As if it were one voyce


Yelian He & Yasmin Rowe

Australian Digital Concert Hall

February 22, 2023 at 6 pm

Yelian He, Yasmin Rowe

This cello/piano duo has been going strong since 2008 under the appellation Y-Squared. In a surprise announcement at the Primrose Potter Salon between Beethoven and Schumann works, He announced that, after 15 years, he and Rowe are taking their collaboration to another level and are getting married. This was a rather understated occasion; nobody flew into manufactured ecstasy; nobody whooped or hollered in the traditional Love Island acknowledgement of such information; the partners smiled at the applause but kept their composures – and almost immediately got on with the program. I can’t tell you how much I admired this restraint which delighted after years and years of manufactured emotional exhibitions in the poorest Hollywood tradition, now exaggerated to ludicrousness on reality television.

Still, such control seemed to be a continuation or reinforcement of the couple’s artistic output. They opened their evening with Beethoven’s Twelve Variations on the theme ‘Ein Madchen oder Weibchen’, Papageno’s Act 2 aria in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. As with much in the rest of the program, this performance proved to be refined and elegant although, to be fair, He had little of gravity to do with most of the virtuosic running left to the piano; well, this is only to be expected, given Beethoven’s prowess which was in full swing at the probable time of composition – 1796. From the outset, this interpretation impressed for its sprightliness, evident in the theme’s announcement, and in the bounce with which Rowe infused her solo Variation 1’s demi-semiquavers.

He relished the opportunity to urge out an accurate, carefully wound Variation 2, while Rowe’s left hand gave us a faultless, highly active account of Variation 3. A clever division of labour on Beethoven’s part followed, then another piano-dominated 16 bars’ worth. Variation 7 again gave He little to do, the sole point of interest Rowe’s hiatus-point trills, carried off of a fine evenness. Ditto Variation 8, although the cello was rarely silent but confined to bass support while the keyboard generally worked on two treble staves. I enjoyed the slurred syncopation of Variation 9 from both musicians, chiefly because they made sense of the section’s rhythm while giving full weight to the bar-lines’ presence. As for the two minore blocks, Rowe handled the first one’s opening 8 bars with fine sensitivity and a lightly applied rubato, while He produced a mellifluous bass lyric in Variation 11, the pianist maintaining a present but non-insistent treble tinkling. With the change of time signature to 3/4 for Variation 12, a more even spread of responsibility proved welcome, with a deft and clean account of the work’s last 10 bars that concluded the work with placid softness.

After their engagement news, the duo launched into Schumann’s Op. 73 Fantasiestucke and again you were confronted with a seamless interpretation of welcome maturity. He produced a finely burnished timbre for the opening Zart, his line balanced and carefully woven, avoiding any suggestions of fitful temperament or tantrums; in firm balance, Rowe was an excellent partner for the controlled restlessness of her triplet patterns, almost continuous up to the last nine bars – both executants working in fine synchronicity of attack and emotional congruence. Similarly, in the following Lebhaft, the performance showed admirable fluency in treating the same metrical contrast across the first part, up to the central repeated segment although a rare articulation error from He disrupted the first note of this central section’s second part (in the repeat, I think).

Once again, Rowe demonstrated a sterling consciousness of appropriate dynamic levels in the final Rasch, the piano a reinforcement of the rapid cello upward arpeggios and a background to the movement’s second-phrase lyric. This trait is notable in a Schumann chamber music pianist where many players seem to think they have right of way because of the writing’s solidity; Rowe looks for elegance rather than loquacity; for example in the middle segment where the tonality changes to A minor (if anything) and the cello sings a relieving, quiet melody over more semi-urgent triplets.

My only query came with an introduced pause 11 bars into the Coda when an abridgement of the upward-leaping arpeggio pattern shifts into a flattened-out version of the beginning’s answering strophe. It just seemed an odd refinement to admit when the direction Schneller has just been introduced for a gripping rush towards the ebullient, can’t-come-quick-enough conclusion.

We then enjoyed some highly appropriate Salon music in Elgar’s Salut d’amour which I don’t think I’ve heard live since my mother gave up the violin. A fine melody seems to be its main attraction; certainly there’s not much for the pianist to do, except for maintaining the andantino pace. And He produced a caressing line, achieved without over-stretching his vibrato and keeping our attention fixed on his quietly insistent phrasing. It made for an amiable interlude, a blast from our Victorian/Edwardian past, probably best reserved for an encore – like the Frank Bridge Serenade that eventually fulfilled that function.

