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Concert Reviews - 3 December 2016 - Scandinavian Masterpieces

Barbara Booth - Arts Hub

The Zelman Memorial Symphony Orchestra is a community, not-for-profit orchestra that performs five concerts every year, at Kew's Xavier College, major Melbourne concert venues, and regional areas such as Daylesford and Healesville. In February, 2014, it performed to 7000 people at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl to celebrate its 80th anniversary.

Volunteer-based, the orchestra (originally called the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra) commemorates the man who established it in 1906, Alberto Zelman Jnr. Zelman nurtured it till he died in 1927 and it subsequently split into today’s Melbourne Symphony Orchestra for professional performances and the Zelman, which is designed to foster local community talent. Two of the evening’s performances were the result of the Symphony’s community benevolence.

The first, Grieg’s Peer Gynt Suite No. 1, was to introduce Associate Conductor, Jenny Going who, in 2015, was the inaugural recipient of the John Hopkins Award to support young conductors. It includes the opportunity to conduct one major work with the Zelman Symphony and Going chose wisely with the Peer Gynt, a well-known signature piece. The Zelman is an acclaimed orchestra and didn’t let Going down. But did she let them down? Technically, no. Perhaps it was nervousness or, maybe, groundwork in the school system, but to inspire talented adults to deliver an inspired performance, a good conductor cannot just be note perfect. If Going can shed the shackles of the system and allow her conducting to be guided by her passion, she will, undoubtedly, become a great conductor.

It was an ambitious leap for the orchestra to tackle the next item on the program. the Nornir Concerto for Viola to Violin, composed by May Lyon, a final year Master of Music in Composition student. Lyon had been chosen as the Emerging Composer of the Year through a collaboration of the Melbourne University School of Music with the Zelman Orchestra and chose to include violinist, Kat Tsyrlin, as her soloist. The intricate three movements, centred around an ancient Norse myth, made good use of percussion, particularly a glockenspiel and Tsyrlin did an excellent job of guiding the orchestra through dynamic passages showing the light and shade of different lifetimes and allowing Principal Flautist, Carol Galea, to shine. This work deserves a complete review but it was clear to see that Lyon is headed for a very bright future.

What an example to those emerging musicians the following artist must be! At 31 years of age, Stefan Cassomenos’ years at Melbourne University are long gone and since the age of 10 he has traversed the world many times playing his own compositions, as well as those of others. In spite of many awards, his humility was admirable when asked the question, ''"Is Greig’s Piano Concerto in A Minor your favourite piece?"'

"To listen to, not to play," he replied, "because it’s so hard!" Well, apart from occasionally mopping his brow with a handkerchief, this master of music gave a breathtaking and flamboyant display of the wonderful work. Perhaps, Lyon’s Nornir Concerto may rival it one day for difficulty but, on Saturday night, with Principal Conductor Mark Shiell drawing equal passion from the orchestra, the combination was electric. Cassomenos displays a versatility that is becoming more common among young musicians. He also gives back to the community as founding member of the successful ensemble, PLEXUS, which has been commissioning composers and new works since 2014.

And, finally, Sibelius who, not satisfied with the success of his first symphony, wrote No. 2 in 1901, just one year after the premier of Finlandia. Another massive work, it demonstrated all the trademarks of Sibelius’ nationalistic fervour, the rolling melody of the beautiful Norwegian countryside, the contrasting abuse of encroaching dominance, the anger and resentment of the Russian invasion. What a scenario! Blazing French horns, basses and cellos, rose to the occasion, not to mention the bassoons, oboes and flutes in full flight and the tireless trumpeter, Suzanne Wedding. Excelling, in a very comprehensive program.

Perhaps, less could have been more but, as far as attaining its goal, the Zelman Memorial Symphony Orchestra certainly achieved it.

Rating: 4 1/2 stars out of 5

Scandinavian Masterpieces
Zelman Memorial Symphony Orchestra
Artistic Director and Principal Conductor: Mark Shiell

GRIEG Peer Gynt: Suite No. 1: Associate Conductor Jenny Going
NORNIR CONCERTO for Violin, Viola; composer May Lyon
GRIEG Piano Concerto in A minor; Stefan Cassomenos – piano
SIBELIUS Symphony No. 2
Xavier College, Kew
3 December 2016

Reproduced from Arts Hub, published 7 December 2016.

Sylvester Kroyherr - Published in Bohemian Rhapsody Club online Newsletter

REVIEW OF CONCERT BY THE ZELMAN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA – Scandinavian Masterpieces
Given at: Eldon Hogan Performing Arts Centre, XAVIER COLLEGE, Barkers Road, Kew on 3/12/2016.

Conductor: Mark Shiell
Associate Conductor: Jenny Going
Soloists: Stefan Cassomenos (Piano), Kat Tsyrlin (Violin and Viola).

