Diary June 2023


Musica Viva

Conservatorium Theatre, Griffith University

Thursday June 1

One day in 2020, it was Ohlsson appearing for Musica Viva; the next, it was COVID and we all fell down. Now the Canadian master is back, beginning another MV tour and presenting works by Schubert, Liszt and Scriabin. In Adelaide, Perth and the second recitals in Sydney and Melbourne, he’s playing Debussy’s Suite bergamasque, sonatas by Barber and Chopin and some other bon-bons by this last-named. Common to both programs is a new work commissioned for Musica Viva: Thomas Misson‘s Convocations. Yes, I know: sounds like Meale’s Coruscations of 1971, written before that writer changed his style for something old and predictable. What I’ve heard of Misson’s constructs is promising, dealing in advances in composition with integrity, not wallowing in the tried and sometimes not-true. Anyway, Ohlsson at Queensland Con plays the Schubert C minor Impromptu, Op.90 No. 1 – the one of the four that nobody touches. Then the Liszt B minor Sonata – a one-movement composition of high technical demands and a (for Liszt) high watermark of emotional compression. After the new Misson comes a fair sample of the Russian mystic’s creativity: three etudes from different sets (Op. 2, Op. 8, Op. 42), the first of the Two Poems Op. 32, and the Sonata No. 5: like Liszt’s, in one movement. Not that I’m an enthusiast, but we rarely hear a concentrated dose of Scriabin; you can hardly imagine better hands than these through which to have this experience. Prices of tickets range from $15 to $109, but I don’t know if that’s bumped up by the credit card usage fee/theft.


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio, South Brisbane

Friday June 2 at 7:30 pm

As I’m coming to expect, this concert’s title is not quite accurate. Stretching relationships and time-scales, it’s taxing to align some parts of this modest program with the Baroque. To open, the QSO strings under director/concertmaster Natsuko Yoshimoto will run through Mozart’s Adagio and Fugue K. 546, written about the time of the Jupiter finale and at a period when the composer was doing Bach research and arrangements. Tick for this one, then. Next comes real Baroque in a canon and fugue from the Art of Fugue, transcribed by George Benjamin; the canon is the one alla Ottava, the fugue is Contrapunctus 7 per Augment et Diminut. This instrumentation calls for flute, two horns, three violins, two violas and a cello. It doesn’t get more of the period than this. Now come the temporal outsiders, first with the Haydn Symphony No. 70 in D which can only be included in this tribute because its second movement is a double variation canon – and nothing spells ‘Baroque’ better than a canon. To finish, we have Stravinsky’s Concerto in D (‘Basle’) for string orchestra which – as far as I can see – fits into the program because its middle movement is an arioso. The outer ones don’t strike me as much more than the composer’s usual neoclassical style coming to an end during his freshly-naturalized period (1945 or thereabouts). This concerto is sprightly and direct and you won’t find any excrescences indulged throughout its brief length – not a trace of self-indulgence. Still, it’s a splendid test of precision playing. Tonight’s performance is sold out, but . . .

This program will be repeated on Saturday June 3 at 3 pm. Prices range from $30 to $75 with the usual outrageous booking fee which is close to $8.


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Thursday June 8 at 10 am

A kids’ concert, pitched at Years 1 to 6; yes, Year 1 – it is to laugh. The story is by Angela McAllister, the music comes from Paul Rissmann, the pictures are by Grahame Baker-Smith – all UK creators and so terrifically relevant in the aftermath of watching two elderly and uninspiring marital defaulters stagger towards the thrones of England. Their tale is allegedly set in a circus, although one publisher’s website puts Leon and his siblings at a ‘magic show’; no matter the environment, our protagonist learns heaps about all those human qualities that make today’s young so repulsively assured enough as to express their ignorance loudly and to put their feet up on train seats. I know nothing about Rissmann’s products, although he has a strong connection with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and has appeared with several state orchestras, while his reputation in the UK is high as a presenter, raconteur, host, explicator and front-man for children’s music. It’s fortunate that he will be on hand to take us through this work, which will be directed by Jen Winley, the Western Australian Symphony Orchestra’s assistant conductor. Tickets are a flat $30 and, with each 10 students, a teacher gets in free. The whole thing seems geared to schools, presumably on the understanding that primary teachers can control their charges across this 50-minute-long operation. As I said at the start, it is to laugh.


