A cherished date in the Canberra Symphony Orchestra’s (CSO) calendar, the Canberra Weekly Classic Afternoon is fast approaching, on Saturday 14 September.
The performance will occur under an unusual set of circumstances as a slightly smaller orchestra will take the stage without a conductor to perform a program hand selected by 2019 CSO Artist in Focus, Diana Doherty.
An acclaimed oboist, Doherty will be both the soloist and director of the concert.
She tells Canberra Weekly the dual role is relatively new to her, and presents a challenge she finds both exciting and daunting.
“A long time ago when I lived in Switzerland it wasn’t uncommon to do chamber concerts where you don’t have a conductor, but to be honest I haven’t done it often except for the Australian Chamber Orchestra.
“I think the challenge for me is playing, and also having an extra ear out for the orchestra. Because I can’t talk as I play, I’m going to have to be multitasking, firing on all cylinders,” Doherty says.
The repertoire for the afternoon consists of two works by Mozart, his Symphony No. 25 in G minor and Oboe Concerto in C major; Bach’s Oboe Concerto in D minor, and 20th Century composer Vaugh Williams’ Oboe Concerto in A minor.
The program is a variety of baroque, classical and 20th Century music.
According to Doherty, Williams’ work is a “very melodic, pastoral, melancholy, beautiful work” that’s very close to her heart.
“It was one of the first things I ever played with an orchestra as a soloist when I was just 18; that performance in particular is very special to me as it helped me choose music as my career.”
With Bach being one of Doherty’s all-time favourite composers, including his Oboe Concerto was a no brainer.
“I love this work, in particular it has a famous flow in it … And the other movements, one is quite expressive and intellectual and the other is quite like a dance.”
Mozart’s Oboe Concerto is also special to Doherty, as she played it in the national Young Performers Competition aged 18
“That was the piece that I won that competition with and had to play a number of times in the second, third and fourth rounds. Also, subsequently as a prize winner, I had to play it a lot, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve performed it over the years,” she says.
“It has a very youthful, happy spirit to it, so it never feels old and is very uplifting.”
Doherty says being the CSO’s 2019 Artist in Focus is an honour, and she has loved being able to build a sense of familiarity with the orchestra.
“Every orchestra has its own characteristics. What I’ve noticed about the CSO that’s quite striking is how disciplined they are responding to a conductor’s beat.
“Some play quite far behind, but CSO really respond immediately to the beat, but this will be different because there won’t be a beat,” she says.
“It will be interesting to see how they respond, not a visual thing as much as having to listen and respond to each other.”
Doherty has also relished the opportunity her involvement with the CSO has given her to spend more time in town.
“I have played in Canberra over the years but I’ve never had the opportunity to establish a rapport with the audiences to this extent.
“I have a lot of family here, so it’s super nice to play for them, see them a bit more and get to know the orchestra.”
She says the one issue that’s faced her here is that the weather can be very dry, which presents challenges for the oboe.
“Oboe reeds in particular are very, very temperamental with humidity so that might be a challenge if it’s very dry, they can also crack,” she says.
The CSO’s Canberra Weekly Classic Afternoon will be held at Llewellyn Hall, ANU on 14 September 2pm; cso.org.au