18 December 2019

Our Young Ambassador Elyssa reviews American Harmonies

Sydney Symphony Young Ambassador, Elyssa, watched on keenly as Todd Gibson-Cornish performed the Bassoon Concerto in American Harmonies. 

Written by Elyssa Koh, age 12
Sydney Symphony Young Ambassador, Elyssa Koh

The audience waited in anticipation as the orchestra tuned to the oboe. Concertmaster Andrew Haveron stood up on the podium for an introduction to the last concert of Chief Conductor, David Robertson. Thus began the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s American Harmonies concert, held at the iconic Sydney Opera House.

The concert started with the exciting Appalachian Spring. Originally written as a ballet by Aaron Copland (1900–1990), it showed a variety of tunes and melodies, displaying different emotions (much like a human!). I particularly liked the middle of the piece with a light, upbeat tune called Simple Gifts. It is a smart, creative way of incorporating chamber music with mainstream music. It’s a tune that gets stuck in your head. The Orchestra played amazingly in unison, the strings’ movements were light and bowing was impeccable. There was a small part that displayed the woodwind and brass in a peaceful mood. The trumpet was a very interesting instrument to look out for, displaying many dynamics. Overall, a simply wonderful piece.

Ready for the concert to begin!

The second piece provided just as much interest. The Bassoon Concerto, composed by Christopher Rouse, was a wonderful piece where Bassoon soloist, Todd Gibson-Cornish shone. Displaying a variety of talents such as double tonguing and an air of effortless playing, he truly amazed me with his wonderful technique in this piece. His enthusiasm exuded in the little movements of his head or legs as he bounced up and down, showing his true enjoyment! The interplay between the bassoon and the orchestra was quite interesting, as different sections of the orchestra played with the soloist, providing an interlacing of sounds and harmonies. A good example of this is when the flutes played grace notes and the strings plucked in the background as the bassoon continued in the foreground. The acoustics echoed well with the quirkiness of the bassoon, making it bounce when needed and stretch when it became legato.

Finally, Harmonielehre composed by John Adams. Based on a dream he had, this piece represented the mysterious and panicky goings-on that can occur in one’s dreams. The piece was exciting and captivating, with the Orchestra’s gaze transfixed on the conductor, who was thoroughly enjoying himself. Altogether, it was an amazing piece, with an astonishing finale, where every performer smiled even bigger than I’ve ever seen it!

Overall, it was an amazing concert to celebrate the amazing career of Chief Conductor David Robertson. From the concert, it was clear that David Robertson was very well acquainted with every musician within the Orchestra through his many years with the Sydney Symphony. He comes across as a very passionate conductor and an absolute enthusiast for classical music. Most importantly, he’s brilliant at what he does. He’ll definitely be missed as Chief Conductor!