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Marko Letonja: Einstand beim TSO

Thrilling ride in united pursuit of artistic goals brings smiles all round

EXCEPTIONAL orchestral performance requires teamwork of the highest order. Marko Letonja's inaugural concert as chief conductor and artistic director of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra was the epitome of teamwork and a musical triumph.

Letonja led with modest authority built on secure mastery of his craft, and there was mutual respect in evidence as he and the players worked together in pursuit of unified artistic goals. This concert was about the music, not about the conductor; his restrained and unambiguous gestures served the music and its effective communication at all times. It is rare to see orchestral musicians smile, but the players clearly were enjoying themselves and there was no shortage of smiles across the capacity audience either.

This program, showcasing the versatility of the orchestra, may indicate Letonja's vision: highlighting quality Australian and 20th-century masterworks and building on the TSO's established international reputation.

by: Anne-Marie Forbes
From:The Australian
March 07, 201212:00AM

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Peter Sculthorpe's Kakadu was an auspicious beginning and the orchestra brought authenticity to its evocation of the tropical landscape in a sultry cor anglais solo and shrill mimicking of cicadas and cockatoos.

Alexander Gavrylyuk's performance of Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No 1 in B flat minor infused a thrilling new spirit into a familiar work. From the outset it was impassioned and captivating. Delicacy of touch and an easy virtuosity allowed for sincere romantic gestures that drew the audience into the language of an earlier era. Notes and pauses were elongated to startling and moving effect, and the orchestra was responsive to Gavrylyuk's expressive rubato and phrasing. A standing ovation and repeated calls elicited an encore of the Liszt-Horowitz arrangement of Mendelssohn's Wedding March in which Gavrylyuk conveyed a gentle humour and charm.

Seven well-chosen excerpts from Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet meant the program lost no impetus. Letonja's quasi-robotic gestures in The Montagues and the Capulets emphasised the spikiness of the music, and his economical gestures in the funeral march for Tybalt gave a chilling result. The ending of Romeo at Juliet's Tomb dissipated into awed silence, broken seconds later by thunderous applause, slaked only by encores of the Sabre Dance and Lezghinka from Khachaturian's Gayane.