Following a brief and informative pre-concert introduction by Mark Shiell, the enthusiastic audience welcomed Jenny Going to conduct the short but delightful Peer Gynt Suite No.1 by the Norwegian Edvard Grieg. The Orchestra set the ‘Morning Mood’ beautifully with rounded balance and sweet flute solos. This was followed by the sombre and sensitive ‘The Death of Åse’ that was plaintive, ending perfectly prior to ‘Anitra’s Dance’ that featured bouncing rhythms, smooth and harmonious interplay of strings and wonderful pizzicato passages. ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’ was the last movement. The gentle oboe start gave way to an exciting crescendo, led by the strings in great style.

Taking the helm to introduce May Lyon - the composer of Nornir Concerto for Viola and Violin, Mark Shiell introduced Kat Tsyrlin to perform the Nordic mythological inspired piece. Kat began the first movement on the viola, exploring ‘the past’ with cryptic discords and harmonics giving a feeling of uncertainty and fear through some squeaky passages. In the next movement Kat changed to the violin, giving ‘the future’ a mystic feel through high harmonics fusing disharmony and tension with the driving exploration of the brass. The third movement fused the life force of the present with Kat displaying great dexterity and skill.

Grieg’s much loved Piano Concerto in A minor followed. Stefan took instant command of the first movement with expressive musicality, immersing himself in the music shown further through his body language. The audience lapped up the well articulated and sensitive cadenza that was completed by a powerful ending, helped by the vigilant orchestra. With a gentle introduction by the Orchestra, the energy of Stefan gave the slow pace a lively feel with a beautiful finish. The bubbly third movement followed with great drive broken by a gentle bridge section embellished by the flutes. With the excitement continuing, the piece finished with playful flurry and an impressive finale. (No wonder Franz Liszt liked this Concerto! Maybe he was listening in as well.) The audience roared with appreciation and passion!

The mighty Symphony No.2 by Sibelius followed after the interval. Embracing the first movement, the Orchestra displayed some nice work from the strings, including some colourful pizzicato passages, ending gently and peacefully. The plaintive and dark second movement followed, highlighting the crisp pizzicato passages from the double bass and cellos, ending with a powerful surge. With a rocketing start from the strings the third movement flowed with excitement making way for the connected final movement, capturing more melodious and gripping passages. The final climax gave the orchestra a chance to shine and deliver a fitting end to the evening.

Full marks to Mark Shiell, Jenny Going, the soloists and the Zelman Symphony Orchestra, as we look forward to future events in 2017. A most enjoyable and enriching concert – congratulations to everyone, including all the volunteers!

SYLVESTER KROYHERR (Singer/Musician/Architect) - 7 December 2016

John Tucker - Classikon

Saturday evening saw the Zelman Symphony presenting their last programme for 2016 – an evening of Scandinavian Masterpieces with Grieg, Sibelius plus a premiere performance of a work by a local composer making up the programme.

The venue was the Eldon Hogan Performing Arts Centre at Xavier College in Kew – a fine venue, although slightly flat acoustics. In a nice touch there was a screen showing videos of previous performances in the foyer, along with the ability to buy CDs immediately after the performance from the ‘CD Desk’ – these could be ordered during intermission, or at the end of the evening (with some available immediately, and the rest posted out in the following days.)

Mark Shiell, Zelman Symphony’s Artistic Director and the principal conductor for the evening, also gave an interesting pre-performance talk covering the main pieces and the thematic idea behind their selection.

The evening opened with the Peer Gynt Suite No. 1 conducted by Jenny Going, inaugural recipient of the Rosemary and John Hopkins Award for conductors. Overall this was quite a pleasing performance, with good energy and enthusiasm. The pace of the final movement showed up a little lack of crispness in the timing, but still worked to really plunge the audience helter-skelter towards the finale.

Second in the programme was the Nornir Concerto for Viola to Violin – May Lyon composer, Kat Tsyrlin violin/viola soloist, conducted by Mark Shiell. This was the premiere performance of a work commissioned specifically for this Scandinavian evening. Working within Norse mythology, the concerto traced the ‘Daughters of Time’ – Urd (Past,) Skuld (Future,) and Verandi (Present,) who sit at the base of Yggdrasill, the ‘World Tree’, weaving the fate of all. It was an interesting and stylistically very different work.

A short pause while the Kawai SK-7 Semi-Concert Grand Piano was wheeled on stage provided the perfect break before the highlight of the night, Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor. Pianist Stefan Cassomenos strode on stage to warm applause, and left it to a thunderous ovation some 30 minutes later. Cassomenos was in fine form, exhibiting complete control of his instrument, his touch both commanding and playful. But this was no domination of orchestra by the piano; Cassomenos’s enthusiasm and passion entering in to a clear and vibrant dialogue with the other players which imbued the music with a joyful energy.

The final piece for the evening followed intermission: Sibelius’s Symphony No 2 in D major, Op 43. The orchestra played well, with Mark Shiell conducting with energy and enthusiasm, well-suited to a closing piece as inspiring and nationalistic as this. It couldn’t quite scale the same heights as the piano concerto had before it, but it rounded out the programme well, helping to showcase the versatility and range both of the Scandinavian theme and the orchestra themselves.

This was a marvellous evening’s entertainment and I greatly look forward to what the Zelman Symphony has on offer in 2017.

Reproduced from Classikon, published 8 December 2016.

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Page last modified on December 11, 2016, at 04:56 PM