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Musical World

Oleg Caetani

  • Conductor


Oleg Caetani reviews

Finale leaves audience breathless Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Hamer Hall, Melbourne THE MSO's decision to present the complete Tchaikovsky symphonies this year, in three concerts, has been a resounding success. Pairing the six symphonies to provide maximum contrast and insight into the development of Tchaikovsky's compositional style (Symphonies 3 and 5, 2 and 4, 1 and 6), each concert has provided a satisfyingly complete musical experience. Most exhilarating has been the level of sophistication and vivid intensity achieved by the MSO under the baton of chief conductor Oleg Caetani. This final sell-out concert, pairing Tchaikovsky's first and last symphonies, was no exception. The obvious Mendelssohnian elements found in Tchaikovsky's Symphony No1 are tempered by the latter's distinctive treatment of melodic interplay, thematic development, and orchestration. Many performances fail to acknowledge this, and treat it instead as light, atmospheric ramblings by a young composer eager to impress. In contrast, Caetani realised the work's crisp, luminescent brilliance and extroverted insouciance, but also fully explored the dramatic, brooding contrasts relentlessly pervading the work. The string section particularly impressed with sustained phrasing, tonal colouration, and precise, sensitive articulation and dynamics. In the second movement, the violas handled exposed soli with great confidence, musicality and a uniformly full-bodied tone. String and woodwind sections excelled in the final movement's contrasts from austerity to sweeping, jolting folk melodies. Brash trombone entries were less welcome. Poorly handled, Symphony No6 can become a trite exercise in sentimentality, melodrama, and melody. Caetani easily met the challenge, demonstrating that he is most comfortable with music deeply felt and of epic proportions. The popular melodies of the first and second movements, while treated with appropriately expansive phrasing, were placed in a broader context of subtle timbral and dynamic elements, reflecting Tchaikovsky's extensive expression markings. In the first movement, the Allegro's first subject was treated with exemplary sensitivity by the violas, flute and clarinet, while the ominous, unrelenting timpani pedal point through the second movement's trio section was outstandingly restrained. The third movement was presented with impressive flourish; the persistent, driving triplet motion slightly contained so as to create a simmering intensity leading all the way to the final majestic march. The triumph was the incomparable finale. Few symphonic movements are so laden with pathos, or so frequently victim to conductors' histrionics. Here, the MSO demonstrated searing intensity, not only during the movement's impassioned climactic swells but through to the work's final disconsolate whisper. Even those audience members perennially keen to lead the applause allowed a slight pause; the collective sigh an audible indication that this extraordinary music, handled well, is profoundly moving. Eamonn Kelly, The Australian, December 10, 2007