National Capital Orchestra has two concerts coming up at Llewellyn Hall
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National Capital Orchestra has two concerts coming up at Llewellyn Hall

National Capital Orchestra. Soloists Edward and Stephanie Neeman. Musical director Leonard Weiss. Llewellyn Hall, Sunday, August 16. 3pm. Tickets: premier.ticketek.com.au.

Twenty-two-year-old Leonard Weiss was recently appointed the National Capital Orchestra's music director. It's just the latest in a long line of musical credits to the ANU School of Music graduate's name: among other achievements, he's the conductor of eight ensembles - both instrumental and vocal - plays several instruments, including the carillon, harp, and piano, and he has composed many instrumental and orchestral pieces and short film scores.

Pianists Stephanie and Edward Neeman.

Pianists Stephanie and Edward Neeman.

"I've done a lot in a short amount of time," he says. "It's more fun that way."

NCO committee president Martin Elias, a cellist who's been with the orchestra for the past 28 years, says it had no full-time musical director for the past couple of years but after a couple of impressive concerts by Weiss as guest conductor - including a concert earlier this year featuring Saint-Saens' Carnival of the Animals - he was offered the position.

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Leonard Weiss, musical director of the National Capital Orchestra.

Leonard Weiss, musical director of the National Capital Orchestra.

For the next few weeks, Weiss will have a special focus on the NCO as he prepares for two concerts, both in the impressive venue of Llewellyn Hall. The first, on August 16, will feature three showpieces, two of them for piano and orchestra.

The concert will open with Poulenc's Double Piano Concerto in which the soloists will be former Canberran Edward Neeman​ and his wife Stephanie, playing on two Steinway pianos.

The Neemans, based in the US, often perform "four hands" repertoire with the two of them on one piano and when this opportunity came up they thought the rarely performed Poulenc concerto would be a good choice. This will be the first time the Neemans - and Weiss - have performed the work which Edward Neeman calls "a really beautiful piece ... it has great energy in it".

He will be the soloist in the second work on the program, Rachmaninov's Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. A set of variations on the 24th of Paganini's Caprices for solo violin, it is, Neeman says, "quite a challenge" but also a very rewarding piece to perform. He hasn't played it since the 2004 ABC Young Performers Competition.

After the interval, Weiss will conduct Ravel's orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition, which he calls "one of the classic pieces for the orchestra" and one that requires a lot from every section.

"Ravel was a great orchestrator," Weiss says, and there's plenty of variety as the music evokes a series of images by the artist ViktorHartmann as well as a recurring Promenade depicting the spectator moving among the works.

The second NCO concert in Llewellyn Hall is a Grand Fundraising Gala for the 20th anniversary of the Newborn Intensive Care Foundation, Canberra Hospital. It's on Saturday, September 5 at 7.30pm. All funds raised from ticket sales will be donated to the foundation.

The orchestra and Weiss will be joined by sopranos Louise Page and Rachael Duncan, baritone Jeremy Tatchell​ and the Dante Musica Viva Choir, Canberra Choral Society, Llewellyn Choir and SCUNA Choir and special guest tenor Steve Amosa who gained fame on the TV show The Voice. The MC for the night will be ABC radio's Genevieve Jacobs.

The program will feature songs and popular opera arias, ensembles and choruses including Nessun Dorma from Puccini's Turandot.

Weiss says, "We'll have 250 performers on stage - it will be really spectacular."

More information on the program is at newborn.org.au and tickets ($25-$95) are available from Ticketek.

Ron Cerabona is an arts reporter for The Canberra Times.

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