From the New World – 2 April 2023

From the New World
Derwent Symphony Orchestra
Damien Holloway, conductor
James Anderson, cello
Stanley Burbury Theatre
UTAS Sandy Bay
02 April 2023

It was good to have this longstanding community orchestra back and tackling such big masterworks as these after a relatively quiet 2022 season. Indeed, the task of bringing technically challenging pieces such as these to performance standard only really faltered in the opening Barber Adagio for Strings (1938) where the difficult central section was let down by intonation and ensemble issues.

However, Dvorak’s Concerto for Violoncello and Orchestra in B minor, Op. 104 (1896) came up wonderfully well. Soloist James Anderson played with fine control and variety of expression. He was particularly sensitive in the second movement Adagio ma non troppo with notable support from the wind players – flautist Gianni Posadas-Sen deserving special mention. The brass tuttis in the outer sections brought some splendid moments and the first movement horn solo was well taken by Aidan Connors. James’s cello sounded especially poignant in that elegiac coda towards the end of the final movement.

Conductor Damien Holloway gave an introductory talk concerning Amy Beach’s Symphony in E minor (Gaelic), Op. 32 (1895). This first symphony by an American woman (1867-1944) to be published and performed by a major orchestra was composed at the same time that Dvorak wrote his famous concerto. The programming of this little known work was a brave decision and rumour has it that the rehearsals were difficult with key brass players available only at the last minute. The conductor’s clear enthusiasm for the 4-movement piece was certainly warranted and the orchestra gave of their best for him. This symphony, with its frequently turbulent mood and abundance of Irish tunes, has a powerful sweep and forward momentum that is infectious. Although the performance standard inevitably had some rough edges, overall this was hugely enjoyable with excellent brass and first-rate solo work from concertmaster Kevin Kang. The woodwinds gave their best playing of the day in the second movement Alla Siliciana – Allegro vivace. This was a considerable achievement for both the DSO and conductor Damien Holloway.

Peter Donnelly

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