The Ballarat Symphony Orchestra's first concert of 2019 varied slightly from the usual program structure, with some reference to folk music alongside popular classics.
The orchestra has always had strong wind and brass sections so it was fascinating to have a program which played to its strengths. New Principal Conductor Gyula Cseszko is now familiar with the musicians after several concerts as guest conductor and this was demonstrated in his easy manner.
Handel's "Music for the Royal Fireworks" opened the concert. The expansive overture, played with elegance, moved at a steady pace but the popular fourth movement brought the best out of the brass section. Percy Grainger's "Lincolnshire Posy", created around six folk tunes, presented some textural challenges as the contrasts of songs and orchestration break the work up into discreet sections. "The Brisk Young Sailor" showed its folk tradition very well.
The highlight of the concert was Holst's "First Suite" for wind band. The performance matched the quality of the dedicated writing, with tonal colours and textures fully explored. A clear sense of direction was maintained while the energy levels remained high.
The concert was completed with the "Light Cavalry Overture" of von Suppe and Grainger's "Shepherd's Hey". These two very popular pieces were delivered with enthusiasm and skill. The balance and ensemble work remained disciplined throughout, with solid contributions from the string section.