The first half of the “Autumn Leaves” concert at the Wendouree Centre for Performing Arts last Sunday was an opportunity for the Ballarat Symphony Orchestra to demonstrate its broad range of musical skills within the nineteenth century repertoire. Guest conductor Gyula Cseszko displayed a sympathetic rapport with all sections of the orchestra while maintaining the purposeful direction.
The overture to Weber’s “Der Freischutz”, with its colourful orchestration, set the tone for dramatic expression. The “L’Arlesienne” Suite No.1 of Bizet continued in the same vein, with more room for each section to lead. Overall the playing was excellent, with a strong string section supported by the ever reliable woodwinds. There was a sense of tightness and precision, even in the long “Tales from the Vienna Woods” of waltz king Johann Strauss 11.The “Andante and Rondo” for two flutes and orchestra, composed by Albert Doppler, was the perfect vehicle for Madeline and Chelsea Witham. The mother/daughter combination created a well-balanced and blended sound, with both soloists comfortably taking on the musical challenges presented.
The Ballarat Choral Society and Box Hill Chorale combined to make the second half an exciting choral excursion. Staying mostly in the eighteenth century with Joseph Haydn’s second “Te Deum”, Michael Haydn’s “Benedicite Dominus” and Mozart’s celebrated “Ave Verum Corpus” the two choirs produced a spiritual and spirited performance. The choral texture was well shaped and well balanced with the orchestra. “O Clap Your Hands” of Vaughan Williams completed the concert in a joyous mood, aided by solid brass accompaniment from the upper balconies.