But the last offering in the duo’s printed program was Poulenc’s Cello Sonata which was constructed well before the composer’s four woodwind scores in the same genre. Again, I can’t recall a previous live performance that I’ve attended. Maybe I’ve been lucky because this four-movement construct falls into tedium in its outer Allegro and Presto movements. Yet again, the distinctive feature of this interpretation was its fluent facility; all the cello’s technical ducks and drakes, all the piano’s dissonances seemed ironed out with few harmonic frissons available to spice up a busy environment. Something odd happened at the A flat trills around Number 10 in the Heugel 1953 edition; I can’t be specific but I think it came from the cello line – going back to find the place proved fruitless but I believe some unexpected if slight irregularity sprang up.

Both parties gave us a fetchingly voluptuous passage beginning at Number 18 where the composer insists that his interpreters must not slow down to take relish in a sudden purple passage after all that Tempo di marcia insistence. At some point, I began thinking that Rowe was using her sustaining pedal a good deal; but the score pretty well instructed her to produce plenty of washes. Still, the movement is garrulous right up to this point; dedicatee Fournier might have called for a dash of brevity, apart from advising the composer on technical problems and potentialities. Happily, the following F sharp Major Cavatine displayed many passages of smooth sailing, beginning with the sans presser melody emerging in the cello at Number 1, even if a momentary blip came with He’s assault on the top G at Number 4, the production coming across as uncertain on what is probably the highest note in the cello part across these pages. Against that, place the impressively controlled sweep of colour with the reapplication of the mute at the Excessivement calme marking 13 bars from the movement’s chaste conclusion.

Rowe showed herself in light touch across the Ballabile, even with those full chords and octaves subsumed in the general aura of balletic bounding. Once again, you had to be impressed by the unshakeable congruence of these players in the outer sections where the instruments double each other with no room for hesitation. On top of that, He and Rowe convinced you of the good humour that runs through these pages where the percussive and intimate leggiero walk hand in hand. A full-bodied account of the finale’s 10-bar Largo introduction preceded an abrupt shift to rhythmic busyness at the arrival of the main body’s Presto subito; the players burbled along efficiently, although a C sharp minor chord at Number 11 struggled to make its desired effect. But there’s little defence against the movement’s central content between Numbers 13 and 18 where the action relaxes and the underpinning impetus disappears. It’s hard to describe how welcome were the returned triplets and how depressing the reversion to Gymnopedies country at Number 20 before the rounding-off stately five-bar Largo,

Poulenc’s product is a hard one to like, even when faced with a performance as expert as this one was. At the end, you know you’ve been through a substantial experience, one that gives its performers much room to demonstrate their skills. But, at the same time, you retain very little in terms of instrumental interplay, well-shaped melodies, rhythmic acuity, piquant harmonic layering. You can see and hear that the universally applied ternary format has been employed well enough, but the centre cannot hold your interest in a least two of the movements.

We all wish the newly-affianced our best wishes in their relationship which is clearly an artistic success already. They have shown themselves willing in their work, particularly in facing this evening’s French challenge; I’m anticipating calm seas and a prosperous voyage as they move on to more agreable Francophone peaks: Debussy, Ravel, Honegger, Saint-Saens, Faure – even the Franck Violin Sonata was approved for cello transcription by the (Belgian-born) composer. They’re definitely a duo worth following; in this instance, presenting an hour-long recital with remarkably few technical flaws and a wealth of interpretative insight.

Lead, kindly Gringolts


Australian Chamber Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Monday February 13, 2023 at 7 pm

Ilya Gringolts

A tad bitty, this opening Brisbane gambit from the Australian Chamber Orchestra for 2023. Missing from the line-up were artistic director Richard Tognetti and associate Satu Vanska, but the band enjoyed some amplification – an extra viola (Carl Lee), a pair of new cellists (Charlotte Miles and Eliza Sdraulig), a mate (Axel Ruge) for bass Maxime Bibeau, and some violinists I’ve not come across before (I think!): Anna Da Silva Chen and Tim Yu. Also, by an arranger’s quirk, timpanist Brian Nixon came to prominence during the night’s big feature: Bruch’s G minor Violin Concerto.

