W.A. Symphony Orchestra
Perth Concert Hall
During the 1986 Perth Festival, concerts were given by the visiting USSR State Symphony Orchestra. One of its conductors was Vladimir Verbitsky.
The next year, Verbitsky visited the city again, this time to preside over performances by the WA Symphony Orchestra.
That was the beginning of a musical love affair with Perth concertgoers that has gone on for 25 years. To mark this milestone, Verbitsky presided over a memorable gala concert with the WASO at the weekend.
Unsurprisingly, this was an all-Russian compilation with the St Petersburg-born maestro coaxing often first-rate accounts of music that he clearly identifies with passionately.
I particularly admired the skill in Liadov's Eight Russian Folk Songs, especially the woodwind section which responded with gratifying finesse to Verbitsky's direction. And the suite from Shostakovich's The Gadfly was no less satisfying with concertmaster Giulio Plotino giving a splendid account of the famous violin solo in the Romance movement.
Mussorgsky's Night on Bare Mountain was memorable, too.
Veteran WASO percussionist Tim White doubled as compere and gave delightful accounts of Verbitsky's long association with the orchestra, especially his legendary tussles with the mysteries of the English language, anecdotes which brought the house down.
He pointed out that the current orchestra line-up includes 15 musicians, including himself, who were in the WASO when Verbitsky first conducted it in 1987.
Daniel Sumegi was the bass-baritone soloist who gave us arias from Tchaikowsky's Eugene Oneginand Borodin's Prince Igor — and his account of Mussorgsky's Song of the Flea triggered a huge ovation.
With the addition of members of the Australian Army Band, Verbitsky took his players through a thrilling reading of Tchaikowsky's 1812 Overture.
This was a silver anniversary to cherish.