Snapshots through the years, beautifully composed
THERE’S some discrepancy in the foundation dates of Australia’s oldest symphony orchestras. Sydney Symphony, sharing a birthday with the ABC, claims to be 75 this year, having its origins in the National Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra, but according to a new book by Martin Buzacott on ABC music- making the SSO made its first appearance 61 years ago. The earliest recording in this collection is of Mahler’s second symphony, conducted by the venerable Otto Klemperer at Sydney Town Hall in 1950. Klemperer has unimpeachable credentials as a Mahlerian — he worked with the composer — and his account of the Resurrection symphony is driven by quiet intensity. This five- CD set cannot claim to be comprehensive, but every recording is of value, from Eugene Goossens conducting Beethoven’s second symphony in 1952, to Charles Mackerras and soprano Birgit Nilsson performing Wagner at the opening of the Sydney Opera House in 1973 and incumbent chief Gianluigi Gelmetti conducting Debussy’s La Mer in 2005. Of particular interest is the suite from John Antill’s ballet Corroboree , a partremembered, part- imagined account of an indigenous ceremony. The sound quality is poor but gives a window into mid- century music- making. Each conductor represented brings his own qualities. Stuart Challender, whose Abschied ( Farewell) from Mahler’s Song of the Earth can only be read as valedictory, leaves an impression of what might have been. Edo de Waart’s Ein Heldenleben has bristling intensity, and Gelmetti produces a compelling account of La Mer . The sound of the orchestra in the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall is vividly captured. Some of the recordings have long been out of circulation and have been carefully restored from ABC transcription discs.
75th Anniversary Collection Sydney Symphony ABC Classics