Diary May 2023


Brodsky Quartet

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Tuesday May 2 at 7 pm

Once again, the devil’s in the detail. Yes, the Brodskies have been in operation since 1972, so a 50-year observation is in order, if slightly overdue. Two of the original players have survived: second violin Ian Belton and cello Jacqueline Thomas. Another member musician has retained his Brodskyism since 1982: viola Paul Cassidy. First violin position has undergone the most change until 2021 when Krysia Osostowicz took over the role. So it’s 50 years – good on you all – but only half the group has seen out the distance. Anyway, this British ensemble is offering tickets from $79 to $99 with the usual $7.20 fee to put you off. As for what’s to be heard, the Brodskies will indulge in a bit of nationalistic touting with Britten’s String Quartet No. 2, which is the most impressive of the composer’s three major essays in the form, probably for its concluding Chacony; if there’s one thing you can rely on Lord Benny for, it’s clever foraging in the past. Added to which, this group has recorded all of Britten’s quartets – twice. Then the musicians make their assault on Schubert’s Death and the Maiden, recorded back in 1993. To kick off, we’ll hear Cassidy’s arrangement of the Bach G minor Sonata for violin solo, BWV 1001 which the Brodskies also recorded two years ago on a CD containing all three sonatas Cassidied into string quartet format. So the whole occasion is a well-rehearsed celebration-cum-remembrance of things past – some recent, some mid-Brodsky ageing – with the main point of interest in listening to how Osostowicz melds with the old-timers. I’m assuming that QPAC is sponsoring this event, chiefly because I can’t find any publicity spruiking a specific sponsor.


Musica Viva Australia

Queensland Conservatorium Theatre, South Brisbane

Wednesday May 3 at 7 pm

As far as I can tell, the three artists on this latest national tour are not regular collaborators. Flautist Adam Walker recorded with violist Timothy Ridout a CD of French flute music, but of harpist Anneleen Lenaerts I can’t find a mention in either of her two male colleagues’ discographies or recital lists. In any case, they have come together to perform the Debussy Sonata – the only work anyone is aware of that was composed for this particular instrumental trio. You’ll have to wait till night’s end to hear it but the three Musica Viva guests will work through another two flute/viola/harp compositions: Gubaidulina’s one-movement Garden of Joy and Sorrow from 1980, and Takemitsu’s 1992 And then I knew ’twas Wind which took its title from an Emily Dickinson poem. Along the way come a few piano solos – Debussy’s Jardins sous la pluie and Clair de lune, British composer George Benjamin’s Flight for solo flute and the famous Messiaen duo Le Merle noir for flute and piano (harp?). And I assume that the Telemann Fantasia No. 7 in E flat – all four movements of it – will be entrusted to Ridout, although with these sorts of programs you can’t be sure who’ll wind up doing what; those two Debussy piano solos come to mind insofar as they’d have to be transcriptions by or for Lenaerts – or will one of the others step in for a solo line? Mind you, they’d have trouble with the gardens. Tickets range from $15 to $109 with concessions available but I can’t figure out if there’s an attached booking fee; sadly, there probably is.


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio, South Brisbane

Friday May 5 at 7:30 pm

We’ve got two famous night musics on this 75 minute interval-less program. First comes Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik, the Serenade No.13 in G, K. 525 which is known to pretty much anyone who’d be attracted to this QSO event as one of serious music’s signature dishes, harnessed to the advertising industry like few other scores. Here’s hoping that concertmaster/director Natsuko Yoshimoto can bring plenty of verve, if not novelty, to these familiar pages.. This Classical gem is followed by Romanticism’s last gasp in Schoenberg’s sextet Verklaerte Nacht of 1899, packed with depression, guilt and redemption-through-love. It’s a great nocturnal journey, nowhere better than from the breathtaking change of key to F sharp Major and the radiant final 12 bars. You’d probably be right in thinking that both Mozart and Schoenberg will be given in string orchestra format, chiefly because the final work to be presented – Telemann’s 8-part Don Quixote Suite – calls for a big string sound (with harpsichord? and lute??) and what’s the point of having all those musicians hanging around through a quartet and sextet in which they could easily (and legitimately) swell the numbers? This trio of scores shows a sensible, if uninspired, temporal sweep but the arrangement would be improved if the Baroque work came first. Tickets range from $30 to $75, plus an inflated booking fee just 5 cents short of $8: a compulsory tip of over 10%.

