WASO. Picture: James Campbell

CONCERT
WA Symphony Orchestra
4 stars
Perth Concert Hall
REVIEW Neville Cohn

Coaxing string phrasing of phenomenal finesse from the WA Symphony Orchestra and with a faultless grasp of style, Asher Fisch brought extracts from Wagner's Die Meistersinger to vivid life. Conducting from memory - yet another plus-factor in a reading of exceptional merit - one felt here a quite remarkable identification with the music of the Bayreuth master. It would have been well worth attending this concert if only to listen to this exquisitely fashioned offering. It brought to mind Fisch's memorable direction last year of the Prelude and Liebestod from Wagner's Tristan and Isolde.

Here, and throughout the evening, Paul Wright was a tower of strength as guest concertmaster.

Earlier, in Strauss' lavishly scored Death and Transfiguration, Fisch and his forces did the score proud, giving full due to the composer's often grandiloquent ideas. Here, too, as in the Wagner piece, strings came up trumps time and again. I particularly admired the absolute precision and tonal splendour with which cellos and double basses ushered in the work. The brass players, too, sounded in their element.

At the many climaxes that dot the work, tidal waves of sumptuous sound dazzled the ear. This was an experience that set the pulse racing with as much care lavished on fine detail as on the work's overarching design. It made this first concert by Fisch as WASO principal conductor an event to cherish.

Fisch played the solo part in Mozart's Piano Concerto in D minor, K466 while conducting from the keyboard.

In the opening allegro, the soloist did wonders in his dual role, the music unfolding with graceful strength as unfailing clarity of keyboard fingerwork and an impeccable sense of style made this a model of Mozartean style. In the quietly glowing-toned slow movement, Fisch's playing was no less finely considered, the music coming across as an impeccably handled musical conversation between piano and orchestra. It was only in the finale that focus and ensemble weakened slightly.

The West Australian

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