Ron Ringer, Classikon: Concert Review, Met Concert 2 2023
Carnivals & Adventures (plus a World Premiere)
“This orchestra must be seen, must be heard, and must be celebrated as what makes us so proud of our individual and collective achievement. Three encores?”
“Under the baton of Sarah-Grace Williams, the MET certainly knows how to keep us on the edge of our seats.”
Paul Nolan, Sydney Arts Guide: Concert Review, Met Concert 2 2023
Carnivals & Adventures (plus a World Premiere)
“Chief conductor Sarah-Grace Williams harnessed the forces of the large orchestra and concerto soloist well. Her presentation of this new work allowed freedom of expression for the saxophone when playing bravura type effects or more lyrical moments. The soloist voice well-balanced with the orchestra. Williams guided an exciting dialogue between saxophone and TMO. Fuller tutti moments of description were presented with the composer’s internal layers very cleanly interlocked.”
Ron Ringer, Classikon: Concert Review, Met Concert 1 2023
“This was yet another hugely enjoyable concert performance from The Metropolitan Orchestra, surely one of Sydney’s finest.”
Paul Nolan, Sydney Arts Guide: Concert Review, Met Concert 5 2022
Enigma Variations (plus a World Premiere)
“The success of this brave new sound world pointed to a future winking with many bright stars for both the featured composer and The Metropolitan Orchestra.”
Paul Nolan, Sydney Arts Guide: Concert Review, Classical Blockbusters 2021
“The cleverly programmed set of contrasted, well-known works from TMO’s large repertoire were given careful treatment by Artistic Director Sarah-Grace Williams. The orchestral hits were presented with an exemplary fresh, capable accent on top of the effect of musical familiarity…… An ecstatic audience did this journey face to facemask, once more in the safe musical company of TMO. Things are looking up.”
Paul Nolan, Sydney Arts Guide: Concert Review, Met Concert 4 2019
Mahler Symphony No 5
“The intensity of Mahler’s musical and sound-effect narrative in the hands of TMO was tautly wound. It was a very rewarding listening experience without interval for many assembled given the rare chance to hear this work live in Sydney.”
“Few adjectives adequately describe the quality of stillness and subtle movement this version of the Adagietto offered. It was enough to make the listener fall in love all over again with the expressive power of Mahler and TMO. This exciting event was a very special one for TMO and all assembled. Hopefully such an interpretation of such a giant from the orchestral literature by such an emerging giant in our musical landscape will be recorded and distributed for posterity.”
Paul Nolan, Sydney Arts Guide: Concert Review, Met Concert 3 2019
Tchaikovsky Serenade. Piazzolla/Rojas Libertango Suite *World Premiere. Daniel Rojas Piano.
“TMO strings are sure to be considered amongst the clearest, richest string sounds in our city. The popular orchestra’s mighty string section repeatedly reminded us of TMO’s typical ‘precision with soul’ style of playing.”
Paul Nolan, Sydney Arts Guide: Concert Review, Met Concert 2 2019
Clemens Leske (Piano) Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No 3 and Rimsky-Korsakov Scheherazade
“Attention to detail and a consummate realisation of any atmospheric challenge were once more hallmarks of TMO’s concert package.”
“The showcase for TMO alone in this Met Concert was Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. This sprawling suite of programmatic intricacy and dramatic musical narrative was deliciously rendered by TMO’s skilful storytellers across all orchestral sections.”
Paul Nolan, Sydney Arts Guide: Concert Review, Met Concert 5 2018
Jim Coyle ‘Dancing with Billy Bray’ WORLD PREMIERE, Elgar’s Cello Concerto (Ezmi Pepper, cello), César Franck Symphony In D minor
“This measured performance had a pleasing emphasis on Elgar’s lyricism and unique approach to the concerto form. Ezmi Pepper’s performance was a deeply moving moment in this final Met Concert for 2018 and indeed a highlight for the entire season.
Steve Moffatt, Limelight Magazine: Concert Review, Met Concert 4 2018
Capriccio Espagnol by Rimsky-Korsakov, Tamara-Anna Cislovska (piano) Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No 2, Symphonic Dances Op 45 by Rachmaninoff
“Looking around the 300-seat Eugene Goossens Hall in the ABC Centre at this concert there were not many empty places, proof that even on a cold night with key sports fixtures on televison, people will still turn out for a night of fine music played by an excellent band.”
