When:  April 8, 2017 | 7.30pm
Where: Brunswick Town Hall, 233 Sydney Rd, Brunswick

The vigour and frivolity of youthful innocence vs the heartache, passion and grit of experience.

BRITTEN: Soirée Musicales
TCHAIKOVSKY: Symphony No. 5

A 60 minute emotional marathon of raw energy.


Soirées Musicales (1936)
Benjamin Britten | 1913 - 1976
after Giacomo Rossini | 1792 - 1868

As a young man Benjamin Britten took a job scoring films to pay the bills before he hit big as a composer. At age 22, one of his projects was to score a short documentary called "The Men of the Alps”. Efficient and creative, he borrowed music written for voice and piano 100 years earlier by Italian composer Giacomo Rossini and expanded it for full orchestra. Given the film was only five minutes long lots of Britten's music was discarded, which he then turned into a suite of five movements: Soirées Musicales

I. March. The march opens with pomp and grandeur, which is really only a ruse. Teasing and flippant, the woodwinds toss fragments of the melody between themselves, before the strings interject gruffly. Finally the whole orchestra gets on board, and what was a dainty filigree is a full blown, joyous romp. 

II. Canzonetta. Gentle and lilting, Rossini’s take on a popular Italian song recalls a lullaby. Like in the March, Britten passes the melody around the orchestra - favouring the sweet colours of the woodwinds and violins. It’s loving and tender, yet superficial - an idea of romance through rose-coloured glasses.

III. Tirolese. Ready for a drinking song, the orchestra swoops into this Austrian dance from the Alps, similar to a waltz. Listen as the partners - the trumpet, then the flute - shyly tiptoe around each other before the strings strut onto the dance floor full of dominant, alpha-male energy. More cute close ups of the ladies batting their eyelids innocently as the flutes sing. This romantic back and forth between the characters continues, with the orchestra launching into a bawdy drinking song every so often. 

IV. Bolero. Leaving the beer hall, we’re ready for a bit of seduction. A slow tempo Spanish Dance, this song was originally entitled ’The Invitation’, which ends with the erotic lyric “Feel my throbbing heart...Come my life, come, make me die”. Led by the penetrating tone of the oboe, this is another dance between instruments - sometimes in sync, sometimes stubbornly pulling each other in different directions. Listen for the moment where, just as you think we’re about to reach a climax, the orchestra drops away momentarily, leaving only the trumpet alone. 

V. Tarantella. Traditionally a frantic dance that helps one recover from the bite of a tarantula, this Tarantella is indeed hectic. Constantly shifting from loud to soft sounds, the orchestra is certainly kept on its toes. Listen out for how the music is again passed between the instruments, exploring different colours and moods before a rousing, energetic final flourish. 

Symphony No. 5 (1888)
Piotr Illyich Tchaikovsky | 1830 - 1893

Though several of Tchaikovsky’s previous Symphonies had specific narratives attached to them, the fifth deals in pure abstract emotion. However a clue to it’s origins is the note found in his sketches for the first movement: "... a complete resignation before fate, which is the same as the inscrutable predestination of fate …”. In this case, our fate, thankfully, is the "ultimate victory through strife”. However at times through this fifty minute epic it feels as if our struggle is insurmountable. The transformation from the tumultuous, dark opening in E-minor to the triumphant sounds of E-major by the end of the symphony is one of music’s great emotional journeys.

The first movement opens with solemn funereal procession in the clarinets, often called the ‘fate’ theme. This motive will return in every movement of the symphony, reminding us of the inevitable. Once established the introduction gives way to a distant, relentless march theme, full of inherent struggle. At times lighter, more playful music breaks through the gloom, but the march continues to reassert itself ever more dramatically. After a particularly fervent outburst the drama gives way to a wistful, romantic counter theme punctuated by a bouncing hunting-horn motif. Having introduced these themes Tchaikovksy proceeds to break down these ideas, fragmenting and transforming them. After this development the original march theme returns in the bassoon, before all the ideas are reaffirmed. The movement ends as the march trails off, ever quieter, ever lower, disappearing over the horizon. 

The second movement immediately plunges us into a reverent, magical atmosphere. Emerging from beautiful warm string chords is one of the most beautiful French horn solos in the entire repertoire. Though romantic and lush, there is always an underlying sense of agitation, added to by the clarinet and then the oboe. This melody is then passed to the cellos, and the music becomes ever fuller and more passionate, rising to throbbing climaxes. After the come down, a terse melody introduced by the clarinet that tumbles toward an aggressive restatement of the ‘fate' theme. The horn melody returns again in uber romantic violins as the drama continues to reach new heights and fate rears its head again before a calm finish.

The third movement is a waltz, lighter, breezier and warmer than the music that has come before. Listen as the lilting themes pass between violins and woodwinds and how the traditional ‘oom-pah-pah’ motive is spread across the orchestra. A mischievous middle section full of fast, bouncing notes challenges the orchestra as Tchaikovsky deliberately changes the music to feel like there are two beats in the bar instead of three. The return of the waltz tune in the oboe signals we are out of the woods. Emphatic loud chords toward the end signal that something new and big is on the horizon, and tellingly, the clarinets whisper the ‘fate’ motive.

After so much brooding minor music, the final movement bursts forth in the bright key of E major. No longer a funeral dirge the fate theme is now victorious, triumphant. The pompous introduction fades before a dramatic new fast section takes the excitement to a new level. Though smooth flowing motives break through, the dominant sound is ferocious and gritty. The struggle is not over yet. Another grand march theme begins before ushering even faster music that rollicks towards a grand, fateful finish. 


The Orchestra

Jess Farrell (principal)
Stephanie Lai

Ella Tunnicliffe-Glass (principal)

Laura Schulze (guest musician)
Kaiya Mitchell

Liam Murphy (principal)
Ruby Lulham

Chris Marchingo (principal)
Hugh Brown (guest musician)

Claire McLean
Ramona Downie Berry
Aidan Ratcliff
Chloe Urmacher

Liam Whitbourn (principal)
Emma Collard

Alistair Goggs (principal)
Elise Frederiksen

Bass Trombone
Allan Pennings

Matthew Balassone (principal)

Jeff Kiat
Teo Hui (guest musician)
Sebastian Beswick (guest musician)


Violin 1
Teresa Wilkie (concertmaster)
Majella Chew
Charlotte Strong
Sophie Gong
Hanna Bol
Samantha Law
Michael Patton
Annabel Plahuta

Violin 2
Raymond Wei (principal)
Alex Rosenfeld
Nhan-Ai Nguyen
Jesse Dyer
Siew Ching Wan
Andrew Lin
Elliot Nimmo
Vincy U

Malavika Shridhar (principal)
Mengfei Hu
Mariam Chung
Peck Qin Chan

Claire Oakley
Alexandra Sexton-Oates
Julia Cianci (guest musician)
Lewis Reed (guest musician)

Double Bass
Melody Chia (principal)
Tom Flenady