Diary April 2023


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sunday April 2 at 11:30 am

So far, we know of five works that are being presented as part of this paean to the earth. You will have to wait to find out more; possibly the programmers haven’t fleshed out their own concept fully – if they have one. You won’t find much that is elemental here – not even a wayward excerpt from Mahler’s big Lied and very little that summons up awful mental images of Gaea or Goethe’s Ewigweibliche. As for coverage of the world’s environment or its cosmic positioning, you’d be underwhelmed. Someone believes that Smetana’s Moldau tone poem would be a fine illustration of primordial essence rather than what it is – an amiable jaunt, courtesy of a Scenic Tours precursor, down a totally civilised European river. Peter Sculthorpe’s From Uluru begins with a Copland-reminiscent fanfare, then moves to a repetitive ostinato punctuated by slapsticks to give us that Outback/Dreamtime/Never-Never atmosphere; not a particularly successful piece, least of all in sustaining a depiction of Uluru which, in this sound-world, could be situated in any continent. Still, the suggestion of a refined barbarism does take the goddess out of the drawing room. To which we return with excerpts from Respighi’s The Birds suite, arrangements of 16th and 17th century pieces to do with various avian species; sparkling orchestration, of course, but this Mother is corseted and powdered. Lili Boulanger’s Of a Spring Morning miniature presents as a frisson-rich jeune fille en fleur covered in a lightly applied orchestral veil. And the final element we are assured of is the concluding movement to Mozart’s last piano concerto, No. 27 in B flat. At this point, we leave all thoughts of earth mothers behind; this allegro is more aristocratic and eloquently self-contained than even music’s more sophisticated maternal figures like the Marschallin. Soloist in this bleeding chunk of Mozart will be Hannah Shin, winner of three prizes at last year’s Lev Vlassenko concours. And superintending the variegated riot of offerings will be Johannes Fritzsch, the QSO’s principal guest conductor. The exercise runs for 80 minutes straight, so there’s a fair amount of unscheduled music to flesh out this program and tickets range from $75 to $105 with discounts available and, of course, a transaction fee applies with about as much fiscal justification as the Stage 3 tax cuts.


Rebecca Lloyd-Jones

Ian Hanger Recital Hall, Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University

Wednesday April 12 at 7:30 pm

This musician is lecturer and coordinator of percussion at the Conservatorium, so this a significant occasions – where the teacher shows how it’s all meant to be done. I don’t know Lloyd-Jones or her work but she’s obviously a product of the current crop of percussive artists that flourish all over the country; in Melbourne, I got to know them under the Speak Percussion label. I have no idea what she’s playing; such mundane details are unavailable, possibly until you’re about to enter the Hanger Hall, but it would be a pretty safe bet that most of the evening’s content will be current. At least that’s what I’ve found to be the case at most percussionists’ forays into the public arena. Still, I’ve always admired academics who offer public displays of their craft. My first experience must have been hearing Max Cooke performing Pictures at an Exhibition in Melba Hall in 1963 or thereabouts. But every so often you come across others, like cellist Howard Penny who never seems to leave the principal’s desk no matter what is going on at the Australian National Academy of Music. Or the Dean brothers at the same institution (in Brett’s case, occasionally helping out in the back desks of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s violas). Speaking of percussionists, I got to see an awful lot of Peter Neville who, for many years, was omnipresent at Melbourne’s contemporary music gatherings, often supplemented by Eugene Ughetti, later Matthias Schack-Arnott. What always fascinates about contemporary players in this field is the minute pains they go to in arranging their resources – the endless tweakings in suspended cymbal placement, the rearrangement of the rolling stock marimba, the twitchy checking of sticks and mallets, the endless shufflings in music-stand sequence as the player prepares to alternate between three operational platforms. All this – and more – could be yours at Lloyd-Jones’ demonstration. Tickets are to be bought at the door: two prices only – $22 and $17


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Friday April 14 at 11: 30 am