Control of these forces fell to Ilya Gringolts, last heard with the ACO five years ago when he performed Paganini as we should have been hearing it. On this night, he took the soloist’s spot for the Bruch warhorse as well as for a splendidly cogent reading of Frank Martin’s Polyptyque, In more workmanlike mode, he took over Tognetti’s usual place as concertmaster-director for the last of Mendelssohn’s early string symphonies, the one-movement No. 13 in C minor; a fresh commission in Australian writer Harry Sdraulig‘s Slanted; then finished off proceedings through Grazyna Bacewicz’s Concerto for String Orchestra of 1948.

Naturally enough, popular acclaim went to the great-hearted German concerto, arranged for smaller forces by the ACO’s artistic administration manager Bernard Rofe. All the wind parts vanished – 2 each of the woodwind, four horns and two trumpets – their lines relocated to any stray strings; as you might have expected, this meant a loss of timbral variety and an absence of ambient gravity which can actually weigh down considerably this score’s progress. Further, the absence of a sizeable group changed the concerto’s flavour; if you knew the work (and that would have described quite a few patrons), you would have missed some tutti passages memorable for their abrupt bite and stridency, let alone the Vorspiel‘s haunting initial wind chords.

Nevertheless, Gringolts gave us a memorable account of the solo line, accommodating to his reduced background so that full ensemble passages came across with less heft than usual; for instance, the first explosion at bar 11 after Gringolt’s second cadenza was a watery intimation of the real thing. But you learned to compensate as the Vorspiel surged forward with its amalgam of rhapsody and respectability. The absence of timbral punch mattered less in the central Adagio but by this stage Gringolts had absorbed most of our attention with an impeccable demonstration of how to perform the score’s technical hurdles with absolute confidence, while simultaneously expounding the concerto’s rich romantic paragraphs.

Unlike other brilliant interpreters, Gringolts refrained from generating a seamlessly pure line with its contours neatly enfolded; when the action heated up, you could hear some preparatory scrapes as double- and quadruple-stops were hit hard – but not so much in the energetic Allegro last movement where the temptation to add extra gutsiness to the main theme’s thirds and sixths is too great for many an executant to resist. Both soloist and orchestra made as much as necessary with dynamic contrasts, while the whole reading kept you involved by its rhythmic intensity in the outer movements and through the waves of tensile string fabric in the second movement.

Messiaen stole several marches on his contemporaries with regard to putting his Christian/Catholic faith into musical practice, but Martin’s late creation for violin and two string orchestras scales some religio-emotional peaks with just as much sincerity and brilliance of utterance as the French master. His Polyptyque was inspired by a series of miniatures in Siena that depicted various stages of the Passion. In his six movements , Martin lets the solo line represent Christ and a Narrator, in the best Bach fashion; hence also, the two orchestral forces. It only seems like yesterday that adventurous choirs would present the Swiss writer’s Mass for Double Chorus (now almost a century old!) as the last word in modernity and improbably hard choral writing. You would hardly say the same about Polyptyque which is couched in that stringent, athletic language with which some of us have become familiar through the chamber works. Any appearance of a work by Martin is still remarkable, if not as noteworthy as it would have been 30 or 40 years ago.

As at the best of concerts, this performance was a revelation because of a happy combination of expertise and inspiration. After seven live audience performances, this penultimate one in Brisbane came to us well-honed and holding no surprises for all concerned. But the fulcrum of this success emerged through Gringolts’ sympathetic outline of the central role: in turn jubilant, mournful, aggressive, transfigured. Of course, the composer’s realization of specific images veered closer to the physically illustrative than anything in Messiaen’s work. For instance, the opening movement depicting Palm Sunday set out the turba in action – not wholly elated, but busy with suggestive undercurrents – while the violin wove a clearly defined path into the city.

Martin did justice to Judas with an active cadenza for the soloist, packed with self-circling energy like a man newly-arrived in a prison cell and finding no relief, even when the orchestras enter sombrely to underline the traitor-victim’s isolation. To end, the composer contrived a matched pair: the judgement before Pilate and Via crucis, prefacing a continually aspiring image of Christ’s glorification which is achieved by simple means, certainly more mobile than the Louange a l’immortalite de Jesus and less constipated than Majeste du Christ demandant sa gloire a son Pere. In these pages, Gringolts led us on an all-too-brief journey, remarkable in its concentration of output as it moved beyond a kind of remote tension to a radiant, soft triumph. Obviously, an experience to treasure.

