Gleaming brass and crackling strings open Lachlan Skipworth’s Fanfara, the newest within the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s Australian commissioning collection 50 Fanfares. Sydney audiences may bear in mind Skipworth’s music from his monumental Breath of Thunder, which the SSO premiered in 2018 beneath the baton of Gerard Salonga, and visitor conductor Asher Fisch is actually no stranger, having premiered Skipworth’s Hinterland along with his personal West Australian Symphony Orchestra that very same 12 months. However Fanfara is a really totally different beast. Absent are the Japanese influences and devices so integral to Breath of Thunder, as an alternative Skipworth’s blazing opening provides strategy to lyrical string writing – with an exquisite oboe solo from Shefali Pryor – and a extra direct sound world that brings to thoughts each the sweeping majesty and pastoral cosiness of Howard Shore’s music for the Lord of the Rings movies. Written in celebration of the return of reside, communal music-making, Fanfara swings from lush textures to the sound of cascading solo harp, the triumphant end filled with hope for the long run.
Asher Fisch. Photograph © Nik Babic
The sense of joyous fanfare continued with the intense ‘Turkish’ percussion of Mozart’s Overture to The Abduction from the Seraglio earlier than the song-like Clarinet Concerto – written virtually a decade later in 1791 for Anton Stadler and his basset clarinet – ushered in a extra hushed, although no much less joyful, temper. This 12 months has already seen various the SSO’s musicians take the highlight as soloists and this live performance was no exception. Francesco Celata, who has been Affiliate Principal Clarinet with the SSO since 1993, gave a splendidly limpid, long-breathed account of the solos, caressing Mozart’s phrases with a clean sound that reached proper to the corners of the City Corridor even at its softest moments. Fisch proved a delicate companion, the stability impeccable all through. There was a second within the Adagio, because the theme returns within the recapitulation, when Celata’s clarinet was virtually a whisper, cushioned by delicate strings – magical stuff – earlier than the strings bloomed once more within the tutti, Celata and Fisch capping all of it off with a glowing finale.
Schumann’s Second Symphony, which Mendelssohn premiered in 1846, was the composer’s first main work after a breakdown that noticed him unable to write down for a 12 months, clawing his method again to composition via learning the music of Bach – to whom there are a number of references within the piece. Fisch allowed the longer musical arguments to unfold within the first motion earlier than delivering feverish power and crisp articulation within the Scherzo. There have been a number of moments, significantly within the first motion, when the shine of the brass washed out a number of the particulars within the string traces, however there have been additionally some merely beautiful wind moments – such because the oboe and bassoon over aching strings within the Adagio espressivo. The wind traces – and the devastating simplicity with which Fisch and his forces dispatched the fugue part – made the third motion a selected spotlight, earlier than a full-blooded finale, with its nod to Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte, introduced the night to a sunny conclusion.
The Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s Mozart & Schumann is on the Sydney City Corridor till 20 March