All of us know – and perhaps love – Holst’s suite that delineates the other seven planets in our solar system. Do you remember those days when some bright spark – Colin Matthews, to be accurate – composed a Pluto, the Renewer to flesh out Holst’s unavoidable ignorance of the ‘new’ planet’s existence? And how pointless that exercise proved to be when, 17 years ago, Pluto was downgraded in status? And who could forget the rhapsody of compliments with which the British critics greeted the arrival of Matthews’ short-lived interloper? Happy days. At all events, we are set to hear the original in this strange program, conducted by Shiyeon Sung, currently guest principal conductor of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. The extended orchestra (especially in the percussion section) will be assisted by The Australian Voices for the Neptune finale; when I say ‘The Australian Voices’, I’m referring, of course, to the female members only; Holst was a famous equal opportunist, thanks to his daytime job. The other major piece being essayed in this mid-day straddling enterprise is Osvaldo Golijov’s Three Songs for Soprano and Orchestra, all written for different occasions and brought together by the composer for a 22-minute cycle: Night of the Flying Horses (Lullaby, Doina and Gallop), Lua Descolorida, and How Slow the Wind. The work has a checkered history: the publishers list the year of composition as 2002-2 (2009) – a mystery that I tried to solve but yielded any pursuit of knowledge in the face of scholarly verbiage. Whatever you care to make of it, the second song was composed to highlight the idiosyncracies of Dawn Upshaw’s voice, the first comes from a film soundtrack, and the final Emily Dickinson setting was possibly written for laughs. In any case, the soloist will be Sara Macliver, whose participation ensures an emotionally powerful, technically precise interpretation. As a starter, the QSO performs Wagner’s Tannhauser Overture in the (original) Dresden version that comes to an emphatic conclusion. The concert lasts 80 minutes without interval, and ticket prices go from $89 to $130, with concessions available and transaction fee compulsory.

This program will be repeated on Saturday April 15 at 7:30 pm. This performance is distinguished by having an interval of 30 minutes.


Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra

Conservatorium Theatre, Griffith University, South Brisbane

Friday April 21 at 7:30 pm

This concert has a highly honourable purpose in that it has come about through a partnership between ten composers and the inspiration each has found in the most cherished sighted memories of visually impaired Australians, including paratriathlete Katie Kelly, guitarist/speaker Lorin Nicholson, and jazz pianist/composer Jeff Usher (a lecturer at this Conservatorium). As well as the Con orchestra, Associate Professor Peter Morris conducts the Queensland Youth Orchestra (which one?) and Biralee Voices (presumably the Brisbane chapter) in compositions by Usher, Nicholson, John Rotar, Lisa Cheney, Tim Davies, Hudson Beck, Steve Newcomb, Paul Jarman, Catherine Likhuta, and Ralph Hultgren. Well, you may know all of these musicians; I know/have heard the work of half their number. You’d have to assume that Usher and Nicholson will be writing about their own impressions of sightedness; as far as I can tell, the other eight composers aren’t visually impaired. In any case, it makes for an intriguing, if not unnerving, experience – bringing (or having brought for you) into the aural field a happy memory of something that you recall from a time when your visual field was not totally blighted. Fine if it’s a scene or a landmark; much more difficult if you’re remembering a person . . . but then, you have the outstanding example of Elgar. Not that I think there’ll be much Enigmatic tonight, given the vocabularies of several among these writers. No indication how long this decathlon will last but tickets are a flat $58 without any apparent add-ons for the privilege of negotiating your entry pass via email.


