It’s often a bit of a risky business to let a symphony orchestra loose from its conductor. With so many musicians involved, it can be difficult for some to be able to see the leader and even to hear distant sections. Extra layers of teamwork and concentration – not to mention vigilant counting – would be needed to keep the whole thing together.
Kirsten Williams. Photograph © Martin Ollman
For three of the four works in this concert by the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, it was primarily the concertmaster, Kirsten Williams, and, at times, other principals who were leading the way, and then often only – and necessarily – subtly because they were playing themselves.
To complicate matters even further, the orchestra’s layout was unusual. The second violins were sitting opposite the firsts with the violas and cellos taking up the middle. The four double basses were split – two on either side of the ensemble, behind the violas and cellos.
Was it successful? Mostly, and resoundingly “yes”. With the backs of the second violins (and even some of the musicians) to the audience, it...