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Friday June 9 at 10 am

The audience here is children in Years 6 to 10 and the QSO plus Voices of Birralee is conducted by Jen Winley from Perth. To those in the know, The Lost Thing is a picture-book by West Australian Shaun Tan; Scottish-born composer Paul Rissmann wrote a score to accompany the tale in this concert format, commissioned by the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra in 2020. I’ve seen some of Tan’s work in concert and you wouldn’t say it’s going out of its way to entertain, the illustrator/author’s monumental environment reminding me of a colourless Chirico world. Rissmann will be there to present – his own score, at least. It’s inserted in medias res with some intriguing surrounds. The QSO begins with Elena Kats-Chernin’s 2013 Dance of the Paper Umbrellas; then come Rimsky’s Flight of the Bumblebee, the Hungarian Dance No. 5 by Brahms, a Star Wars Suite by John Williams to end and a true oddity in Coleridge-Taylor’s Othello Suite: Dance, Children’s Intermezzo, Funeral March, The Willow Song, Military March – this last adding up to about 15 minutes’ playing time. The performance is meant to last for an hour, but Rissmann’s score only endures for 22 minutes, according to his catalogue of works. So you’d have to assume that the two performances on offer are presenting the full program, despite the QSO website not listing the above bevy of compositions for this Friday bridging-the-primary-secondary-gap experience. As with yesterday’s event, tickets are $30 per student.

This program – probably in yesterday’s format – will be repeated on Saturday June 10 at 10 am in a Family Concert when tickets will range from $39 to $49 with the credit-card fleecing fee of $7.20


4MBS Festival of Classics

Main Auditorium, City Hall, Brisbane

Sunday June 11 at 3 pm

The city’s specialist serious music radio station presents this night – part of a long chain of events across May and June – that features a quartet of well-known soloists. Soprano Eva Kong leads the way and she is the only artist about whom a program detail might be gleaned as she is singing some Madama Butterfly – inevitably Un bel di, unless she is put into harness with tenor Rosario La Spina for the duet ending Act 1. And the meagre publicity blurb does mention ‘excerpts’. The other soloists are La Spina’s wife, mezzo Milijana Nikolic, and baritone Jose Carbo. The Ensemble Q Orchestra (love to see that when it’s at home) will be conducted by Tahu Matheson, currently working with Opera Australia, and filling in the gaps with an intra-number narration will be Matheson’s brother, Tama. Other details are unavailable but I’d anticipate that everything will be quite familiar; what’s the point of going spectacularly operatic unless you can wow your audience with arias (and that’s really all that’s promised) known by all and sundry? So I don’t think we’ll be hearing any Richard Strauss; probably no Wagner; Monteverdi will be absent from the feast, and you can be pretty sure that another innovator – Gluck – won’t be present, either Holding out for Berlioz? Not a chance. Here’s looking at you, Britten, but your time has probably not yet come at this kind of concert. Mozart? Maybe. All the same, you have to thank 4MBS for organizing an opera concert in a city where the art form is rarely performed. Tickets cost between $89 and $30 with a booking fee of $1.25.


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Friday June 16 at 11:30 am

What appears to be in play here is that the QSO is welcoming its newly-appointed principal trumpet, Rainer Saville. Great to see, although I think Saville has been in the ensemble for a while. Anyway, he’s taking on the Tomasi Trumpet Concerto, beloved of trumpeters for a host of reasons: it’s short, shows off technique, doesn’t call for any timbral insanities, covers a bevy of compositional styles without falling too heavily into that irritating pseudo-jazz French 1920s genre, has no melodies worth remembering, serves as a splendid instance of physical jerks with a just-long-enough central Nocturne to display arabesques, and boasts a flashy first-movement cadenza supported by snare drum, Filipino-Finnish conductor Tarmo Peltokoski – a tender 23- year-old – escorts Saville through this flashy ephemera before turning to the Sibelius Symphony No. 2, which is exhibitionism of a different water: all those ice sheets, shadow-drenched fjords, pastel veils of the Aurora Borealis, and the rest of that Finnish malarkey. This score stands out from the rest of the composer’s symphonic output for its Romantic breadth and audience-pleasing accessibility, while asking its interpreters for a sobbing warmth of approach as well as stamina. At all events, the concert is scheduled to last for 65 minutes without interval.

With the addition of Tchaikovsky’s Fantasy-Overture Romeo and Juliet, this program will be repeated on Saturday June 17 at 7:30 pm.


Southern Cross Soloists

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sunday June 18 at 3 pm

If you take that title literally, it’s not much territory to cover. The trip takes 2 1/2 hours by car and you move from Austria straight into Hungary; hence, your compositional choices are geographically limited. This recital/concert ticks some of the expected boxes, as in Mozart’s last (and best-known) Horn Concerto K. 495 which here stands alongside the Viola Concerto by Bartok – well, the composer left sketches for completion by a friend and his own son. Anyway, that sort of takes in the two European capitals, even if the Hungarian master wrote his work in New York. Later on, we hear the Totentanz by Liszt: the original version for piano and orchestra involving double woodwind plus piccolo, double horns and trumpets, three trombones plus tuba, timpani and three other percussion, with the full string complement. Still, it’s a full Hungarian work, regularly played by Bartok and momentarily reminiscent of his Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion. Now we move a little further afield to the north-east of the Austrian capital with Two Moravian Songs by Pavel Fischer; the former first violin of the Skampa Quartet has organized a pair of folk songs for voice and string quartet, so I suppose these are what we’ll hear. Then we move to Poland for Lutoslawski’s Dance Preludes in the 1955 version for clarinet, harp, piano, percussion, and strings; folk tunes, they say, although nobody has identified which ones and the composer wasn’t giving his game away. Anyway, we’ve moved to Warsaw, 850-plus kilometres north of Budapest – so, a well-expanded heartland. As well, we have a homegrown novelty from trumpet virtuoso James Morrison in collaboration with the Southern Cross’s didgeridoo-in-residence, Chris Williams; they are producing a new work, as yet nameless. That’s a big program and you can hear it for $85 (adult) or $35 (youth) with a credit card fee of $7.20. Why didn’t Chalmers and Albanese do something about this unjust impost in their mealy-mouthed budget, instead of wasting time on avaricious gas companies and the under-privileged?


