’s Torrent, a work that begins with a rush of string and woodwind figurations.

This seven-minute piece was originally commissioned by the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and premiered in 2021 and Sdraulig was present for its Tasmanian debut. In a program featuring music by Sibelius and Nielsen, Torrent had notable stylistic qualities providing links with those earlier masters of the orchestra.

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After the dramatic opening section there was a short-lived quieter interlude before a return to high drama of the start heading towards a brassy conclusion. Throughout its all too brief duration, Sdraulig demonstrated a mastery and variety of orchestral colour.

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American violinist Benjamin Beilman, 33, made a second visit to Hobart having performed the Tchaikovsky concerto here with conductor Giordano Bellincampi in March 2019. He is a player of extraordinary technical mastery and mellifluous tone – one produced on the rare and precious Guarneri ‘del Gesù’ instrument from 1740.

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Beilman’s rendition of the Sibelius Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47 was remarkable in its accuracy and concentration, especially so in his quiet playing. To my ears, the first movement was, at times, a little too self-consciously controlled to allow for a real feeling of spontaneity. However, the expansive slow movement blossomed with warmth and passion and the finale fairly bristled with power. It was a carefully thought-out new perspective from a the more traditional approach.

The orchestra was guided with insight by Bellincampi. There were moments of instrumental brilliance from all sections. Of particular note was the marvellous clarity and precision given by timpanist Matthew Goddard to the rhythmic motive that opens the final movement.

Beilman’s encore – Eugène Ysaÿe’s Sonata Op. 27 No. 4, Finale – was simply stunning in its virtuosity. It was incredible to reflect that the Belgian composer of the work was once the owner of the violin on which it was performed.

The music of Danish composer Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) is still too infrequently heard in Australia. His Symphony No. 2, Op. 16, ‘The Four Temperaments’ is an endearing, genial work positively teeming with energy and fresh ideas. Initially it’s the rhythmic impetus that commands attention with harmonies that are characteristically eccentric but that on repetition become strangely compelling and original sounding.

The 1902 symphony was inspired by a picture that Nielsen encountered in a country inn depicting four classic personality types: Choleric, Phlegmatic, Melancholic and Sanguine. Italian-born Danish conductor Bellincampi’s interpretation was always sympathetic and authentic sounding, seemingly sculpting the headlong momentum of the first movement followed by a notable deadpan charm in the second.

He drew climaxes of charismatic intensity in the Andante malincolico while the contrasting finale was all humorous bustle and positivity. The orchestra produced consistently distinguished work with everyone required to play full out for most of the time.

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