October 2022 Diary

WHITE NIGHTS

Southern Cross Soloists

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sunday October 2 at 3 pm

I don’t know how they’re going to carry off this program. Take the ending, for a start: Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite of 1919 with its pairs of woodwind, 10 brass and numerous percussion, not to mention all those lush strings that feature heavily from first bar to last. Tchaikovsky’s Pezzo capriccioso exists in two forms – orchestral and piano accompaniments; you’d assume we’re getting the latter, especially as Konstantin Shamray is slated to participate in the program as well as cellist Richard Narroway who’s taking the solo line in this sober work. No problems with the Notturno from Borodin’s String Quartet in D. But what about the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No. 2 which requires nine woodwind and a horn quartet? Unless, of course, the piece is being presented in that two piano arrangement prepared for the composer and his son. In the middle of this all-Russian program (which ends with an untitled gypsy folk song from that country) comes a new work commissioned by the Soloists for themselves and didgeridu, composed by ABC Classic FM music director Matthew Dewey. This last is the third in a series of works that utilise the Aboriginal instrument, in this instance played by Wakka Wakka descendant Chris Williams, the Soloists’ artist in residence. Good luck to all concerned but I’m dubious about this sort of fusion exercise which I’ve experienced since as far back as George Dreyfus’ Sextet of 1971 – the best of a rum lot, as far as I can tell. Perhaps Dewey has something interesting to offer, especially as few of us know what forces the Soloists are meant to summon up for this first outing. But then, a kind of personnel haze has settled over most of this evening’s music-making.

CONTRA SCHUBERT

Shikara Ringdahl. Jonathan Henderson, Hyung Suk Bae, Vatche Jambazian

Holy Trinity Hall, Fortitude Valley

Friday October 7 at 6 pm

The title is probably not as adversarial as you’d assume; nothing like the state of being against the great song-writer in the style of my old friend Kenneth Hince who was contra Brahms, Vivaldi and Prokofiev, for instance. No: this Contra refers to the organization presenting the recital; a pretty new body (3 years old?) which seems to be an offshoot of the Southern Cross Soloists. So you’d be right in concluding that it’s all about Contra forces being engaged with Schubert. Which they are, for part of the night. Flautist Henderson and pianist Jambazian begin with the seven Trockne Blumen Variations by Schubert on his own song: the composer’s only chamber work for this instrument (or any other wind solo-plus-piano). Then Jambazian gets to work over three Sculthorpe works: The Stars Turn (with Ringdahl? Or in the arrangement for voice, cello and piano?), the five Night Pieces, and Mountains. Finally come two Ravel brackets: the Deux melodies hebraiques, and the three Chansons madecasses which involve all four participating musicians, including Hyung Suk Bae. Men and women have sung the first pair but Ravel designated the singer for his Madagascan lyrics as a mezzo. As far as I can tell, both sets are given complete pretty rarely, let alone on the same program. Including the Schubert, it’s something of a night full of short pants – nothing hangs around for very long, like the Liberal Party’s post-election promise to self-appraise.

GRIEG, LISZT, CHOPIN

Piers Lane

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sunday October 9 at 3 pm

Brisbane-educated Lane is back for a one-off recital in the local Medici series which presents piano solos as its sole brief, an undertaking that you’d suspect has been inherited (aesthetically) from Lorenzo and the rest off the famiglia. The night begins with the Holberg Suite as it was originally composed; here, the interest comes in noting the differences that Grieg employed when moving the five movements across to suit a string orchestra format. As well, you can admire the composer’s skill in writing excellently shaped four-square melodies that somehow avoid sounding as if they’ve been strait-jacketed into position. Then Lane moves back some years (about 30) to Liszt’s B minor Sonata, that famous spread-eagled masterwork in one (or four) movements that delights for its history of bamboozling the emotionally stunted, like Clara Schumann and Hanslick. After interval, we go back a few more decades, get all atmospheric and the Medicis bring out the candles for a second half comprising Chopin nocturnes – 11 of them, which is a little over half of the complete oeuvre and Lane covers the year-range of their production. It’s been a while since I experienced this kind of small-scale son et lumiere show – the most memorable being Alfred Hornung playing the cello suites in one of the Toorak churches, beginning each one in darkness and gradually building to full house-lights by the time he got to the gigues. This Chopin demonstration is, however, more in line with the original operating conditions, although it’s doubtful that the pianist/composer ever operated in a space as massive as the 1800-seat QPAC Concert Hall.

