Peter and the Wolf — and 500 others

Peter and the Wolf

Prokofiev’s fascinating and exuberant work, Peter and the Wolf, was performed to around 500 audience members on February 5, 2017, by the Canberra Youth Orchestra (CYO) at the High Court of Australia. The concert made for a special Sunday afternoon treat, especially for the 100 or so children who came along with their parents.

The concert conducted by Leonard Weiss, began with the famous Minuet from the String Quintet in E Major, Op.11, by Boccherini. Then a contemporary work titled, Palladio, for strings only again, written by Welsh musician and composer Karl Jenkins. The players handled this piece with a nice balance and subtlety.

Weiss then spoke to the audience and played a musical guessing game, mainly with the children. Guess this tune. Twinkle Twinkle Litte Star is hard to get wrong, so it was easily guessed. The orchestra then went on to perform several arrangements of this children’s classic, with kids singing along.

Albinoni’s Adagio followed, but this much-loved work was not performed with the range of highs and lows best suited to carry the work to its audience. Especially in a large space like the High Court foyer. While it was an abridged version, such a popular piece could have been better arranged, or handled with greater vigour.

Then the Prokofiev. Here the orchestra shined and worked well with the narrator, actor Charles Hudson. The great sonorous sound that Prokofiev produced throughout his career, was captured well. Their sound carried significant weight, even though there were only 26 members, they seemed to create a sound greater than the number in the orchestra.

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At times the percussion filled the cavernous amphitheatre that is the foyer in the High Court. The timpanist hit with such energy that it startled audience members around me.

Young audience members loved the work and interacted with it throughout the performance. Children were marching up and down and a few acted like the animals the instruments represented. The flute was a bird, the clarinet a cat, and the strings characterised Peter and the French Horns the hungry wolf.

It was over 38 degrees outside, and the temperature in the High Court rose as the capacity audience filled it. But that didn’t stop everyone enjoying the concert and getting involved with a sometimes dark, but popular, story, which was written over 80 years ago.

Photo courtesy of Peter Hislop

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