★★★★☆ CSO goes off the beaten track with an unusually interesting programme.

Llewelyn Hall
November 4, 2015

For the Canberra Symphony Orchestra’s final concert in 2015, the conductor, Nicholas Milton, went off the beaten track and presented an unusually interesting programme. The highlight of the concert for me was the  Symphonic Dances of Rachmaninov. When this work was first performed by the Philadelphia Orchestra (for whom it was written) in 1940 it was not particularly successful. Like the Fourth Piano Concerto, it does not have the Russian flavour or the nostalgic atmosphere of his earlier concertos and orchestral compositions. The unprecedented (in Rachmaninov) use of the alto saxophone and the unusual prominence of the harp and the orchestral piano reflect possibly the years that Rachmaninoff spent in the West after his exile from Russia in 1912. The work is tougher and somehow more “modern” than his more popular works which may have accounted for its initial lack of success. Nevertheless, the work has attained a degree of acceptance, even popularity, in recent years and performances and recordings have become more common.

Mr. Milton and the orchestra gave the work a magnificent performance marked by vigorous tempi, superb solo playing by the winds,...