Review: SUMSxSUSO Present Beethoven 9

The combined talents of SUMS and SUSO provided a night of unadulterated musical enjoyment

Image: Sophie Wu

Set in the Sydney Conservatorium of Music’s grand Verbrugghen Hall, SUMS’ and SUSO’s new collaborative effort was an evening of resounding delight. The concert’s old-new-old music sandwich formula triumphantly showcased the virtuosity of its performers through invigorating renditions of Wagner’s majestic Overture to ‘Rienzi’ and the highly anticipated Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, as well as featuring the brilliant debut performance of ‘Lux Aeterna’ by Sydney Conservatorium of Music student Nicholas D’Silva.

In the able hands of SUSO Principal Conductor Luke Spicer and SUMS Musical Director Réka Csernyik, the concert shone throughout its two-hour long performance with wholehearted enthusiasm and ardour. It was delightful to witness the exuberance with which Spicer helmed his performances and the accompanying melodic frenzy of the predominant strings.

The extravagant, operatic Overture to ‘Rienzi’ was a well-chosen opening piece, which effectively captivated the audience’s attention from the onset. Beginning with a slow, beguiling movement, the main section later developed into a powerful theme in the strings that was eloquently repeated by the woodwinds and brasses and finished on a high note with a coda of vigorous intensity.

The evening’s second piece, the premiere of Nicholas D’Silva’s ‘Lux Aeterna’, was at times eerie, romantic and haunting all at once. The diversity and rich timbral and textural contrasts within his compositions made for an intriguing, somewhat unsettling, yet overall alluring performance. Led by Csernyik, ‘Lux Aeterna’ introduced the audience to the impressive combined power of the SUMS choir together with SUSO.

If anything could convert the most ardent pop fan into a classical music aficionado, it would be Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9. It comes as no surprise, then, that the concert’s showstopper rendition of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 left the audience enthralled. Whilst the opening movement, Allegro ma non troppo, was beautifully harmonic and grandiose, as was the traditional slow Adagio in the third movement, particularly noteworthy from this Beethoven masterpiece was the second movement’s arresting, electrifying Scherzo and the final epic choral in the fourth movement.

Soloists Jenny Liu, Barbara Jin, Matthew Reardon and Alex Sefton did not disappoint as they led the choir through the text adapted from Friedrich Schiller’s anthemic ‘Ode to Joy’. The best single moment of the entire concert was truly the finale, as the multitude of diverse timbres of strings, woodwind, brass, and percussion of SUSO seemingly became one with the voices of the SUMS choir; in that moment, who could not help but appreciate the genius of Beethoven?