National Capital Orchestral starts the year with late Romantics

National Capital Orchestral starts the year with late Romantics

Sibelius, Gliere and Dvorak. The National Capital Orchestra conducted by Leonard Weiss. The Queanbeyan Performing Arts Centre. Sunday, March 26, 3pm. Tickets $20-$40 from More information:

The National Capital Orchestra begins its 2017 season with a thoroughly Romantic program. It features a couple of lesser-known works by well-known Romantic composers and one of the best-known pieces by one of the less famous late Romantics.

Rob Gladstones will be the French horn soloist in the Gliere Horn Concerto.

Rob Gladstones will be the French horn soloist in the Gliere Horn Concerto.Credit:Nik Babic

Conductor and music director Leonard Weiss says the concert will open with what he believes is the Australian premiere of The Wood Nymph, an early tone poem by Jean Sibelius inspired by a poem by Viktor Rydberg. The piece premiered in 1895 and although it received positive reactions and a few more performances it was never published in Sibelius's lifetime and the composer, apparently dissatisfied, withdrew it in 1936. It was not rediscovered for almost 60 years when a researcher found the manuscript at the University of Helsinki Library archive among thousands of other papers and scores. The work received its latter-day "premiere" in 1996 and was published in 2006.

While The Wood Nymph is not as well known as works such as Finlandia, Weiss says it sounds like other Sibelius works - "there's lot of brass", Weiss says - and that it had clear scene-setting and space to develop over its 20-minute duration.


The second work on the program is Reinhold Gliere's 1951 Horn Concerto with Rob Gladstones - now principal third horn with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra - as soloist.

"He's a Canberra boy," says Weiss, himself a French horn player who met Gladstones at a masterclass a few years ago.

"He studied at the Canberra School of Music."

Perth-born Gladstone studied horn with Hector MacDonald at the School of Music and graduated in 1985. He moved to Sydney and played with the Sydney Elizabethn Orchestra (now the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra) as well as the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Australian Chamber Orchestra and other musical jobs before moving back to Perth in 1989.

Gliere was a Russian composer who was writing in the Romantic idiom at a time when other compositional techniques such as serialism were flourishing among many composers.

Weiss - himself a graduate of the ANU School of Music - says the concerto is "technically demanding - it shows off the full breadth of the horn's range".

After the interval will come Antonin Dvorak's Fifth Symphony. Weiss says, "To me, it fits into the category of every symphony before number Seven - fabulously well inspired but unfamiliar."

He says the popularity of the seventh, eighth and especially ninth symphonies have overshadowed the rest of Dvorak's symphonic output which has its own pleasures.

The Fifth Symphony, Weiss says, is "pastoral and basically melancholic" with plenty of melodic appeal.

The NCO's president and one of its cellists, Martin Elias, says the rest of the year the orchestra will have a firm focus on Australian music. On June 3 there will be a joint concert with the Canberra Choral Society in Llewellyn Hall with two Canberra premieres, Graeme Koehne's Tivoli Dances and Carl Vine's Wonders, as well as Carl Vine's Symphony No. 6 (Choral) and Matthew Hindson's It is better to be feared than loved for chorus and orchestra.

On August 6, back at the Q, will be the Australian premiere of excerpts from Moby Dick (Symphonic Suite) by Christopher Gordon as well as the Canberra premiere of Nigel Sabin's Symphony. More traditional fare will also be on offer in the second half of the program: Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 5 "Emperor" with soloist Katherine Day.

At Llewellyn Hall on October 21 will be two Canberra premieres - Natalie Williams' Chambers of the South and Respighi's Belkis, Queen of Sheba (Suite) - as well as Brahms' Double Concerto for violin and cello with soloists Dimity Hall and Julian Smiles.

The orchestra's year will end on December 9 with a yet to be finalised event.

Ron Cerabona is an arts reporter for The Canberra Times.

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