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, South Brisbane

Saturday April 22 at 1:30 pm

This is where the whole saga starts to unravel for me. We’re back to Square One with the goodies driven from pillar to outpost, improbable escapes, resurrections and deaths, gimmickry that belongs in online games, as well as a charmless heroine and a spoiled brat villain. Where is the credibility? Where is the menace? Where is the creativity? Anyway, none of us would be going for the film, right? No: it’s the immortal (ho ho) soundtrack of John Williams that draws us in for this inter-galactic entertainment. I’ve never been to the BCEC but I suppose it’s similar to the Plenary Hall at Melbourne’s Convention and Exhibition Centre. Perhaps not: the Brisbane Great Hall seats 2000, Melbourne over 5000, but then the southern city has more deluded punters who go along with this latter-day Star Wars belief that size matters more than anything else. The composer of Hamilton, currently wowing more undiscriminating witnesses at QPAC, composed the cantina scene score; yes, Lin-Manuel Miranda was invited to put his oar in for a part of the work that Williams wasn’t interested in providing. If only the rest of us could handle our responsibilities with such cavalier panache. Oh: we do, as can be seen from nearly every supermarket, medical clinic, clothing store, chemist, cafe and entertainment centre across this wide brown Gold Coast. Lucky conductor of this feat of synchronisation will be Nicholas Buc. Tickets range from $59 to $120, which is a lot to pay for a film, especially if common practice is followed and the dialogue has to be subtitled. Your popcorn and choc-top treat will be subsumed by the unavoidable $7:40 transaction fee. Enjoy.

This program will be repeated at 7:30 pm.


Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Friday, April 28 at 7:30 pm

Don’t know why I’m including this here as both performances are sold out. Still, you might be one of those desperates who loiters around box offices, waiting for discards and returns. Tickets range from $79 to $279, plus the transaction fee that will be sorely needed to expand the travelling-expense coffers of this British band of players. The current tour is the organization’s fourth visit to Australia (I heard them in 1983 and, after 40 years, little [well, nothing] remains in the memory) and I believe that this time around the players are kicking off their endeavours in Brisbane. Simon Rattle is retiring from his six-year-long stint as London Symphony Orchestra music director; hence, I suppose, the interest (manifest in sold-out houses) at seeing him in that role for the last time. This opening program begins with Adams’ Harmonielehre, a draining 40 minute, three movement work infused with a mixture of didacticism and whimsy. Its main attraction for me is its large orchestra, including two harps, 15 woodwind (almost double the number you’d usually bring on tour), 2 tubas, four percussionists plus celesta plus piano. What Adams accomplishes with his inflated ensemble doesn’t much appeal to me; that afore-mentioned combination seems to misfire half the time. Still, as long as patrons aren’t short-changed by having local musicians brought in to fill out the ranks, you’ve got nothing to complain about when you’re getting your money’s worth for a truly all-London body. A video of the third movement, Meister Eckhardt and Quackie, performed by Rattle and the LSO, is available on YouTube. You’d have to assume that interval follows this inflated American score. Then we go all-French with Debussy’s La mer, using 12 woodwind and those two harps, although the percussion demands are nowhere near as great as those for the Adams construct. And Rattle brings the whole LSO experience home with the Daphnis and Chloe Suite No. 2 by Ravel – Lever du jour, Pantomime, Danse generale – which also requires two harps, 15 woodwind, and a wind machine. Again, you can watch this conductor and orchestra on YouTube getting through the score in a lickety-split 17 minutes. Forget the pace and revel in the generous timbral mesh of one of Britain’s leading (and most successful) orchestras.

A second program will be performed on Saturday April 29 at 7:30 pm. This comprises Mahler’s Symphony No. 7.


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio, South Bank

Saturday April 29 at 5:30 pm

Any choral volunteers can have a field day with the QSO under Brett Weymark for this performance. You begin at 9:30 am with a rehearsal of Haydn’s Mass in D minor Hob XXII:11 and you wind up eight hours later with a public performance for a paying audience. This work is the popularly-known Nelson Mass, really the Missa in angustiis. written when Napoleon was succeeding everywhere except in Egypt. It’s an individual orchestral palette using five woodwind, three trumpets, strings and organ. But, like its many companions, it calls for soloists – the usual SATB set in this instance. Will the lucky four be chosen from the 9:30 assemblage, or have they already (and unfairly) been selected? Hard to tell; still, the parts are not easy, although competent choristers could master them in the given time, I’m sure. Less importantly, you have to wonder about performance arrangements. The QSO Studio is not that large a space and the 5:30 pm audience will be up close and very personal with the performers. I suppose it all depends on how many prospective choristers turn up. Of course, the ideal would be for about 500 of them to gather for a real Albert Hall bun-fight, but presumably the ABC organisers have a control mechanism in place and established cut-off points for both singers and audience. Tickets are a flat $49 with a swingeing $7.95 transaction fee. I would have thought that the smaller ticket price would attract a smaller fee; how stupid – when you’re on an unfair thing, stick to it with all stops out.