The evening started with the Mendelssohn Sinfoniesatz, the last of the teenage composer’s essays in the form. While being happy to observe the near-adult grappling successfully with formal exercises, I’ve never gone overboard about any of these early efforts, least of all this effort with its thickly applied imitative passages of fugato. But then, I feel the same discomfort when Schumann starts fugueing in the Piano Quintet’s final Allegro, or even when the piano kicks off a mini-fugue in the last movement of Bartok’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (bar 228). But, if nothing else, this piece set the physical scene: Gringolts leading an all-male first violin group, Helena Rathbone opposite him at the head of an all-female second violin bevy; pairs of violas either side of centre-stage (this is one of the string symphonies with two viola lines); pairs of cellos in the rear centre, Timo-Veikko Valve and Julian Thompson at the front, of course, with the two females seated in the second row; and the two basses bringing up the real rea, one behind each group.. In any case, the Mendelssohn served its purposes of clearing the sinuses, loosening bowing arms and establishing a communal sound.

Better followed with Sdraulig’s new work. I can’t quite grasp the rationale behind Slanted, even if the composer explains it in two ways: the first, in terms of the actual music’s shape, its architecture as the 18 variations elide into one another; then, as a social commentary on the biases with which we’re all infected these days. Not ignoring these descriptor/explanations, you tended to become less concerned with the underpinning dialectic and more enthralled by the composer’s felicitous writing: expertly shaded, clearly defined in its allocation of responsibilities, gripping in its athletic first part and subtly atmospheric when the tension eased rhythmically for the later stages. It reminded me of several all-strings scores (well, of course, given the timbral potentialities) but carved out an individual stature by means of its remarkable definition, like a solidly sculptured torso. In some ways, it recalled the Frank Bridge Variations but with less glitter: Britten with balls.

Bacewicz’s famous Concerto rounded out this night effectively; to my mind, more so as a demonstration of the ACO’s finesse and ardour in attack than for the ground-breaking qualities of the score itself. As a standard-bearer for Polish modern music in the grim late 1940s, Bacewicz struck out on a progressive track although, in a wider European context, this work is not ground-breaking. Nevertheless, the composer’s vocabulary presents as strong and flinty with its neo-classical sprightliness and linear lucidity at a time when the great ruck of writers were still stuck in a post-Romantic morass. Gringolts headed an interpretation that found grace, even elegance amid the spiky polyphony; I heard only one suspect early entry , probably from the second violins, in this composition’s expertly-contrived delineation. More memorable was the rank and file’s vivid reaction to their guest leader’s never-failing enthusiasm.

Diary March 2023


Musica Viva Australia

Queensland Conservatorium Theatre, Griffith University

Tuesday March 7 at 7 pm

Born in Germany but raised and educated in Queensland, Karin Schaupp leads the first Musica Viva recital series event in Brisbane for this year. To make us feel more warm and fuzzy, she is accompanied by the home-grown Flinders Quartet which, at current time of printing, comprises violins Thibaud Pavlovic-Hobba, and Wilma Smith, viola Helen Ireland, and cello Zoe Knighton. These last two are original members while the upper lines have seen a few excellent musicians leave for fresh pastures; Erica Kennedy and Matthew Tomkins spring to mind as long-term previous members, she currently occupied with Orchestra Victoria and he still leading the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s second violins as he has since the Punic Wars. At all events, here they are in partnership, recalling their 2011 successful CD Fandango for ABC Classics, but only slightly: the one surviving program element is part of Boccherini’s D Major Guitar Quintet – the last two movements, comprising a Grave assai and a fandango. As for the rest, the night starts with a Carulli guitar concerto, Op 8 in A Major which, as far as I can tell, has two movements only. Of more temporal substance is Castelnuovo-Tedesco’s 1950 Guitar Quintet Op. 143, written for Segovia and comprising four movements. Another work of substance is Imogen Holst’s one-movement Phantasy Quartet of 1928; an early work, full of common sense and opening with the promise of relaxed British pastoralism. Interspersed with these come two Australian scores. First, Richard Charlton‘s Southern Cross Dreaming from 2007 – a short tremolo study for solo guitar, written for and first performed by Schaupp. Then Carl Vine‘s Endless, commissioned for Musica Viva and enjoying its world premieres across this national tour; it’s a substantial commemoration of the architect Jennifer Bates, killed by a motor accident in December 2016. Tickets range from $15 (Student Rush) to $109 (Standard). As far as I can see, the customary pernicious booking fee is waived, but I could be wrong.


