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Review: CSO’s Llewellyn Series/02

Sophia Dickinson

Last Thursday, I was lucky enough to have one of the hottest tickets in town to see a Canberra Symphony Orchestra (CSO) concert. Already with 85 per cent of their concerts sold to season ticket holders, there are allegedly only 10 tickets left for their Grand Gala on 4 July. I joined the 1,400 strong audience at Llewellyn Hall for a night dedicated to Tchaikovsky.

It was a fitting way to acknowledge what would have been the Russian composer’s 175th birthday. His Piano Concerto No.1 in B Flat Minor is hailed as the ‘greatest piano concerto of all time’, and CSO brought in one of Australia’s best pianist to perform it, Hoang Pham who won the 2013 Symphony Australia Young Performer’s Award.

This is said to be one of his favourite works.

Hoang’s passion was obvious as his fingers glided over the keys, producing an amazingly intricate sound. He also treated the audience to ‘something in contrast’, which I’m told was Chopin’s Nocturne in E Flat Major.

The concert also included the Scheherazade symphonic suite by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, another Russian composer who was known to take professional advise from Tchaikovsky. The score was inspired by the Persian saga One Thousand and One Nights. It features a violin solo, performed for the delighted audience by concertmaster Barbara Jane Bilby.

Both these pieces have great movement and drama, and it’s easy to understand how Tchaikovsky was also able to compose stunning ballet music such as Swan Lake and The Nutcracker.

The programme also included Boom Box by Australian composer Matthew Hindson. The piece was originally composed for a concert for kinder to year two students, and had a fun vibe that got the audience giggling.

While I’m trying my best to sound like I know what I’m talking about, I must admit it was my first CSO concert and I’m no musical expert. But that made me the ideal audience member. CSO’s mission is to deliver the best of orchestral music to Canberra audiences and they do wonderful work to include all members of the community.

At the start of the concert the audience was informed about bassoon player Kristen Sutcliffe and percussionist Veronica Bailey’s work with young Canberrans who have cochlear implants. They give participants the opportunity to study percussion, attend a CSO rehearsal and partake in a performance for other children with hearing loss. CSO also offers outreach concerts for people with disabilities, bringing free performances to the children’s ward of Canberra Hospital, students of ACT special schools and education centres.

CSO Chief Conductor and Artistic Director Nicholas Milton is a treasure of the Canberra arts scene. The internationally renowned conductor charismatically engages with the audience to promote CSO’s work and give a little information about each piece. He’s in high demand with Europe and Asia’s top orchestras, and has been in his position at CSO since 2007.

CSO is at the heart of performing arts in Canberra. But if you missed them at Llewellyn Hall, you will have the opportunity to hear them in action when The Australian Ballet’s Giselle at the Canberra Theatre when it opens next week (21-26 May).

It was lovely to experience orchestral music in a concert setting. I have definitely added CSO to my ever-growing list of must-see Canberra arts events. As an extra bonus, I’m still young enough to get the under 30s ticket discount too, which was a nice boost as I’m no longer eligible for the discount offered to under 27s for many events at the Canberra Theatre Centre.

For more information about the Canberra Symphony Orchestra’s 2015 program and upcoming performances, visit the CSO website.


Sophia Dickinson

Sophia is a true Canberra girl having been born and raised here, and she now works in the public service. She loves Canberra for all it has given her from a great education, fulfilling work to opportunities to indulge her love of dance and music. She is passionate about travel and writing, and studied post-graduate media and communication. She has appeared in several local amateur theatre productions, although she prefers to be an audience member these days. More about the Author

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