BEETHOVEN & DVORAK

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall., Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Friday October 14 at 11:30 am

Only two works are on offer here: Beethoven’s Violin Concerto, coming in at about three-quarters of an hour, and Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8 which takes about ten fewer minutes. Put together, you’re not getting particularly high value for your money, in my estimation; at the evening performance, seat prices are over $100. But then, the QSO may be betting on the novelty appeal of a violinist-conductor, guest Guy Braunstein filling both roles. This musician’s main claim to fame was his serving as the Berlin Philharmonic’s concertmaster for 13 years, suffering under Abbado and Rattle. But his work will be fresh, as far as I can tell: he hasn’t recorded either of these works, it seems. He’ll have his hands full with the Beethoven which only a few violinists have had the confidence to conduct while taking on the solo line. Tognetti has done it but his Australian Chamber Orchestra core are ultra-responsive; and I have hazy memories of some Russian attempting the same exercise with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra. Probably the symphony will fare better, if the interpretation doesn’t roam into the rough-edged bucolic, particularly in the glorious waffling of its finale.

This program will be repeated on Saturday October 15 at 1:30 pm and 7:30 pm

MOZART, MILLS & MAHLER

Ensemble Q

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sunday October 16 at 3 pm

Centre-piece of this program will be an arrangement of Mahler’s Symphony No. 4 in G, the easiest to imbibe of the whole series. This version pares back the (for Mahler) small forces of the original to just 14 instruments: one each of the woodwind, a horn, two percussionists, a harmonium or accordion, a piano, one each of the string lines . . . and, of course, a singer for the last movement (nobody’s listed to take on this role but the line still features, having survived into Klaus Simon’s rearrangement). That’s the symphony taken care of, more or less. What about the concerto? Daniel de Borah is presenting the K. 453 Piano Concerto by Mozart, here in an a quattro arrangement. Which is stretching things more than a tad: I don’t think you can cut the forces back to a string quartet format, not in a full-bodied masterpiece like this one. Sure, there are precedents – composer-approved ones – with some of the earlier concertos, but not with the middle K. 400 works. Anyway, the occasion’s overture takes the form of Richard Mills’ Little Diary of Transformations, which is probably referring to A Little Diary of 2002 for clarinet and string quartet, about which any available details reflect the title’s adjective. Still, it looks like it will be played as written, which is more than can be said about the rest of the entertainment. Q originals Trish and Paul Dean will be directing, and the ensemble’s concertmaster is the Queensland Symphony’s own Natsuko Yoshimoto.

VIENNESE CLASSICS

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sunday October 23 at 11:40 am

Mention of Vienna used to take my mind back to Willi Boskovsky, especially his visit to Australia in 1976 during which he brought his irresistible lilting approach to the Waltz Kings’ warhorses. Recently, the images have become more linked with Andre Rieu and his extravaganzas in Maastricht where any pretense at fin de siecle sophistication gets obfuscated by vulgarity. But this evening takes in more than the Strauss family; indeed, the only sample from that clan will be Johann Junior’s Emperor Waltz which applied to the German and Austrian rulers of the time and was premiered in Berlin. The closest, in similar vein, is von Suppe’s Light Cavalry Overture written 23 years prior to the waltz but just as entertaining. Once again, Guy Braunstein will be soloist and conductor in one, starting the night with Beethoven’s F Major Romance for Violin and Orchestra. Another work produced in the capital city was Schubert’s Symphony No. 8; Braunstein and his forces are offering both movements. A bit of neglected Mahler is being played: Blumine, originally the second movement in the Symphony No. 1 but discarded after the first few performances. This was written in Leipzig and premiered in Budapest but the composer is inextricably linked with Vienna, the city that eventually treated him like a dog. Kreisler’s Syncopation, here given in a Braunstein arrangement, was published (written?) in 1925, probably in Berlin but it’s an amiable essay by the Viennese-born violinist/composer to mimic the throwaway style of Scott Joplin. Australian writer Margaret Sutherland visited Vienna but it’s hard to find any connection with that city in her Concerto for Strings of 1953, from which the QSO will play the first Allegro con brio only. You may wonder why: that question is, like Ives’, unanswerable.

ANDREA BOCELLI

Brisbane Chorale

Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Boondall

Tuesday October 25 at 8 pm

I’ve never been to this 13,600-seat venue but have had experience of similar at the Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne where I saw Bocelli – and Carreras, I think. Such large spaces bring in the big bucks for artists and sponsors, even if you have to reconcile yourself to the mediation of banks of speakers and programs of questionable merit, although little in my experience rivals the Three Tenors at the MCG which proved that world-famous artists could money-grub alongside any over-hyped rock band. Anyway, tenor Bocelli – whom I last saw on screen mooning around an empty Milan Duomo – is back in this country to work through his repertoire in the company of a 70-piece orchestra and a 60-strong choir . . . which is how I found out about this exercise: on the Brisbane Chorale’s website. Well, at least you know what choral forces you’re getting; can’t say the same for the orchestra which might not be Queensland Symphony Orchestra standard. Still, what do such details matter to people who attend this type of event? As anticipated, no actual content details have been provided by TEG Van Egmond, although you can predict, with near certainty, that patrons will be treated to Amazing grace and Con te partiro as Bocelli kicks off a tour that then takes him to Sydney’s Super Dome/Qudos Bank Arena, the Hunter Valley’s Hope Estate, Rod Laver, and the Sandalford Estate in the Swan Valley. Perhaps the Chorale will accompany him all the way down south and across to the west? No: probably not.

