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Friday's twilight concert, in Civic Theatre again, was a mixed modern bag. Ross Edwards' Oboe Dancing was replaced at the last minute by his Water Spirit and Ulpirra, the first evocative of rainforest watercourses and the second a joyous little dance; and indeed Diana Doherty danced as she played it. Next was Prokofiev's Sonata for Two Violins, in a fiery performance by Lara St John and Ian Swensen. Rush for string quartet and oboe by Matthew Hindson completed the programme. Hindson, born 1968, was a student of both Sculthorpe and Edwards but one wouldn't know it from this piece. Describing it as energetic work with solo episodes and bluegrass influences gives no indication of its impact. As played by Diana Doherty and the Goldner Quartet it's bright and very very fast and a lot of fun.

The evening concert was, in everything except timing, the Grand Finale of the festival: a full house (just over a thousand people) at Civic Theatre for Theodore Kuchar and the Janácek Philharmonic Orchestra. Dvorák's Czech Suite, Mozart's Concerto No 9 in E flat K271 and German Dances K509, and the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No 1 in C made a solid, well balanced programme.

Kuchar explained that economics had prevented the whole orchestra coming to Australia and that the group of 37 on stage (double wind, no low brass) was less than half their full strength. It was my first opportunity to hear them in favourable conditions and they did not disappoint. Their unfailing warmth, blend and unanimity was very attractive.

Sergei Babayan was the soloist in the Mozart concerto, in a lovely lyrical performance which charmed the whole audience from beginning to end. Meng-chieh Liu had a more challenging job selling the harder-edged Shostakovich to the audience at the end of the evening but succeeded brilliantly, bringing out all its lyricism, acerbic humour and tough-minded assertiveness. The un-named trumpeter who took the not-quite-soloist part (concertino trumpeter? sub-soloist?) backed him up beautifully but the orchestral sound, ideal for Dvorák and excellent for Mozart, could well have been leaner, less comfortable, for Shostakovich.

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Copyright © 11 July 2006 Malcolm Tattersall, Townsville, Australia


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