MSO revels in big-top atmosphere

03.17.12
Matthias Pintscher
Sydney Morning Herald

By Clive O'connell

Symphonie Fantastique
Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Master 1, Melbourne Town Hall
March 15 & 16

POSSIBLY intentionally, the first of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra's Master series concerts this year held a consistent undercurrent of the circus. In the opening work, the connection lay both in and outside the music: the Sorcerer's Apprentice by Dukas with its infectious, lolloping trio of bassoons irresistibly bringing to mind Mickey Mouse's apprentice shaking hands with Leopold Stokowski in Walt Disney's Fantasia of 1940. Under Matthias Pintscher, the MSO gave a bouncy performance.

Kolja Blacher took the solo line for Stravinsky's Violin Concerto, where the opening Toccata movement brings to mind the big top through its thinly strident jauntiness. Its most appealing segment, the second Aria, brought a welcome melodic finesse into play. A work that's not often heard and you can understand why, even after this generous and accomplished performance.

The great Berlioz symphony enjoyed a similar expansiveness, Pintscher piling on the energy and colour thickly. Still, the strings showed excellent ensemble and the woodwind solos could rarely be faulted. And I will always be thankful to this conductor for giving a pair of unabashedly flatulent tubas an unimpeded prominence in the spine-tingling phantasmagoria of a finale as Berlioz's infernal circus hurtles down the Champs-Elysees.