“For their fourth concert of the season, Fever, Williams chose a troika of Russian composers and works that highlight the considerable depth of talent in an orchestra which boasts well over 100 musicians on its books. This was nowhere more evident than in Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s Capriccio Espagnole. The ABC hall’s excellent acoustic emphasised the all-round strength of the Met.”
“Williams is an expansive and impressive conductor, paying great attention to detail and setting well-judged tempi. It’s a tribute to her and her band that they can attract fine soloists and for the next piece, Dmitri Shostakovich’s Piano Concerto No 2, we had one of the best in Sydney pianist Tamara-Anna Cislowska.”
Angus McPherson, Limelight Magazine: Concert Review, Met Concert 2 2018
Rossini William Tell Overture, Ligeti Concert Românesc, Arutunian Trumpet Concerto (Soloist Jenna Smith), BIZET Carmen Suites 1 & 2
“The Sydney-based Metropolitan Orchestra is an ensemble that tends to punch above its weight – and it’s certainly one of the most agile ensembles on the scene.”
“From Ezmi Pepper’s opening earthy cello solo, the Overture to Rossini’s William Tell showed off the vitality the orchestra is known for, deftly shaped under Williams’ precise baton. The duet between Kate Mostert on cor anglais and Svetlana Yaroslavskaya on flute – the alpine horn-inspired Ranz des vaches – was magical. The brass were immaculate in the blistering finale, the strings showing off a remarkable depth of sound and tight ensemble work.”
Phillip Scott, Limelight Magazine: Concert Review, Met Concert 2 2017
Glinka Russlan and Ludmilla Overture, Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No.2 (Benjamin Kopp), Coyle Bright Seraphim and Shostakovich Symphony no.9
“This enjoyable Russian programme counted as an undoubted success. Above all, kudos must go to Williams: a conductor of authority, who has a point of view and the ability to express it clearly. It is her triumph to have molded this group of excellent individual musicians into a true orchestral ensemble.”
Paul Nolan, Sydney Arts Guide: Concert Review, Met Concert 2 2016
Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto no 1 (Benjamin Kopp) and Shostakovich Symphony no 10
“Conductor Sarah-Grace Williams is to be congratulated on this Shostakovich interpretation. Under her baton the orchestra was guided to produce great emotion but with suitable control throughout. The resulting drama and individual characterisations of each movement’s statement were clearly accessible for the audience.”
“This symphony was an effective vehicle to display the developing capabilities of this popular orchestra. I left craving a recording of this work from TMO so the performance could be listened to again…”
“The Metropolitan Orchestra’s cohesiveness, collective stamina and calibre of expression continues to go from strength to strength.”
“Kopp’s beautifully restrained playing was admirable and his delivery of measured bravura completed the dramatic tapestry with fireworks which were never exaggerated.”
Paul Nolan, Sydney Arts Guide: Concert Review, Met Concert 1 2016
“TMO is a fun orchestra, but would not be at the standard it is without their outstanding conductor, Sarah-Grace Williams, who is able to draw out the musicality in each player and weld them into a wonderful orchestra with a great sound.”
Paul Nolan, Sydney Arts Guide: Concert Review, Met Concert 5 2015
Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto (Anna da silva Chen) and Sibelius Symphony no 2
“In the interpretative hands of conductor Sarah-Grace Williams this work became a tour de force of exceptional poise, eloquence and atmosphere…Chen performed with scintillating flourish and a confident flair. Her blend between dazzling technique and intelligent lyricism was a delight…The woodwind choir and soloists of TMO have never sounded as good as when heard in the second and third movements of this symphony…TMO’s performance of this sprawling symphony never allowed for moments of down-time or any pedestrian playing to creep in. The clean solos, textural shifts across the orchestra and synchronicity of ensemble attack were repeatedly thrilling.”
Paul Nolan, Sydney Arts Guide: Concert Review, Met Concert 4 2015
Rachmaninoff Symphony no 2
“Fine choices by conductor Sarah-Grace Williams with regard to tempo, balance and maintenance of musical line brought an impressive clarity to the score. The organic growth, forward swoop and individual character of each large movement were a pleasure to experience…TMO’s neat synchronicity, precision and unity of tone have never been better….Whether it was the TMO’s intimate, elegant chamber music or an orchestral narrative on a massive scale, the works from this versatile orchestra entertained and thrilled the audience.”
Sydney Arts Guide: Concert Review, Met Concert 3 2015
“TMO gave an inspiring and disciplined performance of Dvořák’s Symphony no 9. Conductor Sarah-Grace Williams succeeded in creating very pioneering and open soundscapes amidst the complex thematic reiterations, developments and juxtapositions. The symphony’s full textures and requisite unbridled boldness in delivery of the popular, energetic themes created an attractive new interpretative world on this occasion.”
“Tedeschi’s interpretation (of the Grieg Piano Cocerto) was both exciting and exquisite…What was especially enjoyable about Tedeschi’s pianism and quite personal painting of the emotion was his incredibly soft playing. Even more pleasing was the successful balance in such moments between TMO and the soloist.”
Limelight Magazine: Review, Bravo! Cruise of the Performing Arts 2014
“With a smorgasbord of superstars superstars – Elaine Paige, Teddy Tahu Rhodes, Cheryl Barker, Simon Tedeschi, David Hobson, Marina Prior, Colin Lane and more, the most exceptional contribution came from The Metropolitan Orchestra.” Click here to read whole article
Paul Nolan, Sydney Arts Guide: Concert Review, Met Concert 1 2015
“The TMO’s Met Concert #1 was stunning! …This was exciting yet disciplined Vivaldi, never overdone or underplayed. An extremely evocative, cohesive Four Seasons resulted from the links between soloist, orchestral players and Sarah-Grace Williams’ effective interpretation. The ache of famous still moments throughout were well measured, and the delivery of all sections in broad sensible strokes ensuring subsequent large outbursts was thrilling…This was solid, dramatic Vivaldi, employing decent sized instrumental forces. Its crisp music shone and penetrated with appropriate force and direction from stage to audience. The power of the violin with string family was much celebrated, as Vivaldi would have enjoyed.” Click here to read the whole review.
Australian Stage: Concert Review, Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular, Sydney Opera House
“The music was as spectacular as the title suggests. Epic performance of some of the most beautiful music created in the last ten years.”
Herald Sun: Concert Review, Doctor Who Symphonic Spectacular, Sydney Opera House
“Evocative and thrilling in equal measure.”
“The second season concert for the Metropolitan Orchestra (TMO) was an exciting blend of new music and classics from the eighteenth century orchestral repertoire. This enthusiastic audience was wowed by the world premiere of Daniel Rojas’ Chamber Concerto for Marimba and Orchestra. The atmosphere, emotion, dialogue and sense of caricature needed throughout this imaginative work were warmly realised by the orchestra. Textural variation and creation of the necessary tone colours were beautifully handled. Virtuosic work at the marimba by the joyous gem of a percussionist Claire Edwards also brought this successful new percussion concerto to life.
TMO framed this premiere with two favourites of the orchestral repertoire. Firstly a string orchestra arrangement of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and then the Symphony No.104 -‘The London’ –by Haydn. The orchestrations of both classics were given freshness by conductor Sarah-Grace Williams’ thorough interpretation and attention to layers of motivic interest across the orchestra. Tempo choices for the faster movements of both works were extremely vibrant but did work well, with cleanly defined themes. The folk-song inspired finale of the London Symphony dazzled.”
Lisa Thatcher: Concert Review, Met Series 2 2013.
“TMO is a first class orchestra. This weekend’s program started with Mozart’s melodic and familiar Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and ended with Haydn’s Symphony no 104 ‘London.’ The middle piece was the world premiere of a Chamber concerto for Marimba and orchestra composed by Daniel Rojas. The two traditional pieces were exceptionally executed. The fluid movements of Williams shone above the room, the talented and skilled musicians followed her every move. The audience was captivated, almost holding their breath in time to her gentle hands, inhaling with a mighty passion as she engulfed the orchestral sound in her arms. At times she looked like a music box dancer, her movements so graceful and dance like and her facial expressions so noble it was hard to believe she was real.
But the piece we were really there to hear, and the absolute standout of the immaculate performance was Daniel Rojas composition written specifically for Claire Edwardes’ marimba as conducted by Sarah-Grace Williams. Rojas sat a few seats back from Williams, so when Edwardes started to play his music, there seemed to be an electric thread moving a dynamic stream from Edwardes straight ahead to Williams and through her to Rojas. Watching Claire conducted by Williams and the magnetic current that moved between them made it easy to understand why Rojas felt compelled to write directly for each. The performance was a magical way to round off a beautiful afternoon of orotund, majestic musical enlightenment that is part of the shared beauty of TMO.”
“It wasn’t just the collection of costumes that made tonight fabulous (although they were certainly sublime). Nor was it the fans overcome at key moments. Tonight was completely made by some amazing music delivered with great passion, live – so rare when we think about TV and sound.
The Metropolitan Orchestra and Sydney Philharmonic Choir were flawless and fun (unlike the sometimes ‘stuffy’ SSO and MSO), and while the international bigwigs were in to help (Doctor Who composer Murray Gold and conductor/arranger Ben Foster), it was these performances that made it. Particular kudos must go to soloists Antoinette Halloran and Daniel Bonic-Goodwin (the latter particularly spine-tingling), and while there were elements of pantomime to the proceedings (complete with “I can’t hear you, scream louder” moments), the love in the room was infectious.
Hosted by River Song herself (Alex Kingston) and her ‘granddad’ Mark Williams, no doubt Santa came early for a few good little (and big) aspiring timelords tonight. A perfect screen-to-stage transition.”
Paul Nolan, ArtsHub: Concert Review, Met Series 6, November 2012
“The Met Series 6 concert program showcased this hardworking orchestra alone, with no soloist. The orchestra presented two greats of the 19th century symphonic repertoire, with the first half of the concert devoted to Schubert’s ‘Unfinished’ Symphony no 8 in B minor and concluding with Symphony no 1 in C minor by Brahms.
This would be considered a formidable programme for any orchestra. It also treated the audience to the final symphonic utterance from Schubert back to back with the evolution in this genre by Brahms from the next generation.
Both works require great discipline for an orchestra. Textural challenges must be well managed in order to preserve the balance across the instrumental forces. Clear maintenance of melodic line is crucial for outlining formal architecture favoured by both composers, and for touching the listener emotionally.
Conductor Sarah-Grace Williams guided an admirably focussed Metropolitan Orchestra through the demands of both late Schubert and early Brahms. Stamina was mostly very well preserved.
The delicate opening of the Schubert showed tremendous restraint and control. This ability for penetrating soft string playing continued throughout the work. The well-known oboe and clarinet solos were beautiful and seamless. They stated simply and evenly the essence of Schubert’s genius for melody. These instruments also handled the solos well above a denser texture in the Brahms symphony.
Enjoyable to hear in both symphonies was a healthy competition across string parts and between orchestral sections. Secondary parts tastefully competed with leading figures. This brought an enjoyable vitality to the playing.
Tempo choices were on the keen and uplifting side, especially in the fast final movement of the Brahms. This symphony’s finale perhaps could have benefitted from some moments of air between its relentless sections. Its opening movement were commanding, and painted in massive strokes.
This was a very good programme and a satisfying evening of symphonic music with which to conclude the Met Series 2012. The 2013 series details are available now, and are highly recommended. Showing the versatility of this orchestra, they are also set to play music from the Doctor Who TV series at the Sydney Opera House during December.”
RATING: 4.5 stars out of 5
Sarah Whyte, music write Sun Herald: Concert Review, David Helfgott August 2012
“Such a captivating performance at Angel Place of Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto no 3 with David Helfgott and The Metropolitan Orchestra. From the moment conductor Sarah-Grace Williams stepped on stage to conduct TMO, she commanded the best from the players and that’s what was presented.
The communication and intimate understanding of this challenging work shared between Sarah-Grace and David was incredible. David’s phrasing, emotion and swells of the dynamics was flawless. David’s wife, Gillian told me after the performance that he had never related so well with a conductor before.
The orchestra played with grace and poise, never distracted by their eccentric soloist. The Rach 3 is always a joyous piece to hear performed, but this performance took it to another level.”
Megaphone Oz (Ben Oxley): Concert Review, Met Series 4 2012
“We started in Rossini’s Parisian salon with Saint-Saëns’s Tarantella. Two soloists, Svetlana Yaraslavskaya, flute and David Rowden, clarinet matched and complemented each other with brisk florid passages. The balance worked particularly well with the ensemble, at the direction of Williams. When the dance gained momentum, and the venom spread through the body, perfect ensemble prevailed. This was the appetiser before the deeply evocative work which followed…Vaughan Williams Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis.
Tremendous intensity in concentration kept the audience in thrall. At the first performance, an 18 year old Herbert Howells described the work and the atmosphere in the audience as ‘electric’. There was measured assurance in this reading, with an edge-of-seat excitement. Sincere acknowledgment of the keen balance and cohesion of the two orchestras should be noted.
‘Exit in case of Brahms.’
This was plastered on the walls in the venue of the premiere of Brahms’ 1st Serenade. We had no need of this exhortation on the account given by The Metropolitan Orchestra at Balmain Town Hall. Here was robust, inspired playing directed with consummate aplomb by musical director Sarah-Grace Williams.” (Click here for full review)
Weekend Notes (Jacky B): Concert Review, Met Series 3 2012
“All orchestras take themselves, and their music, seriously – and TMO is no different. Yet, they also manage to inject the whole thing with a sense of energy and fun. Maybe it was the decisiveness, precision and passion of conductor Sarah-Grace Williams; the intimacy of the setting; or perhaps I was simply simply swept away by the spectacular dress worn by solo violinist Katherine Lukey.
There is something special about live music in any setting, from your local pub to the Opera House, but TMO took it a step above. It’s probably heresy to say it, but I enjoyed this performance more than my visit to the Sydney Symphony Orchestra earlier this month.”
Sydney Arts Guide (Mark Piggott): Concert Review, Met Series 3 2012
“Principal flautist Svetlana Yaroslavskaya is perhaps the outstanding performer in this piece (Beethoven Symphony no 6) but the entire orchestra produces a sublime sound that filled the Independent Theatre and brought great pleasure to the audience. The great applause for the impressive conductor, Sarah-Grace Williams, and for the whole orchestra, able demonstrated this.”
Bel Canto: Concert Review
“I found the reading of the Lakme duet one of the best I have heard live – the voices were beautifully balanced, a perfect ‘barcarolle’ tempo and just enough French rubato and romantic sensuality. Nicole Car and Sian Pendry with Sarah-Grace conducting – bel canto!”
Mike Smith, 2MBS FM: Concert Review
“From the first opening chords from the full orchestra you knew this was going to be an exciting concert. The Mendelssohn Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture was played with a vigour and self-confidence…the string quartet at the centre of Elgar handled the balance with sensitivity and control…the minuet showed was punctuated by beautifully measured cadences. It was really in the finale that the performance came to its own ‘zenith’, as the fugue culminated into a roller-coaster ride to the end. It is a pleasure to watch Sarah-Grace Williams in action, the clarity of her directions to the players becomes an additional and visual component which enhances the overall experience of the concert. She has worked hard to create an orchestra that inspires its audiences with its sense of vitality and purpose. Throughout the concert I felt as if I was a part of the performing process and not merely a bystander, with all the excitement of being right in there and none of the responsibility! One might normally include criticism in a review for balance but from where I was sitting there was nothing to be picky about.”
Mary Jo Capps: CEO Musica Viva
“What an exciting new ensemble. I love the philosophy behind it and the energy it exudes. Bravo!”
Audience: Concert Responses
“Last Sunday my wife and I attended your wonderful concert at the Balmain Town Hall. It was the first time that we had the pleasure of hearing your orchestra and we enjoyed the programme so very much. The playing standard was exceptional and we look forward to attending further concerts in the future. We had driven in from Tahmoor to attend this concert and it was certainly worth the trip. Congratulations to all involved.”
“I have been to hundreds of these concerts and it was up there with the very best – wonderful casting, with blended voices in ensemble and a fine variety of repertoire and featuring everyone’s strengths and the lovely orchestra and chamber chorus – a total pleasure – pleasure – bravi to all involved”
“So many beautifully performed arias at the Gala, and I never heard a finer Rosario La Spina. I did not know the MCO 🙁 but will certainly go to their concerts in future… such a fine orchestra.”