This program will be repeated on Saturday May 6 at 3 pm.


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Friday May 12 at 7:30 pm

And tonight, the QSO makes another foray into the world of Cervantes. Nothing as refined or as brief as Telemann’s little suite from a week ago but Richard Strauss’s vast, blowsy depiction of the knight and his squire which asks for two soloists: cello for the Don, viola (and a few others) for Sancho. I’ve heard this once in live performance from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the performance wasn’t memorable, apart from Christopher Moore carrying out discreet solo viola duties. Here, with chief conductor Umberto Clerici in charge, the character lines will be performed by the QSO’s section principals – Hyung Suk Bae and Imants Larsens. Not that the tone poem is a trial; it falls into 14 sections over its 35-minute length and the orchestration is as subtle as that for Till Eulenspiegel. In the program’s first half, Piers Lane will be soloist in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor K. 491. With a big frame, this work calls for more orchestral forces than any other in this division of the composer’s catalogue and its emotional demands are as severe as Beethoven’s Op. 37. It’s a solid half-hour, granted, but I can’t understand why the orchestra needs an interval between this and the Strauss. Tickets range from $90 to $130 with the supplementary charge of $7.20 for stuff-all.

A guest I can’t explain convincingly is actor Eugene Gilfedder. It’s hard to see him fitting into the concerto format, so it’s probable that he’ll be involved in the Strauss reduced epic. Yet, as far as I know, there’s no place for a narrator or any dialogue in the score. So he could be present on stage to welcome us, or to apologize for us to the original inhabitants for being there, or to attune us to post-COVID changes in concert hall etiquette, or (best of all) to explain the workings of a wind machine.

This program will be repeated on Saturday May 13 at 1:30 pm


Australian String Quartet

Conservatorium Theatre, Griffith University

Friday May 19 at 7 pm

On a rare visit to Brisbane – but not as rare as some other chamber groups with lesser drawing power – the ASQ is performing at the Con theatre. Last time I was aware of them here, the group played in a library building opposite QPAC which took me ages to find, especially in the penumbra that operates after dark through the riverside buildings of the Cultural Precinct. Griffith spends a good deal more on lighting so we should have a well-lit path to where the ensemble in its current format – violins Dale Barrltrop and Francesca Hiew, viola Christopher Cartlidge, cello Michael Dahlenburg – will present a solid recital. The evening begins with Thomas Ades’ Arcadiana: a seven-movement, non-stop composition celebrating the idyll with a good many references to other composers and several options as to what the composer understands by Arcadia. The recital’s title is a pretty good representation of where Ades is leading his listeners. After this British early work, the ASQ heads for Mozart in D minor K. 421, second of the Haydn quartets and irregular in many aspects, mainly formal. Then it’s the turn of Shostakovich through the No. 9 in E flat Major (you reckon?) which, like the Ades, is played without a pause between its five movements. It seems that a good many youngish ensembles take on the Russian master’s quartets without much preparation and even less natural insight, resulting in bland readings which stay on the surface. You’d hope for much better from these artists who have enjoyed several years of mutual experience behind them – and the fact that two of this score’s movements are adagios where bouncy, biting satire is absent from the interpretative equation. Tickets are a flat $81, without a booking fee but apparently with no concessions on tap.