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Saturday June 24 at 1:30 pm

What the QSO thinks of as ‘favourites’ seem to be selections. For instance, this program launches itself with selections from the Suites 1 and 2 from Bizet’s Carmen, compiled after the composer’s death by Ernest Guiraud. The first collection is better suited for orchestra as it includes the Prelude and all three entr’actes, while the second comprises transcriptions of sung numbers only. The occasion concludes with selections from the three suites from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet ballet. Conductor Umberto Clerici has 20 numbers to choose from, although it has to be observed that the best collection comes from Suite No. 1. As some sort of filler, the QSO presents the Main Theme and Love Theme from the Ennio and Andrea Morricone score for Cinema Paradiso. OK, although why this should be a favourite is a bit of a mystery. Central to the entertainment is Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez which is a melodic feast and spirit-lifting in its outer movements. Soloist will be Karin Schaupp, a Queenslander since her 8th year. It’s great to see that the orchestra takes pleasure in this particular score, especially as its instrumentation is lean: your normal double woodwind, pairs of horns and trumpets, strings. But its high attraction for me is that the orchestra sparkles when everyone is on board. And I’m so pleased that the nonsensical legends about the Adagio being a Civil War lament or an elegy on the bombing of Guernica have been put to rest.

This program will be repeated at 7:30 pm.


Medici Concerts

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sunday June 25 at 3 pm

The popular Brisbane-raised pianist is here presenting a recital of works by Chopin and Rachmaninov, the central work being the Russian composer’s rarely-heard Variations on a Theme of Chopin. The scrap chosen for elaboration is the C minor Prelude No. 20 from the Op. 28 set and the interpreter has to cope with 22 variations in all; you can hope that Lane will work through them all, rather than following a widespread practice (allowed in later editions) of cutting out some later parts of the work. At all events, on either side of this exhibition, we hear a selection from the Chopin preludes and another collation plucked from the ballets Chopiniana and Les Sylphides. The first comprises five works orchestrated by Glazunov: the A Major Polonaise, the F Major Nocturne, the D minor Mazurka from Op. 50, the C sharp minor Waltz, and the Tarantelle. Les Sylphides has 8 numbers, beginning with the same polonaise but ending with the Op. 18 E flat Major Waltz. In the middle come the A flat Major Nocturne, two waltzes in the G flat Major and the C sharp minor recycled from Chopiniana, a pair of mazurkas (Op. 33 No. 2 and Op. 67 No. 3), and not forgetting the A Major Prelude. Pick your poison but I’m betting the Tarantelle won’t get an outing. And it’s no use asking why the big Rachmaninov in the middle: it’s his 150th birthday this year and even a work written when he was 30 (surely not juvenilia) should enjoy a dusting-off.


Australian Chamber Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Monday June 26 at 7 pm

Topping up on a previous (2015?) Mozart symphonic excursion featuring the last three in the catalogue, artistic director Richard Tognetti and his band of renown move back a little to present three more, each with a nickname. The night opens with the Symphony No. 31 in D, called the Paris because it was premiered in that riotous city and enjoyed favour right from the start. Only three movements but a big orchestra with double woodwind – all four of them – with pairs of trumpets and horns, strings and timpani. Another D Major follows in the Symphony No. 35, Haffner, written for the semi-noble family of that name and using the same instrumentation as the Paris composition but expanded to four movements with the use of a menuetto surviving from the earlier Haffner Serenade. To conclude the triptych, we hear the Linz Symphony No. 36 in C, written in that town during a stop-over in late 1783. It also has four movements and differs from the others on this program by lacking flutes and clarinets. Fleshing out the symphonies, which last a bit over an hour, the ACO will play the Ballet Music from Idomeneo K. 367: Chaconne, Annonce, more Chaconne, Pas seul, Passepied, Gavotte, Passecaille. This uses the same Paris/Haffner forces and lasts about 19 minutes – thereby pushing the concert out to a solid length. As for tickets, they fall into a tight range between $94 and $129, with the customary booking fee of $7.20. Still, it’s been a fair while between drinks, the ACO having called in here last on March 13 and the group’s appearances are to be treasured in this shrinking age for serious music-making.