ANA DE LA VEGA – Snow Concert Hall

Snow-Concert-Hall-Ana-De-la-Vegas-and-the-Melbourne-Chamber-Orchestra-photo-by-Peter-HislopThe opening of a new concert venue is always reason to celebrate. In this case the new venue is a $20,000,000 state-of-the- art 900 seat concert hall situated in the grounds of Canberra Grammar School.

Gifted to the school by Canberra Grammar old boy, businessman and philanthropist, Terry Snow, the Snow Concert Hall will offer its own International concert series of which this concert, featuring Australian-Argentine flute virtuoso, Ana de la Vega and the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra is the first.

De la Vega is one of the most sought after flautists of her generation having performed as soloist in the most prestigious concert halls around the world with many of the world’s leading orchestras including the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Prague Symphony Orchestra, German Chamber Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra and the Cologne Chamber Orchestra just to name a few.

Her recordings of Mozart and Myslivecek flute concertos with the English Chamber Orchestra, and her most recent album (her fourth), My Paris, have both reached No. 1 on the Amazon Best Seller charts.

In addition to fronting the first concert presented in the new hall, De la Vega has also been appointed Artistic Director of the Snow Concert Hall and has already announced the next three concerts in her International series.

These concerts will feature pianist, Piers Lane, Wynton Marsalis with the Lincoln Centre Jazz Orchestra, and violinist, Daniel Rohn together with pianist Simon Tedeschi.

To introduce both the Snow Concert Hall and herself to Canberra audiences, de la Vega chose a carefully selected program of familiar, together with some less familiar, orchestral music, including two flute concerti, which allowed her to demonstrate the superb acoustic of the hall.

The concert commenced with a joyous rendition by the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra of Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik. Superbly phrased and balanced with fastidious attention to every musical detail, the performance immediately dispelled any doubts about the quality of the hall’s acoustics, allowing the audience to delight in Mozart’s musical inventiveness.

The Mozart was followed by Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Op 11. This hauntingly beautiful work with its richly expressive harmonies, slow meditative tempo and sonorous passages featuring the violas and cellos, is often described as a musical prayer.

These qualities were beautifully delineated by the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra, providing a thoughtful contrast to the buoyant Mozart and the perfect entre to the Vivaldi flute concerto following.

Vivaldi’s Flute concerto in F Major, subtitled La tempest di mare (The Storm at Sea) was a thrilling introduction to Ana de la Vega’s virtuosity. Vivaldi’s musical impression of the tumultuous character of a storm at sea with its driving runs and decorative trills for the flute pushes the technical boundaries of both the instrument and the orchestra.

De la Vega’s performance, together with that of the orchestra, was as thrilling as it was musically satisfying.

After a short interval, the orchestra continued the concert with a lustrous performance of Elgar’s richly romantic Serenade for String Orchestra in E Minor, Op 20. This work, which Elgar wrote as a celebration of the third anniversary of his marriage to his wife, Alice, is notable for its swooning introduction and a luminous violin solo which on this occasion was brilliantly performed by Sophie Rowell.

The climax of the evening was Carl Stamitz’s Flute Concerto in D Minor. This concerto is rarely performed because of the considerable technical demands it places on the soloist and orchestra.

Though these demands are immediately on show in the high voltage opening movement, and particularly in two unaccompanied sections in which the orchestra stops while the soloist performs a series of technical acrobatics, the concerto is surprisingly tuneful and approachable for the listener.

Producing a dazzlingly clear sound with her flute, De la Vegas seemed unfazed by the technicalities, tossing off virtuoso runs and rich decorations with unfailing flair and accuracy, often drawing spontaneous applause from the audience.

Acknowledging the tumultuous audience response to the concert, De la Vegas spoke briefly of her ambitions for the Snow Concert Hall, before offering a charming encore, a superb rendition, with orchestra, of Massenet’s Meditation from his opera Thais.

Snow Concert Hall – Canberra Grammar School, 40 Monaro Crescent, Red Hill (Canberra)
Performance: Saturday 20 May 2023

Image: Ana De la Vegas and the Melbourne Chamber Orchestra – photo by Peter Hislop

Review: Bill Stephens OAM