Queensland Youth Symphony

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Saturday May 20 at 7 pm

Under Simon Hewett, these young players taken on Debussy’s La mer which will be as mobile and possibly as inchoate as you’d expect. It’s is a hard ask for any orchestra and I’ve yet to hear live a performance that fully satisfies. But do we stand still and put it into the too-hard basket, almost 120 years after its gestation? To be honest, I’d rather hear what the QYS can make of these sketches than watch them labour through yet another slab of German Romanticism. The concert ends with Stravinsky’s Firebird, and I believe that this means the complete ballet rather than one of the three suites. Which is both interesting and unsettling as I heard part of the work in the car a few days ago on ABC Classic; I think it was the 1945 suite because I came in during one of the Pantomimes and left during the Khorovod. But the shock was that, for about three minutes, I had no idea what I was hearing; there is a good deal of the complete work that is unfamiliar to those of us who have been bred on the 1919 suite and who have come to realize that there’s precious few pages outside those five movements that comprise neglected gems. In the program’s middle, the orchestra escorts William Barton through his own Apii Thatini Mu Murtu (To sing and carry a coolamon on country together where a coolamon is a dish). Barton will play a didgeridoo and sing, as he did at the work’s premiere with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra under Benjamin Northey in July last year. I’m out of sync with this sort of music where the Aboriginal instrument and chant are superimposed on a Western orchestral sound fabric. The most convincing fusions of didgeridoo and orthodox instruments come from writers with advanced compositional techniques, or so it seems to me. You can applaud the respect shown to First Nations musicians who make the effort to grapple with serious music-making, rather than award time and space to those proposing country/rock imitations of hillbilly Americana. But listening to this work of Barton’s won’t convince you that such a hybrid music leads forward. Tickets are a flat $45, with the $7.20 tax-for-no-service added.


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sunday May 21 at 11:30 am

After what seems to be an out-of-town try-put, the QSO is dishing out one of its lollipop programs in an obvious attempt to put bums on seats. On May 19, a Symphony Under the Stars night to be held somewhere in Gladstone will be conducted by Johannes Fritzsch and feature, as guests, soprano Rebecca Cassidy and tenor Rosario La Spina. The audience will be treated to clumps of Puccini (Un bel di, E lucevan le stelle, the Act III Intermezzo from Manon Lescaut, Che gelida manina to the end of the act), a bit of Bizet in the Prelude to Carmen, and Verdi’s Act 2 Triumphal March from Aida. Another art form gets a look-in with The Young Juliet from Prokofiev’s great ballet. A few other isolates are included, like Elgar’s Salut d’amour and the Strauss waltz Roses from the South. Back in Brisbane, the Elgar, Bizet, Prokofiev and Strauss are scheduled, as are excerpts from Madama Butterfly, Tosca and La Boheme (I wonder which ones?), as well as ‘AND MORE’ . What’s missing? The Verdi and the Puccini Intermezzo? Still, there’ll be the same guests, the same conductor but – especially written in for The Big Smoke – Guy Noble will play host. Not much has gone into preparing this event with its catch-as-catch-can list of classical hits, but seats – from $75 to $105 with concessions and booking fee surplus of $7.20, regardless of how much your ticket costs – are selling like Vegemite hot cross buns.


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Friday May 26 at 7:30 pm

It appears to be a simple celebration of contemporary film music, but does it have accompanying clips? With the Voices of Birralee singers, the QSO under Nicholas Buc will bring back memories – some pleasant, others nauseating – of movies we have seen, beginning with the opening to Richard Strauss’s 1896 tone poem Also sprach Zarathustra, bars that provided so much grist to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey mill of 1968. From there, it’s pretty much all downhill. James Horner is represented by scraps from Avatar (2009) and Titanic (1997). Hans Zimmer also scores a double with The Dream is Collapsing and Time from his 2010 suite for Inception. And so does Danny Elfman with the Main Theme and Ice Dance out of his 1990 score for Edward Scissorhands. Not to forget Craig Armstrong’s work for Love Actually of 2003, from which we hear the Glasgow Love Theme and Prime Minister Theme. You get to hear quite a few oncers: Alan Menken’s Main Theme for 1991’s Beauty and the Beast; the whole symphonic suite (apparently) from The Two Towers of 2002 by Howard Shore; a spin-off in Ludwig Goransson’s 2019 Main Theme for The Mandalorian; Australia’s own Nigel Westlake’s Ready to Launch from Paper Planes of 2014; Michael Giacchino’s Married Life sequence from 2009’s Up; Simple and Clean from a ring-in with Kingdom Hearts of 2002 (hope that’s accurate: these video games are so hard to track down to specifics) by Hikaru Utada; and Merry-Go Round of Life from Joe Hisaishi’s 2004 music for Howl’s Moving Castle. But let’s not forget the grand master John Williams, who is honoured with the Hymn to the Fallen from Saving Private Ryan of 1998, Harry’s Wondrous World from 2001’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and the 1999 Duel of the Fates from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. For me, the memories would be more thin than most; I’ve seen the Kubrick, Avatar and Titanic (sort of; between dozes), Edward Scissorhands, Love Actually, The Lord of the Rings trilogy,, all the Harry Potters and all the canonic Star Wars epics – a little less than half of the program content. But I’d much rather watch complete films and be exposed to their full audio components than listen to bits and pieces. After all, doesn’t everyone want to know what happens after Strauss’s magniloquent proclamation? Well, perhaps not. Tickets, with concessions available, range from $90 to $130 but there are precious few of the former left; what is constant is the $7.20 tax for daring to come to the Concert Hall.

