Beethoven's Eroica review: MSO shines ahead of China tour

Moye Chen.

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Hamer Hall and Robert Blackwood Hall, May 10-12

Leaving imminently for a whirlwind tour of China, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra gave its home audience the opportunity to hear some major components from the three programs it will present in cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou, Nanjing and Beijing. Under Sir Andrew Davis, the MSO will support Moye Chen in the Liszt Piano Concerto No. 1 as well as offering Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony No.3.

Both works featured on this pre-tour demonstration, but Thursday night opened with a remarkable score by the MSO’s composer in residence, Carl Vine.

Written for the West Australian Symphony Orchestra in 2014, his Concerto for Orchestra is a splendid, light-filled showpiece that gives each group of players – and some first desk principals – a moment in the spotlight, notably some powerful passages for brass and percussion.

It’s an eminently approachable construct, polished in detail and built on clever, undemanding melodic cells.

Chen gave an excellent account of the Liszt concerto, a repertoire regular that taxes every pianist but here found an accurate, emotionally responsive interpreter. Those soulful roulades and clangorous double octaves that alternate throughout this sample of Romantic virtuosity held no fears for Chen who set you at ease with his confident mastery.

Davis directed a sturdy reading of the great E flat Symphony, the MSO strings and woodwind given room to enunciate their lines clearly. The first Allegro came over with plenty of spacious vitality, setting the foundations for a solid, sensibly-shaped interpretation of this direct-speaking cornerstone in Western art.

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