Ensemble Q

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sunday April 30 at 3 pm

Top of the line at this recital will be George Crumb’s Vox Balanae; a rather restrictive work, even for conscientious musicians. In his 20-minute mimicry of the balenic voice, the American composer (who died only a year ago; it seemed as if, like Elliott Carter, he would go on forever) asks his interpreters (electric flute, electric cello, amplified piano) to wear half black masks (top half of the face, one would hope, if only for the flautist) and to operate under blue lighting, if possible. Its eight movements conclude with a Sea-Nocturne (for the end of time) in a nice Messiaenic suggestion. After this, we may return to normal transmission by way of Ensemble Q founder Paul Dean‘s 2019 composition for bass clarinet and percussion, The Sea Meets Infinity. In keeping with the program’s emphasis on muted sounds, the pre-interval classic is Margaret Sutherland’s brief violin-and-piano Nocturne of 1944. Balancing Crumb’s whale sounds, mezzo-soprano Lotte Betts-Dean sings Chausson’s half-hour cycle Chanson de l’amour et de la mer, which gives us a healthy prefiguration of aquatic excursions by Debussy and Ravel, among others. I’d assume that the version offered here is the original for voice and piano. And the entertainment concludes with Frank Martin’s smooth Pavane Couleur du Temps which was originally written in 1920 for string quintet with two cellos, then arranged for string orchestra and also for two pianos. There are no indications of exactly who will be performing; Ensemble Q is nothing if not a malleable, expandable group, so the versions offered could be any of those listed above. Dean will probably play his own work, but I’m worried about that Chausson, mainly because of the Lent et triste interlude between the two songs; an instrumental pause which will sound rather vapid on piano alone. Tickets are $75, concession $55, plus the $7.20 transaction fee for reasons that continue to escape me.


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio, South Bank

Sunday April 30 at 3 pm

That’s a bit of unadulterated puff, isn’t it? Calling your own musicians ‘sensational’? Or are the publicists referring to the music being performed? This afternoon begins with the velvet warmth of late Richard Strauss in the Prelude to Capriccio, his last opera. After this lushness, we’ll enjoy a cutback to Frank Bridge’s plangent Lament for two violas from 1912 – well before the composer fulfilled his true destiny by teaching Britten. A pick-me-up follows in Telemann’s Gulliver’s Travels Suite for two violins which offers an intrada, then four movements to illustrate the travels of Swift’s hero. This work is notorious for the extraordinary time-signatures employed for the Lilliputian and Brobdingnagian movements. And it’s an indication of the composer’s widespread interests. Finally, a string septet will take on Adams’ Shaker Loops, although enough QSO members will be present to allow for a string orchestra performance of this sometimes exhilarating series of four movements – the summit, so they say, of minimalism. Speaking for participants, it’s quite a roll-call: violins Rebecca Seymour, Katie Betts, Gail Aitken, Natalie Low, Sonia Wilson; violas Charlotte Burbrook de Vere, Nicole Greentree, Nicholas Tomkin; cellos Hyung Suk Bae and Matthew Kinmont; double bass Justin Bullock. The event is scheduled to run for 75 minutes, although that strikes me as optimistically generous – unless there’s going to be a lot of desk and seating rearrangements. Tickets range from $30 to $55 with a transaction fee of $7.95: the rort that keeps on growing.