BWW Review: Sydney Symphony Orchestra's FROM THE CANYONS TO THE STARS Pairs Contemporary Orchestral Work With Landscape Images

Wednesday 9th March 2016, 8pm, Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House

Artistic Director and Conductor has paired Olivier Messiaen's contemporary orchestral work, Des Canons aux etoiles (FROM THE CANYONS TO THE STARS) with Deborah O'Grady's images to present a unique experience. With images dominated by the landscape of the United States, the presentation goes further than a straight performance of the music by providing images of Messiaen's inspiration.

The 95 minute work in 12 parts, first performed in New York in 1974, seeks to create a musical interpretation of the landscapes and the birds that inhabit it. In addition to the Symphony Orchestra, the works include piano (Pierre-Laurent Aimard), Horn (Robert Johnson), Xylorimba (Rebecca Lagos) and Glockenspiel (Timothy Constable). Messiaen draws on the variability of the landscape, the unpredictability and the danger in its walls and ledges in his translation from image to sound. Rather than smooth sweeping or flowing contours, he captures the sharpness of the rocks and ravines and the highs and lows of the caverns. The works also include the eoliphone to create the sound of wind and the geophone to create the sound of sand moving. The xylorimba and glockenspiel provide the crispness of birdsong that is interspersed in the landscape.

The music is accompanied by O'Grady's images projected onto a large screen behind the orchestra. The impact of the stunning scenery is however diminished by the mood lighting used to color the concert hall which in turn provided too much ambient lighting for the screen so blacks were never truly black and images were unbalanced.

This is an impressive contemporary work which would appeal to an audience that is seeking the unusual rather than traditional orchestral offerings. It is complex and creates textured sounds of the environment but do not expect the sweeping expression of the landscapes but rather music that exposes Mother Nature's unpredictability and complexity.

Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House

Wednesday 8 March, Friday 11 March, Saturday 12 March 2016

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From This Author Jade Kops

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