Opera Queensland

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Thursday March 9 at 7 pm

Not my favourite Verdi opera, although fanatics will hear nothing against it, just as they will tolerate no negative comments about Ernani or I masnadieri. A few performances in Melbourne over a span of about 30 years reinforced this prejudice, the first one starring Rita Hunter as Lady Macbeth; the highpoint of that night lay in coming across the strangely inappropriate brindisi, Si colmi il calice, by means of which the murderess greets her guests for the ghost-dominated banquet. But also, I’ve been jaundiced by having to teach the play to hundreds of uninterested Year 11 students over much of my secondary school purgatory. How Verdi’s first Shakespeare dabble will fare without the trappings of scenery and lighting is anyone’s guess; still, you’ll enjoy an extraordinary focus on the singing. Who gets the title role? Well-known Opera Australia bass stalwart Jose Carbo takes the honours here. As for his toast-mistress wife, this is soprano Anna-Louise Cole, whom I remember from her student days before she went off-country to study in Germany, recently returning home to take on heavy roles like this and a 2022 Turandot for the national company. Big winner/loser (‘All my pretty ones?’) Macduff will be Rosario La Spina, local celebrity tenor from whom we’ve heard little in the past few years (an absence from activity that he shares with many other singers, of course). The Banquo will be New Zealand bass Wade Kernot, tenor Carlos E. Barcenas the luckless Malcolm, while the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s newish chief conductor, Umberto Clerici, controls the pit – and, with a bit of luck, the stage. OQ’s publicity mentions a director and a pair of costume creatives, so things may not be as visually bleak as I’d expected. Tickets range from $75 to $ 125 with some slight concessions available and – of course – the booking fee that is a compulsory penalty for using a credit card in this rubbishy new world where nobody pollutes themselves with cash.

The performance will be repeated on Saturday March 11 at 2 pm.


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio, South Brisbane

Sunday March 12 at 3 pm

Welcome to the first of this year’s Sunday afternoon chamber exercises from the QSO, where members of the organization get to play together in small groups; all very pleasant, even if the resulting performances can creak at the seams. In fact, this program will feature some fairly noticeable creaking in its first part, while the second segment is made up of a string quartet stalwart in Beethoven’s Razumovsky No. 3 in C – last in the three-part set and the one that doesn’t have a Russian tune/theme incorporated. As preludial matter, a quartet of bassoons – Nicole Tait, David Mitchell, Evan Lewis, Claire Ramuscak (contra) – will air Gerard Brophy‘s brief Four Branches of 2015. Then a group of strings might present the first movement of Piazzolla’s Tango Suite. This was originally written for two guitars, but I’ve also come across an arrangement for four bassoons (no contra) by Fraser Jackson. So the QSO’s low woodwind may be extending their Brophy experience to take in the pugnacious Argentinian’s Deciso opener which lasts a little longer than the Australian composer’s five minutes of piquant burbling. Another Argentinian voice comes through with Golijov’s 1996 Last Round, a two movement construct for string orchestra/nonet in two movements which attempts to imitate the sound of a bandoneon in an elegy-homage to Piazzolla, the title coming from his life-long participation in street fights rather than being a reference to the call that used to echo through the world’s pubs at the end of every night’s excursions into soddenness. As for the nonet, it could include any of the following musicians, bar the essential participation of double bass Phoebe Russell who sits/stands mid-stage between two string quartets: violins Mia Stanton, Sonia Wilson, Nicholas Thin, Natalie Low, Delia Kinmont, and Katie Betts; violas Nicole Greentree and Graham Simpson; cellists Hyung Suk Bae, Kathryn Close and Matthew Kinmont. Naturally, the Beethoven interpreters will come from the above list and the transitional jolt from Buenos Aires to Vienna should be suitably chastening. This program is scheduled to last for 75 minutes and tickets range from $30 (various concessions) to $55, as well as the customary booking fee/theft.


