Teddy Tahu Rhodes and the Sydney Youth Orchestra

Lynne Lancaster

A passionate and delightful concert, presented as part of the Sydney Youth Orchestra’s 40th birthday celebrations.
Teddy Tahu Rhodes and the Sydney Youth Orchestra

A most exciting concert, full of rich, challenging fare – everything from a world premiere to (a possibly rather heavy) Wagner.  

It is the Sydney Youth Orchestra’s 40th birthday this year (hooray and congratulations). Under the crisp, dynamic leadership of legendary inspirational maestro, Richard Gill, the orchestra was in glorious form and sounded tremendous.

The program opened with the world premiere of 20 year old Australian composer Philip Jameson’s Contact, investigating the notion of musical touching. It has a haunting woodwind opening (hints of Stravinsky’s Sacre du Printemps?) and is a shimmering, short work. The second movement is sad and lyrical, changing to a fast allegro with Spanish overtones and a rolling Star Wars-like sound for the finale.  A most exciting work.

Next came a terrific performance of the Symphony No.3 in E Flat op 97 (the ‘Rhenish’) by  Robert Schuman, a Romantic work featuring the use of strings. The orchestra had a wonderful warm, rich, full-bodied sound. The second movement (scherzo) was tempestuous and fiery. The fourth movement (Feierlich) was somewhat balletic in feel, with questioning strings. This lead to the fifth, final movement (Lebhaft) which was sombre, melancholy, and funeral.

For opera lovers the special treat in the second half was guest artist, bass baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Opera Australia star and soon to be seen in South Pacific again. Tall, bald and hypnotically magnetic with a ravishing voice, he gave a powerful performance and had the audience eating out of his hand, performing superbly in what Gill called an ‘uncompromising’ and difficult program.

First we heard him as Don Carlos in the opera of that name, with the aria ‘Ella Giammai M’Amo’ (‘She never loved me’). Here, Tahu Rhodes was gripping, compelling and darkly malevolent. With a voice like dark chocolate he vented his suffering, changing from despair, shattered disbelief and resignation to jealousy and anger. What a contrast to the ‘Non Piu Andrai’ from Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. Here, his Figaro’s teasing of Cherubino was witty, jaunty, sexy and much fun, and had the audience swooning.

Then came the Sydney Youth Orchestra in Wagner’s stormy ‘Siegfried’s Funeral March’ from Die Gotterdammerung. Ominous, threatening drums with a blast of strings opened this lush, passionate, tempestuous segment. The final segment was ‘Wotan’s Farewell and Magic Fire Music’ from Die Walkure, with Tahu Rhodes as Wotan. Gill reminded us that Wotan is one of the most psychologically complex characters in the Ring Cycle, and Tahu Rhodes, rumbling, stern and commanding, sang  the difficult work superbly. The orchestra played the fiery, rippling and angry music marvellously – the swirling strings were quite lush and opulent.

A fabulous concert and an excellent way to celebrate the Sydney Youth Orchestra’s 40th birthday – the audience was in raptures at the end.   

Rating: 4 stars out of 5


Teddy Tahu Rhodes and the Sydney Youth Orchestra

Conductor - Richard Gill


Philip Jameson – Contact (world premiere)

Robert Schuman – Symphony No.3 in E Flat op 97 (Rhenish) 

Giuseppe Verdi – ‘Ella Giammai M’Amo from Don Carlos

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – ‘Non Piu Andrai’ from The Marriage of Figaro

Richard Wagner – ‘Seigfried’s Funeral March’ from Die Gotterdammerung Richard Wagner – ‘Wotan’s Farewell and Magic Fire Music’ from Die Walküre


The Concourse, Chatswood

18 August


About the author

Lynne Lancaster is a Sydney based arts writer who has previously worked for Ticketek, Tickemaster and the Sydney Theatre Company. She has an MA in Theatre from UNSW, and when living in the UK completed the dance criticism course at Sadlers Wells, linked in with Chichester University.