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Concert Reviews - 25 June 2017

Boroondara Eisteddfod Piano Concerto Award Final

Sylvester Kroyherr - Published in Bohemian Rhapsody Club online Newsletter

REVIEW OF CONCERT BY THE ZELMAN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA – As part of the Boroondara Eisteddford (A festival of music) - Piano Concerto Award Final.

Given at: Hawthorn Arts Centre, Hawthorn on 25/6/2017.
Guest Conductors: Joshua Geddes and Kevin Cameron

  • Michael Li (Rachmaninov – Piano Concerto No.3)
  • Kevin Chow (Prokofief – Piano Concerto No.2)
  • William Soo (Schumann – Piano Concerto in A minor)

The well attended hall of the Arts Centre was bursting with excitement and expectation as the Orchestra sailed into Verdi’s ‘Nabucco Overture’ conducted ably and energetically by Joshua Geddes. Being a smaller Orchestra (about 40), the short 7 minute piece displayed echoes of the Slave Chorus with well balanced light and shade.

Taking over the baton, Kevin Cameron welcomed the 23 year old Michael Li who set about tackling the first movement of Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto. With a gentle start and good eye contact with the Conductor, Michael displayed considerable lyrical prowess along with energetic dexterity. Furthermore, Kevin’s perceptive and interactive nature with the soloist was a joy to watch. Michael’s flair and virtuosity clearly showed during the Cadenza section with overtones of Liszt! In conclusion, we were treated to a sweet flute passage combined with a melodic and gentle piano – much to the delight of the packed audience.

Joining Kevin Cameron and the Orchestra, our next soloist playing the Prokofiev Piano Concerto was Kevin Chow. The 20 year old tackled all the three Movements of the highly complex Concerto with the first flowing energetically and driven with a spiky drive. The somewhat discordant Cadenza was ably executed despite its length of nearly 4 minutes, comprising of profuse and complex runs – exciting and even ‘angry’! The dramatic fusion with the Orchestra was strengthened by the brass, smoothly handled by the Conductor. Gathering further momentum, the Soloist sprung into the busy and bustling ‘Scherzo’ movement. This was handled with skilful brilliance, ending quite abruptly but much to the delight of the audience.

Following the interval, our next artist was William Soo assisted by Kevin Cameron and the Orchestra playing the first and third movements of Schumann’s Piano Concerto. From the start William displayed a smooth and flowing technique that combined well with the Orchestra. The melodious movement was well presented showing lyrical artistic refinement with an engaging Cadenza – finishing crisply. Delivering the third Movement, the 20 year old William sailed into the piece with great energy and power that effectively showed good contrast and virtuosity. Kevin blended the Orchestra beautifully to help the flawless performance by William.

Note: The duration of the three performances was approximately 20 minutes each.

Next, with Joshua Geddes returning to the platform, the Orchestra performed The Caravansary - a short 5 minute piece by Stephen Lebsanft (Principal Trombone of Zelman Symphony). Inspired by the allure of Petra, the piece described well the moods of the desert and the expectations of travellers along the Silk Road. Having been to a Caravansary, I appreciated the well constructed piece – performed ably by the Orchestra.

Bizet’s ‘Carmen Suite No. 1’ followed that bounced along with ample energy and vigour.

There was buzz from the audience as the three soloists were summoned by the Compare Merle Lamb and followed by the Adjudicator Julie Hall (famed pianist and examiner for the AMEB). The results were as follows:

  • Third Prize – William Soo
  • Second Prize – Michael Li
  • First Prize – Kevin Chow (praised for his colourful tonality and strong dialogue with the Orchestra).

The audience was delighted with all the performers as we were treated to an exciting encore – the Overture from Carmen by Bizet.

Congratulations to everyone who contributed to the event and of course to the Zelman Symphony Orchestra. Best wishes to all the soloists in continuing a successful musical careers.

SYLVESTER KROYHERR (Singer/Musician/Architect)

29 June 2017.

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