Australian Chamber Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Monday March 13 at 7 pm

Artistic director Richard Tognetti is once again hosting the Tawadros brothers, Joseph (oud) and James (riq), in this amalgamation where Vivaldi’s four violin concertos will be interspersed with original compositions by Joseph/James and other Baroque works from Italy and the Ottoman Empire. You’d be right (and probably happy) to suspect that the seasonal sequence will be given straight, not re-interpreted Max Richter style. The questions rise with the interpolations as the Tawadros brothers and Tognetti aim to offer Venice and the Near East as musical companions. Well, they’re certainly geographically closer than Australia and Finland and were assuredly more intertwined commercially than Nepal and Chile. Aesthetically? A bit of a stretch. Musically? I’m having a lot of trouble finding the Ottoman in Vivaldi (or in the Gabrielis or in Monteverdi); conversely, I can’t see the Baroque contribution to the Tawadros’ Permission to Evaporate or The Hour of Separation albums. In the preparatory playlist provided on the ACO website for this event, you can hear the essential Seasons, as well as some Vivaldi additions – the final Presto from the Op. 3 No. 6 in A minor plus the Recitative/Grave and final Allegro from the Grosso Mogul concerto. The only other Venetian track is a motet by Legrenzi: Lumi, potete piangere; perhaps Tognetti & Co. will be surprising us with a vocalist – or one of the multi-talented Tawadros brothers will turn his hand to this plangent Baroquerie. Speaking of the Ottoman contribution, we will hear five original Tawadros compositions (the inference from the playlist being that they will come in part from the above-mentioned albums), as well as a Turkish concerto called izia semaisi (by Toderini?) and an Ottoman march with the bellicose title Der Makham-i-Rehavi Cember-i Koca (I’m a tad worried about that Der). Not looking a pair of gift horses in their mouths, but I’m not sure where the guest brothers’ work really fits in with the Eastern components of this program, mainly because their own compositions are an individualistic blend of Arabian sounds with Western emotional tropes. It makes for a beguiling melange but one that stretches even further the relationship between East and West, musical Venice and anything heard in the 16th and 17th centuries from Turkey to Egypt. Still, the composite makes an intriguing envelope for Vivaldi’s series of brief tone-poems. This event is scheduled to last for two hours and tickets range from $25 to $159, as well as the compulsory booking fee that spices up the whole experience of concert-going.


Ensemble Trivium

Old Museum Building

Thursday March 16 at 7 pm

This expandable group is presenting a set of works involving flute, viola, cello and piano in various combinations. As for its participants, flautist Monika Koerner takes part in four of the evening’s five works; cellist Katherine Philp will be heard in three, as will violist Yoko Okayasu; pianist Allie Wang performs in two. You can probably glean from the title that we’ll get to enjoy some Haydn: a flute/cello/piano trio, Hob XV:16 in D Major, in three movements with the central one in D minor. The concluding work is a Prelude, recitatif et variations by Durufle, that highly self-critical French composer’s only chamber work; this involves Koerner, Okayasu and Wang. Between these masterful products come three varied scores. Caroline Shaw’s Limestone and Felt was written in 2012, a viola/cello duet that follows a pizzicato sound production for most of its six minutes with a few bowed arpeggios (representing the fabric?). Brisbane composer Connor D’Netto‘s parallel involves flute and viola following a 12-minute process of changing and becoming – into what, is anyone’s guess. And leading into the Durufle will be Guillaume Connesson’s 2002 Toccata nocturne for flute and cello: slightly over three minutes of mainly subterranean whistles and quick whispers. The recital is projected to last an hour – which it might with some pre-performance chats. Tickets range from $22 to $52 but the inevitable additional charge is a few cents over $1 – which might even be justifiable.


