SYDNEY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA REVIEW: CROSSING THE THRESHOLD BRINGS LIGHT TO NEW MUSIC | SMH
March 15, 2016
By Peter McCallum, 14 MAR 2016
SYDNEY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA: CROSSING THE THRESHOLD
Carriageworks, March 13
In Sydney Symphony Orchestra chief conductor David Robertson, Sydney has a champion of the music of our time, who performs it with lucidity and communicates its ideas with directness and passion.
The theme of the sold-out premiere of the SSO’s new contemporary music series was rebirth of the planet, and what better place for it than in the recycled Eveleigh railway workshops at Carriageworks.
The program began with a tribute to the recently departed giant of 20th century modernism, Pierre Boulez. His Derive 1 shimmers with quiet elusive energy and glittering static chords, yet each texture or gesture is etched with the finest precision.
Brett Dean’s Pastoral Symphony begins with a bushland murmuring, its half-light pieced with the sound of birdsong, progressively overtaken by modern clamour.
Dean’s works of this type overlay modernist textures with expressionist narrative of dramatic vividness.
The newest item on the program was the premiere of a specially commissioned work, Land’s End by Lisa Illean.
A piece of exquisitely quiet shadows shaded with microtunings, the work winds down almost to nothing before a moment of quiet refreshment leads to an ending of wispy rising lines that vanish in the ether.
Illean’s is a distinctive and original new voice in the landscape and her work was realised here by the SSO with tender care.
After interval, soprano Jessica Aszodi gave a hugely impressive, engrossingly focussed and vividly precise reading of Gerard Grisey’s Four Songs for Crossing the Threshold.
It was only two months ago that Grisey’s Vortex Temporum echoed in this very space in remarkable dance work by the Belgian groups Rosas and Ictus choreagraphed by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker.
In Four Songs, Aszodi is circled by a small group of higher-pitched instruments weaving an intricately coloured microtonal web, inside a larger circle of lower-pitched instruments with percussion at the back.
The work contained profound explorations of darkness and stillness alongside flareups of light and energy from Aszodi and a swirling interlude from percussion.
Against the lumbering shadows of the low instruments and the dialogue of the upper parts, Aszodi cut through the shadows with fierce brilliance to rage against the dying of the light.
Image: David Roberston conducts Sydney Symphony Orchestra at Carriageworks for Crossing the Threshold. Photo: Keith Saunders