Mark Westcott Artist, Piano Teacher, Lecturer, Author

Triumph for Berlioz

OF LATE it has become fashionable, especially among record reviewers and radio announcers, to wax enthusiastic about Liszt's piano transcription of the Symphonie Fantastique by Berlioz. One commentator recently called it more exciting than the original.

This is utter balderdash. It needs no better performance than that through which Louis Fremaux conducted the Sydney Symphony Orchestra for the ABC 630 youth series in the Opera House Concert Hall yesterday (again at 6:30 pm today and in the Town Hall at 8 pm tomorrow) to illuminate afresh the marvels of colour-intoxicated orchestration which Berlioz devised for his score of dreams and nightmares.

Because the SSO has played the work innumerable times, it has got into their bloodstream, so that a conductor, able to take the purely technical side of the response for granted, can concentrate on subtle points of effect. When this conductor knows every nuance of the music as intimately as does Louis Fremaux, the consequences are certain to be exhilarating.

Which they are. Apart from just a few moments that might have come off better in other performances, such as the passage for two harps at the start of the ball scene, this was a wonderfully vivid reading, from violins to cymbals, from euphonium in loco tenor tuba to the Dies Irae growling of lower strings.

As in Weber's Freischuetz overture which had begun the concert, Louis Fremaux graded and conserved his climaxes, making them all the more effective.

Much the same approach marked an excellent performance by the American pianist Mark Westcott in the G Minor concerto of Saint-Saens, a work usually heard in student-sized versions. Not this time; here was vivid playing, simultaneously fleet and, particularly in the presto, hugely powerful.

A few piano chords at the end of the first movement beat the orchestra to the punch, but elsewhere the co-ordination, like the substantial portion of his concert, was exemplary.


Copied by Ben Serna-Grey

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