Ledger premiere a sure bet

Music critics don't have a good record of picking winners. Compositions rubbished by reviewers at their premiere performances often turn out to be winners in the long run. And works extolled as creations of genius when first heard frequently end up in music history's bin.

This notwithstanding, and while I'm not normally a betting man, I'd put money on James Ledger's new Violin Concerto, given its premiere performance at the weekend. If his concerto doesn't make it into the international violin repertoire, I'd like to know why.

The award-winning composer's concerto hasn't a dull moment and brims with ideas expressed in meaningful ways. The solo part, presented with focused finesse by Margaret Blades, is fascinating, fertile fare for fiddlers. And Ledger's orchestral accompaniment, with a rather delightful obeisance to Rameau, provides no less absorbing listening, a kaleidoscope of instrumental colours which glitter with fine detail.

Ledger indicates the slow movement is to be played in a stately, serene manner - as it was on Friday

Bouquets to Graeme Gilling at keyboards, Cathie Travers on accordion and a brass section on its collective toes.

A small forest of microphones was suspended over the WASO because the program will be broadcast nationally by the ABC.

A many-splendoured program included Stravinsky's Symphony in Three Movements, a neglected masterpiece that ought to be heard more frequently.

Its directness and rhythmic emphases made for engrossing listening as visiting conductor Otto Tausk expounded Stravinsky's idiosyncratic musical argument cogently. I admired the bold, emphatic manner in which the toccata-like first movement was presented. The fugal writing in the finale was entirely convincing.

Biologically, Spain was in Ravel's blood. His mother was Basque and grew up in Madrid. And with Tausk in top form directing Ravel's sumptuously orchestrated Rapsodie espagnole, it erupted into fountains of scintillating sound, underpinned by spot-on rhythmic emphases especially in the habanera and malaguena, which were stylistically impeccable.

Tausk was also firmly in command in Richard Strauss' Don Juan which sizzled with rhythmic energy and passionate intensity. This was a sonically resplendent response to the score.

This would have had to be one of the WASO's most satisfying offerings so far this year.

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