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Sydney Symphony Orchestra with Emily Sun

Repertoire: Wagner Tannhäuser Overture, Beethoven Symphony No. 7 and Bruch Violin Concerto No. 1

Reviewed by Chanele Mao

Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House

15th-16th September, 2023


- Sun's encore showed off her virtuosity and ability to dance through the music with speed and volume, as well as drawing out heart stirring emotion through the longer notes -

Be prepared to be swept away by the sheer power, majesty and brilliance of the sensational, Sydney Symphony Orchestra (SSO) performing Wagner’s Tannhäuser, Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with the phenomenal, rising-star Australian violinist, Emily Sun, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7.

Photo supplied by Sydney Symphony Orchestra

It was an ambitious programme and one that delivered. It was a full house for the Saturday afternoon performance and the audience was treated to the soaring music of classical greats, filled with emotion and drama. The Concert Hall of the Sydney Opera House is a crowning jewel of Australia. The space is like no-other. Recently renovated to the tune of $150 million, the acoustics were clear and precise; you could hear a pin drop and feel the pull and the lull of the music.

Conductor Mark Wigglesworth took to the stage with confidence and commanded the Orchestra with finesse, liveliness, and a high-octane energy. Throughout the different musical works, Wigglesworth was a delight to watch as he wriggled to the music and directed the Orchestra with aplomb.

The highlight of the performance was Bruch’s Violin Concerto No. 1, performed by Sun to a thunderous applause. Sun captivated the audience the moment she walked on stage in a black and cream floor length gown with shimmering sequins on the side. Sun was confident, highly technical and showed her flair and dynamic ability to play with passion, vigour, and spirit. Her solo playing weaved in and out of the orchestral sections seamlessly. The coordination between the SSO and Sun was outstanding – it was a cohesive and tightly-knit ensemble.

Sun also performed an encore, composed by Australian composer, Matthew Hindson. The piece, The Big 5-0 consisted of just four notes (F, A, E, B) which Sun gracefully demonstrated to the audience. Her solo encore showed off her virtuosity and ability to dance through the music with speed and volume, as well as coax out the longer notes with heart-stirring emotion.

I was really impressed with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. The first movement – poco sostenuto – vivace (a little sustained and lively) had beautiful rhythms, starting and stopping like a conversation that would ebb and flow with thoughtful pauses in between. The work then meandered through a little uncertain territory where the music became pensive and soft, as if something dramatic was about to happen. This second movement, Allegretto was featured in the 2010 film, The King’s Speech, before it swerved and moved to a fast and frenetic pace before ending on a Beethoven-styled high.

The orchestra's sound was very generous and coalesced brilliantly together. Listening to the beautiful rhythms and harmonies of the strings and musical dialogue between the horns, oboes and clarinets was magical. Timpanist Mark Robinson was particularly enjoyable to watch.

Going to see a symphony concert at the Opera House by a world-class soloist and orchestra may sound daunting and unfamiliar, but this was a wonderful, exhilarating, and powerful experience (as said on the box) and will stay with you for years to come.



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