Concert Review: WA Symphony Orchestra

12.05.11
Alisa Weilerstein
The West Australian

By Neville Cohn

WA Symphony Orchestra

Perth Concert Hall

It was in the slow movement of Shostakovich's Cello Concerto No. 1 that Alisa Weilerstein's exceptional musicianship was heard to finest advantage. In this saddest of cello songs, she coaxed from her instrument a stream of sound so perfectly formed and so profoundly meaningful that it brought a tear to the eye.

Enhancing this feat of musical wizardry was David Evans' faultlessly assessed contribution on the French horn. Throughout, Evans' playing was a cardinal factor in the overall success of the performance.

In the concerto's lengthy cadenza, Weilerstein's playing, throbbing with emotion, sounded like some utterance of unresolved grief - and in the finale, which came across as a barbaric, wild, grainy-toned dance, the soloist came as near to perfection as one could ever hope to experience.

Avalanches of thoroughly deserved applause brought an encore, a beautiful, finely phrased account of a movement from one of Bach's unaccompanied cello suites.

Conductor Paul Daniel sounded in his element as he took the WASO through Holst's The Planets, from the opening episode, Mars - which came across splendidly with remorseless, heavy tread that instantly conjured up images of armies on the march - to the finale, Neptune - in which the women's voices of the WASO Chorus, singing backstage, gave an ethereal, mysterious quality to the performance which faded slowly to silence, a magical moment to bring the WASO's 2011 Classics series to a close.

Mercury was less persuasively played, but Jupiter was splendidly robust and extravert but not even the WASO at its most persuasive could alter this listener's view that the movement's famous maestoso theme is music of vomitous sentimentality.