Review: WASO Organ Spectacular

The first night of the Classics Series in WASO’s 2012 season opened in spectacular form with a thrilling program that lived up to it’s name.

Young conductor Nicholas Carter got things off to a lively start with Prokofiev’s Symphony No1, the ‘Classical’.  In this relatively brief work he displayed his musical sense of humour beautifully, aided by the excellent bassoon playing of Adam Mikulicz and some very tight ensemble playing by both the strings and woodwinds, especially in the first movement.

This was followed by the wonderfully dark Concerto in G minor for Organ, Strings and Timpani by Francis Poulenc.  Soloist Joseph Nolan was impressive on the organ of the Perth Concert Hall, which in itself is a work of art.  It was truly breathtaking to hear this brilliant performer go through his paces in this difficult work.  The quiet ‘conversation’ of the andante moderato was delicious and contrasted well with the almost glacial dissonances surrounding it.  The finale was dramatically paced by both Carter and Nolan and the audience’s rapturous applause definitely well earned.

After the interval Nolan returned as soloist in the ever popular Symphony No3 the Organ Symphony by Camille Saint-Saens.  This was as good an interpretation as I have ever heard.  Nicholas Carter proved he has what it takes to bring out the subtle nuances of the first movement and the pedal entry of the organ which heralds the beginning of the second movement was glorious, the rapt introspective qualities here were most enjoyable.  The scherzo was also well paced and led into the brilliant finale with it’s immortal main melody nicely.  The brass came into their own here as well, indeed it was a jubilant reading from Carter and the forces under his control, providing the requisite goosebumps this music deserves.

For someone so young it was impressive to see the control Nicholas Carter has at his command, coupled with a strong sense for tempo and a wide dynamic range.  He is definitely someone with a great future ahead of him, proven by his previous associations with Vladimir Ashkenazy and Donald Runnicles and shows great intelligence in his interpretations.

The West Australian Symphony Orchestra are surely one of the best in the country.  They continually shine in everything I have heard them do over the past few years and you would be hard pressed to find a tighter ensemble that has the ability to shine in their solo turns.  Their enjoyment of music making is evident and they liver up to their motto of touching souls and enriching lives through music.