Yuja and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra with Maestro Charles Dutoit

Peter McCallum, The Sydney Morning Herald

Stravinsky thought his 1908 work¬†Funeral Song, Opus 5, written in memory of his teacher Rimsky-Korsakov, was lost during the Russian Revolution. Russian musicologist Natalia Braginskaya followed the composer’s suggestion and, with librarian Irina Sidorenko, located old orchestral parts in the St Petersburg Conservatory in 2014, 107 years after its first and only performance. As the first Australian performance by the SSO under Charles Dutoit on Thursday demonstrated, it is arguably the most important Stravinsky work before¬†The Firebird, showing a composer influenced in motivic manipulation in a Wagnerian manner, alongside an interest in new oriental-inspired scale forms and a fine instinct for proportion, textural weight and original orchestration. It is a work that should achieve regular concert outings.

Pianophiles have long been resigned to the likelihood that legendary Argentinian pianist Martha Argerich will never play in Australia and her latest cancellation caused more disappointment than surprise. As her replacement in Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in C, Opus 15, Chinese pianist Yuja Wang showed considerable growth in artistic maturity since her last performance with the SSO in Brahms and Prokofiev, particularly in the first movement. Under Dutoit’s guidance the opening avoided military heaviness in favour of nuanced shape and Wang carried this forward with an unrushed exposition.