The Geelong Symphony Orchestra Chorus was convened in 2018 for the first ever performance in Geelong of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.
This performance was performed on October 27th, 2018, conducted by Fabian Russell, to a full audience at Costa Hall.
Chorus Master for the GSO Chorus is Peter Tregear.
Below is a review of the concert by Colin Mockett – (republished from Entertainment Geelong)
Magnificent Ninth a first for Geelong
The Mighty 9th, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony presented by Geelong Symphony Orchestra & Chorus conducted by Fabian Russell, Costa Hall October 27, 2018.
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony was his last, and it’s widely acknowledged as his greatest work.
He was completely deaf when he wrote it, working the music out using mathematical patterns.
On its Vienna opening performance, Beethoven sat beside the conductor, giving the tempo for each piece.
At the end, the lead contralto singer had to turn him around to see the auditorium applauding. Knowing that he couldn’t hear them, many applauded by gestures and waving handkerchiefs.
In Geelong, they gave it a standing ovation.
194 years later.
It was something of a surprise to learn that this was the first time Beethoven’s Ninth had been performed in Geelong.
That’s probably because the circumstances needed to create it – meaning a fully fledged, accomplished symphony orchestra and chorus with a leader and conductor with the knowledge and expertise to prepare them, along with a venue to accommodate them as well as an audience large enough to justify the expense – hadn’t come together before.
But they did for this performance, and in remarkable style.
For the evening had begun with the Geelong Symphony Orchestra in a more restrained role, behind piano soloist Stefan Cassomenos as he delivered Mozart’s Piano Concerto No 15 in Bb Major with the accomplished flair of a showman.
Stefan is a vibrant and highly visual musician, whose concentration was such that he appeared to respect every note, even those he wasn’t playing, by the use of small nods, movements, even occasional Satchmo-like mopping of his brow with a flourished white handkerchief.
But along with this, his skill delivering Mozart’s dazzling musical patterns and colours in the piece’s three distinct movements was superb. Enough to earn three curtain calls alongside elegant Maestro Fabian Russell, whose delicate control of his orchestra had supported and embellished every note.
Then, after a 20 minute interval, the Costa Steinway was wheeled away and the stage was literally set for Geelong’s orchestra to take on Beethoven’s masterwork.
There were 76 musicians under Maestro Russell’s baton, while high above in the venue’s choir gallery, was the newly-formed GSO Chorus.
This comprised some 60 experienced singers drawn from at least five local choirs surrounding the evening’s four soloists. They were the delicately balanced and matched Lee Abrahmsen (soprano) Belinda Paterson (alto) Brenton Spiteri (tenor) and Manfred Pohlenz (bass).
In truth, this chorus was in the privileged position to sit back and enjoy the majesty and glory of the work’s first three movements as Beethoven built his musical moods from quietude to majesty, slow rhythms to glorious brass fanfares using only the orchestra. Each movement was beautiful and complete in its own right, but all lead to the work’s ultimate, majestic finale.
That was when chorus, soloists and orchestra came together to deliver the most magnificent Ode To Joy that I’m sure Geelong has ever heard.
It was spine-tingling stuff, and rightly drew that standing ovation. Every musician, singer and performer involved can stand proud having created such a beautiful concert.
And Geelong can stand proud, too, for nurturing an orchestra capable of presenting such musical perfection.
– Colin Mockett