The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra made a welcome return to Ballarat with an excellent concert in the Civic Hall last Friday evening.
Directed by Concertmaster Dale Barltrop the orchestra performed a well-shaped program with a strong string presence. Opening with the overture to Rossini's opera "The Italian Girl in Algiers" the orchestral colours were fully explored with precise rhythmic control and clearly delineated contrasts. The energy and drive, so typical of Rossini's overtures, were perfectly maintained.
The performance of the violin concerto of Mendelssohn, one of the most popular of this genre, was delivered with a sense of freshness and discovery. Soloist Anne-Marie Johnson, a member of the orchestra, displayed great empathy with the work and with the orchestra. The strong lyricism came through from the dramatic opening theme while the bravura demands of the cadenza of the first movement and the energetic final movement were handled with ease.
Johnson was joined by Barltrop as the soloists in Vivaldi's Concerto for two violins RV 522. This performance successfully balanced the dramatic energy and gracefulness needed in Vivaldi's string orchestrations. The ensemble work and dialogue between soloists and orchestra remained poised throughout.
Schubert's third symphony fits into the bright and positive style, similar to his fifth symphony. The MSO's performance demonstrated a clear understanding of that character, with just the right amount of lightness in shaping the beautiful melodic lines while achieving a particular pleasing balance of orchestral colours. With Barltrop conducting from the Concertmaster's chair the skill and commitment from the musicians were obvious.