Review: The Metropolitan Orchestra, MET Series 5

By Cameron

Tonight Sarah and I attended another wonderful performance of the Metropolitan Orchestra (TMO), performing this time at The Independent Theatre in North Sydney. The performance was MET Series Five, conducted again by Sarah-Grace Williams.

Having so thoroughly enjoyed ourselves when we attended the last performance at Balmain Town Hall, we were quite excited about what was in store, as well as the opportunity to hear the orchestra in a more conventional theatre venue.

The program began with the premiere of a work by Australian composer, David Montgomery, who was also present and serving as presenter for the evening. The piece, entitled ‘Air and the Void’, was inspired by the elemental concepts behind Eastern philosophy, as specifically detailed in the famous Japanese swordsman’s text ‘The Book of the Five Rings’. Montgomery opened with an explanation of the personal connection to the element of the void, and how the piece was dedicated to his father and the apparent readiness and peace with which he left his life and entered ‘the void’.

Following such a personal introduction, the piece that followed was captivating. A complex arrangement of percussion opened to establish an ethereal location for the soul’s journey that followed, personified by a solo violin and played ably by Sarah Ash. I was so caught up in the storytelling of the music, and the relationship between the soloist and the orchestra, that many of the technical details slipped by me, and I’m hoping to find a repeat performance or recording on offer soon as I feel there are many layers yet to be explored within Montgomery’s wonderful composition.
The second piece for the night was Camille Saint-Saens ‘Cello Concerto No. 1 in A minor, Op. 33’, with Patrick Murphy playing the solo cello. Watching the casual grace with which Murphy played (I want to say ‘attacked’) the playful and often fast paced melody, engaging in a call-and-response with the orchestra while at times seeming trapped, only to escape again – the music and Murphy’s dynamic performance style created a sense of drama on stage that saw the three integrated movements of the piece fly by to their even-more dramatic ending.

After interval, the final piece was Felix Mendelssohn’s ‘Symphony No. 1 in C Minor, Op. 11’. This piece, which was composed by Mendelssohn at the age of 15, was his first full orchestral symphony having written 12 symphonies for strings, as well as several other works, in the previous 3 years! Commanding this four-part work was where conductor Sarah-Grace Williams’ shone, leading the orchestra through the four movements with an energy and precision that was at times as dramatic to watch as Murphy’s cello playing.

Again the orchestra stayed to mingle with the crowd after the event, highlighting one of the great strengths of the Met. Orchestra, and a key part of their goal of breaking down the barriers between classical music and audiences, which is their willingness to engage with their audiences and make the people behind the instruments accessible, so that questions about the music can be addressed in a welcoming environment.

It was another outstanding night of live performance, and once again we look forward to their next show and wish the Metropolitan Orchestra every success in their future.
There is one more performance of MET series five on Sunday 16/09 at the Balmain Town Hall. For more information visit www.metorchestra.com.au

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