A class of presentation often overlooked in the theatrical world is that of the concert performance. It is easy to see why – often no single stars that stand out from the crowd, often no special technical effects, only simple lighting setups to separate the stage from the audience and sound designs aimed at nothing but letting the performers produce the best possible sound.
Despite the lack of these trappings of traditional theatrical productions, at the core, the artistry is the same – telling a story in a way the audience can experience any enjoy. At the pinnacle of orchestral performance, the multitude of performers on stage with incredibly varying disciplines and instruments can become a single unit, telling a story (equal times narrative as not) and taking the audience on an audible journey. In this city, the undisputed masters of orchestral work are the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO). In conjunction with international authorities on Wagner and Brahms, the MSO presented a concert at Hamer Hall illustrating some of the orchestral highlights of Wagner’s work.
Asher Fisch, an award-winning, internationally renowned conductor, led the approximately one hundred strong orchestra with a gentle but precise touch. Under his baton, Wagner’s sometimes dense and complex musical textures were crisp and clear, while still rich and full of life. Additionally, as a cross section of the composer’s work comprised the set list, chiefly to compare and contrast the breadth of his composition, melodic elements in each work were highlighted and subtly enhanced. From the Tannhäuser’s echoing leitmotifs, similar in style to Tchaicovsky’s repeating rhythms and melodic lines bouncing through different sections of the orchestra, to the soaring, grandiose and expansive melodies of Parsifal, comparable to the widely recognised Also Sprach Zarathustra by Strauss. The highlight of the evening, however, was when soprano Lisa Gasteen took to the stage, performing Brünnhilde’s Immolation Scene from Götterdämmerung. The renowned singer, a veteran of Wagnerian opera, was mesmerising in her delivery, and regal in her ability to connect with every member of the audience.
The Melbourne Festival only continues until the 27th of October – but orchestral performances happen across Melbourne on a very regular basis – and with an orchestra the quality of MSO resident in this city, the time has never been better to expand your theatrical horizons and bask in the power of the symphony.