MSO livestream from Iwaki Auditorium, June 18

Emerging from musical lockdown is worth heralding with a fanfare. As the Melbourne Symphony embarked on its new series of fortnightly livestreams, Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man was an apt curtain-raiser. Beneath its stark solemnity lay a current of hope that resonated with this encouraging initiative. Another encouraging aspect of this program, bookended by Copland works, was its focus on Australian composers.

MSO players perform Fanfare for the Common Man in the June 18 Fanfare and Melodies concert.

MSO players perform Fanfare for the Common Man in the June 18 Fanfare and Melodies concert.

Peter Sculthorpe’s popular Djilile, based on an Arnhem Land melody evoking a whistling duck on a billabong, was sensitively rendered in its chamber orchestra version under conductor Benjamin Northey. While physical distancing limited the cohesion of string sound, the ensemble still powerfully communicated the score’s tender melancholy. Christopher Moore’s dark, burnished viola tone contributed an important element to the overall soundscape.

Januaries by Sydney-born Lisa Illean reflects on childhood summers spent in Queensland. In a succession of textures and timbres, the music effectively summons up a sparse landscape where intense heat impels people to stillness. Concertmaster Sophie Rowell led the way in delivering the score’s finely calibrated tuning.

Using melodies to denote time and place found contrasting expression in Sculthorpe’s New Norcia and Copland’s Appalachian Spring suite. After the hopeful encounter between monastic and Indigenous rituals in the Sculthorpe, Northey and his players enjoyed tapping into Copland’s appealing mix of gentle humour and nostalgia, performing with verve and empathy in equal measure.

Although the audio-visual presentation was polished, providing a seasoned classical music host would make these presentations worth trumpeting.

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