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Friday March 17 at 11:30 am

The titular instrument refers to that employed in Grieg’s Piano Concerto: for my money, the greatest show pony in the repertoire – and the easiest, as far as interpretative depth is concerned. My first ever CD was Dinu Lipatti’s recording of this work, unloaded on me by a French teacher with a penchant for making money on the side. Having paid through the nose for it, I listened to the recording until it wore out. But the concerto was also an accessible orchestral concert favourite for decades, until it fell by the wayside as being too popular. Tonight, Grieg’s four-bar-phrase extravaganza is paired with the Brahms Symphony No. 1 – a long time a-coming but a rewarding source of discovery and delight in the right hands; and, in several senses, the most effective of the four. For the concerto, the soloist will be Sergio Tiempo, a Venezuelan-born musician with an impressive discography. He has appeared in Brisbane before, apparently, with his sister, duo-pianisting for the QSO under Alondra de la Parra. The steadiest of hands, Johannes Fritzsch, principal guest conductor for this orchestra, will take us through the concerto and symphony, prefacing the lot with an Impromptu, after Schubert by Richard Mills, produced in 2014 and premiered in Tasmania. This is not an orchestral refurbishment of one of the 8 Impromptus but a meditation on fragments from two lieder – one I know (Auf dem Wasser zu singen) and one I don’t (Ariette) – with a few additional references emerging from the Unfinished Symphony and the Winterreise cycle. A lot of material to ferret out, in other words. Tickets range from $89 to $105, with concessions available as well as the usual credit card charge, here coming in at over $7.

This concert will be repeated on Saturday March 18 at 7:30 pm. This event has more seats available, from $90 to $ 130 – also with concessions and the credit card compulsory tip.


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio, South Brisbane

Tuesday March 21 at 7:30 pm

Putting their guest artist to use – just as the ABC used to do, pairing concerto appearances with a recital – the QSO powers-that-be here re-present Sergio Tiempo in solo mode. His program is half-Chopin (this pianist made a splash with his CDs of this composer’s music – some of it) and half-South American, with Piazzolla featuring twice while worthwhile masters like Villa-Lobos and Ginastera get one look-in each. Oh, and one of the Pizzollas is Muerte del Angel which has been thrashed into oblivion (sorry) by too many musicians of minimal ability. Anyway, the Chopin will involve three preludes (Nos. 3, 15 and 16 from Op. 28 [where else?]), two etudes (No. 6 from Op. 10 and the No. 1 Aeolian Harp heading Op. 25), and the last sonata, that in B minor. Moving well south of the border after interval, Tiempo starts with Venezuelan Moises Moleiro’s Joropo, a brief 6/8 romp in D minor. The two Piazzolla pieces follow, the other being Fuga y Misterio which has been extracted from the composer’s opera Maria de Buenos Aires. A rarely-encountered name in serious music is that of Brazilian writer Antonio Carlos Jobim, whose moody song Retrato em Branco e Preto has been arranged for himself by Tiempo. A more familiar Brazilian voice arrives with Villa-Lobos whose offering comprises excerpts from his 1918 The Dolls, Book 1 in the three-part cycle A Prole de Bebe. You (well, Tiempo, actually) choose between dolls made from porcelain, papier-mache, clay, rubber, wood, rag, cloth – and Punch for a possible gender-imbalance leavening. Last element of all comes Ginastera’s feisty Malambo of 1940, an Argentinian response to Moleiro’s piece but more aggressive and blessed with a powerfully discordant conclusion. Tickets range from $30 (child) to $75 (adult); the surcharge is now up to $7.95, regardless of your concessionary status.


Ensemble Q

The Raven Cellar, 400 Montague Rd., West End

Tuesday March 28 at 7 pm

Second in an off-shoot series distinct from the main Ensemble events, this recital presents two artists: harpist Emily Granger and cellist Trish Dean. Details about their program are sketchy but Falla’s Suite populaire espagnole appears; it might as well as it’s been arranged for a large number of instrumental combinations. The composer himself and Paul Kochanski put the collection together from Falla’s original Siete canciones populares espagnolas, leaving out the Seguidilla murciana. As well, Dean gets to swoop through Saint-Saens’ The Swan, that near-immobile chunk carved out from the Carnival of the Animals. And we are also promised Granville Bantock’s Hebrew melody, Hamabdil, in the composer’s own cello/harp arrangement. When you go looking, there’s not much music that was specifically written for this duo combination, but the three works promised are unobjectionable. So much so that you’d expect Granger and Dean to show high competence at fleshing out a program scheduled to last for two hours. Perhaps a few solos will be inserted along the way? Tickets range from $22.49 (student, and prepare to stand) to $70.14 (adult), into which prices a graduated booking fee has already been added. Nice to see that somebody is trying to preserve a modicum of social responsibility.