The Metropolitan Orchestra
Eugene Goossens Hall, ABC Centre Sydney
27 October, 2018
Written by Victoria Watson
The Metropolitan Orchestra (TMO) Sydney is celebrating ten years since its inception under founding artistic director Sarah-Grace Williams. TMO is an outstanding professional level orchestra privately funded and run that attracts excellent players across all sections. Williams galvanises her forces with an elegant clarity and achieves performances of the highest level from her ensemble.
The Eugene Goossens Hall at the ABC studios in Ultimo, is arguably the finest acoustic in which to hear an orchestra in Sydney. It is also a very comfortable and user-friendly hall for audience. With a steep ‘rake’, the sight-lines are excellent and there are no bad seats in the whole venue. Being up close is exciting as well, seeing the fierce concentration of the players and hearing the whole orchestra together. Knowing that they are also hearing this is exhilarating – not always the experience at the Opera House or Town Hall for instance. At the Goossens, orchestral performance becomes more like chamber music. With over fifty members though, TMO is by no means a small orchestra.
This fifth concert of their annual series started literally with a bang, with Sydney based composer Jim Coyle’s work Dancing with Billy Bray. This is a bold, strong work with rhythmic drive derived from English folk dance, vibrant with compound rhythms and syncopations. A programmatic piece, it paints a musical portrait of a 19th century Cornish miner and preacher. The work explores his heroic features and exuberance as described by the composer in the programme notes. The orchestra relished the boundless energy and rich harmonic world of the score and gave the work a confident and appealing world premiere.
Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, Op.85 is a work much beloved in the concerto canon and a jewel of English music. This concerto was closely associated in the 20th century with virtuoso cellist Jacqueline du Pré, and any performer taking it on faces a daunting challenge, not only of the music but of facing du Pré’s legacy. Ezmi Pepper is co-principal cello with the orchestra and a very popular soloist with the audience and her colleagues. She played with great heart and intensity, bringing her own personality to the great score and balancing beautifully with the orchestra. Playing her early 19th century cello “Ferdinand,” Ezmi brought a youthful vitality to the concerto and fine technical skill to its considerable demands.
After interval, the orchestra performed a rarely heard symphony by French Romantic composer Cesar Franck. The Symphony in D Minor was Franck’s only foray into symphonic writing, composed in 1868 but not premiered until 1889. The unifying themes are clear in the manner of Beethoven, but the harmonic and timbral worlds of this piece owe more to Wagner and Berlioz. The music was brought to life by the great attention to dynamics and balance exhibited by the orchestra under Williams’ excellent leadership. The three movements contrasted well with the slow second movement shining particularly with a glorious cor anglais solo. The finale brings together all the previous themes in a satisfying conclusion that takes the symphony to a powerful climax.
The Metropolitan Orchestra is going from strength to strength with the promise of more top-quality performances well into their next decade.
Victoria Watson for SoundsLikeSydney©
A graduate of Melbourne university and VCA, Victoria appeared regularly as a soprano with the Victoria State Opera and has toured and served as artistic director of many chamber ensembles. She has performed with Sydney Symphony Orchestra and for ten years, was artistic director of a major opera education project with Opera Australia. Since 2015 she has moved into directing opera including Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte at the Independent theatre.
Victoria has lectured in voice at the major universities in Melbourne, and is currently a tutor at UNSW. Having taught at major Sydney secondary colleges, she now runs a busy private singing studio. She is a published author on opera and a popular freelance music and theatre lecturer and advocate for Australian artists around the world.