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Maestro ready for festival finale
Maestro ready for festival finale

British conductor Sir Richard Armstrong cannot wait to experience the acoustic pleasures of the Perth Concert Hall when he commands the massed forces of the WA Symphony and WA Youth orchestras for the Festival finale on Saturday.

A nasty shoulder injury, the result of overzealous conducting, forced Sir Richard to abandon a planned Perth concert appearance in 1987.

"It was with huge regret that I had to cancel but I had my left shoulder collapse and had surgery which meant I couldn't conduct for four months," he said before rehearsals at the University of WA's Winthrop Hall yesterday.

"It was a job-related industrial injury. Conductors get these things. You are constantly raising your arms very high and very energetically and sometimes they wear out.

"I was very, very happy to finally make it to Perth."

Sir Richard visited the Concert Hall this week but he and the 115 musicians have to wait for the Kronos Quartet to perform tonight before they can rehearse there.

Other international conductors had told him it was the finest concert hall in Australia.

"It looks a perfect venue for a really big project like this," he said.

Sir Richard, who has directed the Welsh and Scottish opera companies, said he was enjoying working with players of variable experience in the blended orchestra.

"It is the most wonderful idea to integrate key members of the youth orchestra with the WA Symphony Orchestra," he said.

The combined orchestras will perform Bela Bartok's early 20th-century opera Duke Bluebeard's Castle and ballet suite The Wooden Prince, which have never been performed in Perth.

"It is a fantastic way to giving the young players the full experience of what it is to really focus in this case on very difficult scores in three or four days," Sir Richard said.

Soloists for the concert will be soprano Lisa Gasteen and baritone Daniel Sumegi as Duke Bluebeard, the nobleman with a hideous beard and a bad habit of murdering his wives.

The concert was programmed as one of the highlights of the 40th anniversary celebrations for the Perth Concert Hall.