REVIEW WASO Mussorgsky’s pictures dazzle by Neville Cohn

A review of WASO
reviewed by Neville Cohn
on the 8th June 2015
4 stars
this review originally appeared in the West Australian

Mussorgsky’s pictures dazzle

A supply of bourbon, provided by Raymond Chandler’s Hollywood bosses, was a crucial requirement in the writing of his screenplay for The Blue Dahlia. This wasn’t an isolated incident. Incredibly, massive binges got his grey cells into optimum author-mode.

Mussorgsky was another drunk who turned out masterpieces. Dead at 42, he was a genius beaten by booze.

His Pictures at an Exhibition, originally for piano and famously orchestrated by Ravel, is a repository of musical wonders and the WASO players were up to the score’s often severely taxing demands at the weekend. Tokyo-born Eugene Tzigane, focusing on every nuance, was clearly in command as Mussorgsky’s masterpiece flashed into detailed, often dazzling, life.

I admired the playing of the brass section, especially of trombonist Joshua Davis. Bydlow, Mussorgsky’s evocation of a rumbling, wooden ox cart, was persuasively evoked as was the Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks. Oboist Peter Facer sounded on best form and, in The Old Castle, Matthew Styles was a stylish saxophonist.

Earlier, we heard Paul Wright in Mozart’s Violin Concerto in G, K216. Wright, who, as an 11-year-old, studied with Yehudi Menuhin, was in excellent fettle, bringing to his performance his trademark understanding of period style and mood. Wright thoroughly merited the storm of applause that erupted at the concerto’s conclusion.

Tzigane, took the WASO strings along a near-faultless interpretative and sonic path, with phrase-shaping that allowed Dvorak’s Serenade to flash into exquisitely fashioned life. I’d gladly have listened to it all over again; it was a joy from start to finish.

A small forest of ABC microphones was suspended over the orchestra. If you weren’t at the concert, make a point of listening in to the broadcast on ABC Classic FM. The playing is too meaningful to miss.