Stewart strikes a chord with WASO⿿s Organ Symphony

Stewart Smith at Perth Concert Hall. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d450347
Stewart Smith at Perth Concert Hall. Picture: Andrew Ritchie d450347

THERE may not have been much music going on in Ayrshire on the west coast of Scotland as Stewart Smith grew up, but the best piano teacher in town, who also doubled as the local organist, has proved a lifelong influence.

“I went to hear her play and loved how fantastic you could sound with an organ,” Smith said.

Smith began his career in London, following study at the Royal Academy of Music at London University, before what was meant to be a short visit to Perth turned into a permanent move.

He is now WAAPA’s associate dean of music and has frequently performed with WASO for the last 20 years, returning for the orchestra’s first concert of 2016 Organ Symphony where he will play Perth Concert Hall’s 3000-pipe organ.

“It was built by Ronald Sharp who was also the man who built the organ in the Sydney Opera House,” Smith, of Bayswater, said.

“It’s a fabulous instrument and was influenced by instruments from the 18th century.

“There was a pan-European movement in building organs and Ronald Sharp was Australia’s answer to that and built a number of these very important organs.

“An organ is really only as good as the building it’s in, and of course we’re blessed in the Perth Concert Hall with having this amazing concert hall.”

Smith, who also plays the harpsichord and other early pianos, said he looked forward to performing one of the landmark 19th century repertoires.

“Most of my head space is spent in the baroque 17th and 18th centuries, so it’s nice to be able to come and play something as powerful as Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony from the 19th century in the romantic age,” he said.

“I haven’t played this piece for about 25 years. It’s great fun and while the music is simple for the organ, it’s incredibly powerful because it has such a lot of gravitas.”

The Organ Symphony concert program, conducted by Japan’s Kazuki Yamada making his WASO debut, will also feature soloist Ning Feng in Paganini’s Violin Concerto No. 1 performing on his 1721 Stradivari violin.

THE ESSENTIALS

What: WASO’s Organ Symphony

Where: Perth Concert Hall

When: March 11 to 12

Tickets: www.waso.com.au