As part of the “Composers in Focus” series, The Adelaide Symphony Orchestra brought great happiness to the Adelaide Town Hall on Wednesday evening performing three well-chosen works nattily packaged as Bohemian Rhapsodies led by British conductor and pianist, Howard Shelley.
Presented by Richard Chew, the program opened with the Overture from The Battered Bride by Bedřich Smetana. The famous comic opera set in rural Bohemia is about love, beer, love of beer, marriage brokerage, and a dancing bear who has too much beer. With those visuals in mind, the overture, revealing seductive hints of the drama envisaged, couldn’t have been anything other than wonderful.
Shelley and Chew chatted informatively while the stage was re-set. The former then directed the pared down Adelaide Symphony Orchestra from the Steinway for Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 23 (K488). Redefining multi-skilling, Shelley made one of the genre’s most uplifting piano pieces look effortless as he conducted from the keyboard, centre stage, and with back to the audience.
Shelley’s performance of the cadenza in the coda of the first movement Allegro, was thrilling. The second movement Adagio saw wind instruments shine against their glorious string counterparts. The last cheerful rondo movement Allegro assai was wondrous, and over way too quickly.
Following interval, it was time for a happy ending with Antonín Dvořák’s Symphony No 6, B112, op.60. Shelley conducted the “joyful 6” with Bohemian gusto; the woodwind and horns in the second movement, Adagio, producing a gorgeous, mellifluous tone. The frenetic third movement, Scherzo: Furiant (Presto), was tremendous, and the coda of the last splendid movement, Finale (Allegro con spirito) ended the show spectacularly; tutti fortissimo.
Chew informed us that Dvořák’s piece was composed to “impress the cultured Viennese”. The symphony had the same effect on those present ,resulting in smiling faces and plentiful applause ending the cheery concert treat.
Reviewed by Gordon Forester
Venue: Adelaide Town Hall
Season: 04 June 2014
Duration: 2 hours
Tickets: $20 – $109