This program will be repeated on Saturday May 27 at 1:30 pm and 7:30 pm.


Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra

Conservatorium Theatre, Griffith University

Friday May 26 at 7:30 pm

It’s big, as suits its theme: a memorial to the revolutionary demonstration outside the Tsar’s Palace in St. Petersburg; to be specific, the massacre of January 22 when the army came to the aid of a nervous government to commit yet another atrocity in a long line of disasters that pepper Russian history. The Symphony No. 11 is something of a polemic, full of big strokes – drama, conflict and mourning come in impressive splashes across the work’s hour-long canvas. Triple woodwind (thirds doubling piccolo, cor anglais, bass clarinet, contrabassoon), 11 brass, two harps, xylophone, tubular bells, celesta, timpani and assorted other percussion, with a large bank of strings – all ensure a powerful climax or twelve. Johannes Fritzsch will conduct this work, but will he conduct anything else? The university website proposes that this ‘program includes’ the Shostakovich symphony, but no details are available as to what else will be given to us. Adult tickets are $45 but there are concessions for pensioners, seniors, students and 4MBS patrons; and no booking fee/consumption tax on top! Yes, they’re students but The Year 1905 Symphony is rarely heard in this country, particularly when the major Australian orchestras are concerned with cash flow and expanding their client base. In that context, where conservative programmers are racing for survival and leaving the hard stuff alone, a little child shall lead them.


Brisbane Chorale

St. John’s Cathedral, 373 Ann St., Brisbane

Sunday May 28 at 2:30 pm

The Chorale is presenting this concert under the auspices of 4MBS and that station’s Festival of Classics. The Bach is easy enough to assimilate as conductor/music director Emily Cox and her forces will present the Magnificat – but only the first movement: all 90 bars of it with three trumpets, timpani, braces of flutes and oboes plus continuo forces and strings. Seems like a lot of people gathered together for a short burst. Fortunately there’s more, if not much. On the program is Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, which could be Wohl mir, dass ich Jesum habe or Jesus bleibet meine Freude from the Cantata BWV 147. Doesn’t really matter: it’s 71 bars in both. Before this come the Mendelssohns. In Felix’s case, it’s a setting of Psalm 42, Wie der Hirsch schreit nach frischem Wasser (As the hart pants for fresh water; or, as the Chorale has it, As the deer longs for water; or, as I recall from my Gelineau days, Like the deer that yearns for running streams). This concentrates heavily on a soprano soloist who also enjoys the assistance of pairs of tenor and bass soloists in the penultimate movement. Double woodwind, four horns, strings and organ support the edifice while the full SATB choir actually frames the work at either end while the female voices carol along with the soprano through Denn ich wollte gern. All very lovely and German Anglican. But the afternoon’s real interest comes with sister Fanny’s Oratorio on words from the Bible, following the 1821 cessation of a cholera epidemic in Berlin. Despite the recent revival of interest in this writer, we still know so little, apart from the Piano Trio. This score packs 15 movements into a little over half an hour with choruses and solos alongside two duets (one involving the choir) and a trio. The soloists for this reading will be soprano Sarah Crane, alto Anne Fulton, tenor Paul McMahon and baritone (bass) Shaun Brown; with the Chorale, all will be escorted by the Sinfonia of St. Andrew’s, fresh from the nearby Uniting Church. Adults pay $55, as do Seniors; Centrelink concessionaries and 4MBS subscribers pay $50; students pay $20; other group costs can be arranged. But the booking fee for any ticket is $1.25, which is – given what other bodies try to scrounge out of you – almost forgiveable.