Schubert & Tchaikovsky – 18 April 2021

Schubert & Tchaikovsky
Derwent Symphony Orchestra
Alexander Rodrigues, conductor
Kevin Kang, violin
Hobart Town Hall
18 April 2021

The Derwent Symphony Orchestra’s last concert took place in November 2019. In June 2020 following the Covid lockdown they recommenced regular rehearsals with conductor Alexander Rodrigues every Monday night, working their way through orchestral repertoire staples including all nine Beethoven symphonies and featuring a number of soloists from their ranks. This program was the DSO’s first public performance in 17 months.

It should be noted upfront that the standard and consistency of playing and ensemble here was the best that I can recall from this source based on many years of attending their concerts. Clearly the period of long preparation and work with the one conductor has enabled the attainment of standards only rarely approached in the past.

With the orchestra of 44 occupying floor space in front of the stage of the Town Hall and a capacity audience, the sound quality was loud and immediate. Schubert’s Symphony No 4 in C ‘Tragic’ certainly sounded bigger and grander than usual. The tempi were broad but also trenchant and convincing with plenty of intensity where needed as well as real warmth in the Andante slow movement.

Kevin Kang brought remarkable assurance and virtuosity to the solo part in Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto in D. Careful preparation was everywhere in evidence from the soloist, and orchestra which was obviously stretched to its limits but nonetheless nearly always managed to surmount the constant technical challenges under the guidance of conductor Rodrigues. The woodwind playing in particular was consistently fine. Thrilling stuff indeed! To top it all, Kevin Kang offered the hair-raisingly difficult violin solo in Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst’s Variations on ‘The Last Rose of Summer’ as an encore. 

The excellent program notes by concertmaster Joseph Phillips also deserve commendation. This was a special occasion and full marks go to conductor, soloist, and orchestra for their considerable achievement.

Peter Donnelly