Violinist Shaun Lee-Chen directs Baroque Favourites by WA Symphony Orchestra at Perth Concert Hall

David CusworthThe West Australian
Violinist Shaun Lee-Chen directs and leads WA Symphony Orchestra in Baroque Favourites at Perth Concert Hall on Saturday.
Camera IconViolinist Shaun Lee-Chen directs and leads WA Symphony Orchestra in Baroque Favourites at Perth Concert Hall on Saturday. Credit: Rebecca Mansell

Violin maestro Shaun Lee-Chen’s silken tones and artistic energy drove a scintillating recital of Baroque Favourites by WA Symphony Orchestra at Perth Concert Hall on Saturday.

Directing and leading the pared-back ensemble, Lee-Chen proved that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery as the string ensemble with wind, brass and percussion augments followed his example from the opening Corelli Concerto Grosso to Bach’s Orchestral Suite No.3 at the close.

A hint of hesitance at the start was quickly dispelled by Lee-Chen’s solo; depth in cello and bass aptly complementing scurrying higher melodic lines in Corelli’s first movement, Adagio-Allegro.

Stately phrases in all registers followed in the Adagio, contrasted with pulsing energy in the Vivace; rounded out with a touch of whimsy as Lee-Chen modelled the mood in the Allegro finale, duetting with Zak Rowntree before a warmly resonant conclusion.

Violinists Shaun Lee-Chen and Zak Rowntree in duet during Corelli’s Concerto Grosso with WA Symphony Orchestra in Baroque Favourites at Perth Concert Hall.
Camera IconViolinists Shaun Lee-Chen and Zak Rowntree in duet during Corelli’s Concerto Grosso with WA Symphony Orchestra in Baroque Favourites at Perth Concert Hall. Credit: Rebecca Mansell

Two pieces by Albinoni stripped back the ensemble to five string parts and Stewart Smith’s harpsichord-organ combination, Lee-Chen duetting with Riley Skevington in the Sonata in C major, Largo movement; a courtly style in sparser setting allowing harpsichord to cut through.

Organ anchored the Allegro second stanza, with strings in counterpoint, while harpsichord and John Keene’s pizzicato bass in the following Grave supported another violin duet through to the closing organ chord.

In the Allegro finale, counterpoint played out in constant motion to the last chordal cadence.

Enter the oboe, Liz Chee bringing a distinct voice to the group for the Concerto in D minor, following then leading as if in a dance; light and lucid yet ever-present, the strings shadowing yet never intruding in the Allegro e non presto.

Familiar arpeggios in the Adagio set up a bow wave of expectation that Chee rode with understated elegance, grace notes and trills ornamenting unhurried melody; the ensemble closing deftly before breaking out in the Allegro finale, Chee dancing nimbly and sure as Lee-Chen was vigorous and spirited, her unassuming artistry earning whoops and cheers.

Telemann’s Concerto for 3 Trumpets closed out the half, the brilliance of two piccolo trumpets (Brent Grapes and Jenna Smith) and one D trumpet (Peter Miller) over timpani highlights from Francois Combemorel adding an extra dimension to the high Baroque sound.

Largo-Allegro drew silvery flourishes in solo, duo, and trio trumpets, powering a rousing climax.

Strings, harp and woodwind led a sinewy dance in the Adagio as trumpets hung five before bursting out in the Presto, their fanfare style echoed in strings and woodwind; flurries of sound fading to a decrescendo cadence.

Liz Chee plays Albinoni’s Oboe Concerto in D minor with WA Symphony Orchestra for Baroque Favourites at Perth Concert Hall.
Camera IconLiz Chee plays Albinoni’s Oboe Concerto in D minor with WA Symphony Orchestra for Baroque Favourites at Perth Concert Hall. Credit: Rebecca Mansell

After the break, Vivaldi’s Violin Concerto in A minor featured Lee-Chen, opening in cadenza mode before a sudden burst of teeming life; soloist riding a wave of rhythmic energy, controlling tempi and dynamics with whole-souled artistry.

Mystery in the Largo established by a minimalist chordal accompaniment gave full rein to Lee-Chen’s mercurial technique, meditating through the register.

The ensemble erupted again in the Presto finale, Lee-Chen directing deftly with the occasional touch of patent-leather percussion, driving to a closing flourish.

Cooling the mood, Andrew Nicholson took a relaxed approach to the same composer’s Concerto for Flute in G minor “La Notte” (Night); holding fire during tutti passages then breaking into dialogue with long phrases over complex chords.

Largo movements alternate with Presto and finally Allegro through this programmatic piece; dense accompaniment contrasting with limpid and lucid flute playing, both meditative and virtuosic, drawing Nicholson to extremes of technique and expression.

Finally, only Bach could close this travelogue of the Baroque era, his Orchestral Suite No.3 combining all elements. Strident opening measures with trumpet, woodwind and timpani highlights were some of the most richly scored moments of the evening as Lee-Chen jumped in and out of conducting and leading through tumultuous tempi in the Ouverture.

Air (on a G string) followed, Lee-Chen investing the beguiling earworm with a delicate resonance both familiar and fresh; Smith’s organ playing a velvety counterpart and the ensemble deeply pleasing in the cadence.

WASO then rocked out the night with Gavotte, Bouree and Gigue movements played attacca in a celebration of dance rushing to an exuberant climax.

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails