Live review: Shefali’s Playlist with Toby Thatcher



Shefali’s Playlist
Sydney Symphony Orchestra conducted by Toby Thatcher
City Recital Hall, 8 August

What’d you miss?

  • A conversational, laid-back gig
  • Bite-sized pieces of music
  • A peek into the musical mind of SSO Principal Oboe Shefali Pryor


It felt strange to observe such a laid-back vibe for a Sydney Symphony Orchestra concert as I took my seat in the City Recital Hall for Shefali’s Playlist. Shefali Pryor, the star herself, got up to speak about the night’s repertoire; it felt so intimate to be able to peek into the musical mind of someone many of us admire. It almost seemed like a glorified experience of going to a friend’s house to exchange thoughts about favourite pieces of music; only in this case, it was enhanced with a live orchestra and the all-immersive concert hall acoustics.

Conductor Toby Thatcher’s deep understanding of the repertoire was exemplified through the versatility of the orchestra. The erratic stylistic jumps between consecutive pieces (as a result of the unusual programming) showcased this. I felt that the essence of each piece was well represented despite being played ‘out of context’ from their respective symphonies or operas. It was as if we were tasting music in the same manner as we would taste wine – the pieces being separated by Shefali’s discussion of them (a palate cleanser, if you will).

The greatest pleasure of the night for me was the Bach Goldberg Variations BWV 988: Aria and 3 variations, arranged by Oguey. Every classical instrumentalist has probably played a Bach transcription at some point in their career, because it transcribes so well across all instruments. Being a smaller chamber group, it highlighted each musician’s technical control over their instrument as well as their ability to shape the piece of music with a personal sense of musicality.

It was a delight to be treated such a variety of bite-sized pieces of music. I enjoyed the more conversational, relaxed atmosphere of this concert when compared to other symphony orchestra events. It was incredible to see how easily soloist Lorina Gore transformed her vocal style to Mahler in his third symphony and Puccini in ‘Chi il bel sogno Di Doretta’ from La Rondine, and was able to represent the true quality of both composers.

‘Playlist’ concerts are great for introducing an audience to pieces in which we may not have initially shown interest, or perhaps in making us think differently about pieces we know.


Image supplied. Credit: Toby Thatcher.

Listen up!

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