MUSIC FOR THE SISTINE CHAPEL

The Tallis Scholars

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Wednesday October 26 at 7 pm

These British singers have, as their signature offering, Allegri’s Miserere – or so it would seem. It’s hard to see how this monopoly has arisen, except that they’ve recorded it and the British press has gone into overdrive to claim it for the Tallis group. I just don’t see how they handle it. The ensemble is small – about 10 in most publicity shots – and their numbers would be stretched; not so much to cover the nine lines, but to carry off that contrast built into the setting between a distant small force and a larger main body. Possibly, patrons will enjoy some physically challenging disposition of forces in the Concert Hall. In any case, this work was the preserve of the Sistine singers for a long time – another nauseating example of papal privilege – but we, the unwashed, will be able to hear it tonight, partly thanks to the intervention of the young Mozart (supposing that story is true). Speaking of which, the program also boasts Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli that was written for the coronation of a particularly short-term pontiff. This will be preceded by Morales’ Regina caeli – but which one of the four settings? This piece – whichever one it turns out to be – might have been written during the composer’s years in Rome singing in the papal choir. Then we have Festa’s Quam pulchra es and that’s OK as this writer sang in the Sistine Choir itself. Carpentras of the several Lamentations was master of the papal choir; Josquin (Inter natos mulierum on this occasion) brought status and credibility to the body when he joined it. Victoria (represented by his Magnificat primi toni a 8) lived in Rome, certainly, but I can’t find any connection to the pope’s music-making forces and this particular work was published in Madrid in 1600, long after the composer returned home. But you have to bow to British scholarship, particularly that stream represented by the ensemble’s erudite conductor, Peter Phillips. You couldn’t ask for better singing, even if it cannot hope to imitate the plaintive off-colour stridency that has typified the choral contributions to every papal ceremony I’ve heard broadcast over the past 70+ years. At the time of writing, there are about 150 seats left for this event.

TRANSCENDENCE

Roger Cui

Holy Trinity Hall, Fortitude Valley

Friday October 28 at 6:30 pm

Just what you expected: a night of Liszt’s Transcendental Studies, all twelve of them. A few have turned up in piano recitals – Chasse-neige, Harmonies du soir, Wilde Jagd and Feux follets – but I can’t remember sitting through the lot. Some wildman in Melbourne once played Mazeppa to generous acclaim but the rest are mysteries to most of us. Roger Cui is a well-known piano presence here in Brisbane at Griffith University and also at Coffs Harbour Regional Conservatorium. You don’t have to look too far into his CV to note an attention to the music of Liszt. So good luck to him in following the dream of preparing and presenting these repertoire summits. With limited experience, I’ve found that the transcendence promised is generally confined to becoming engrossed in the studies’ physical demands; but then it’s been many decades since I went looking for the aesthetically transformational in this composer’s work.

BRUCKNER SYMPHONY NO. 8

Queensland Conservatorium Orchestra

Conservatorium Theatre, South Bank

Friday October 28 at 7:30 pm

How lucky are the young musicians whose only task is to present this leviathan of a symphony! Conductor Johannes Fritzsch has to do most of the work, not least in deciding which of the many versions or editions will be used. After he found out that I knew nothing about Bruckner, an enthusiastic uncle gave me World Record Club LPs of the Symphony No. 4 and this one, which must have been the Vienna Philharmonic under Carl Schuricht interpretation of the 1890 version. It took me many years to investigate the disputes and recriminations concerning the composer’s two versions, his pencil alterations, the readings of Haas and Nowak, and the various rectifications carried out by more contemporary musicologists and editors. In any of its potential shapes, this symphony is a powerful and lengthy construct, the last of the composer’s completed scores in this form. It calls for plenty of determination and a fine ear for chromatic shifts, but a composition of this venerable nature – over 130 years old – should be a feasible accomplishment for the Conservatorium’s forces – you’d hope. At time of writing, there are about 60 centre-stalls seats left at $40 each.

MUSICAL THEATRE GALA

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Saturday October 29 at 1:30 pm

Back by popular demand is this celebration of musicals, an art form whose title covers a multitude of sins. Inevitably, the program’s conductor and host is the gregarious Guy Noble who is charged with supervising some sharp material as well as lots of treacle. First, he takes the QSO through Gershwin’s overture to Girl Crazy – which is something of a slap in the face to the composer and his librettist brother as the work holds some brilliant songs that would eclipse much of what else is on offer here: Embraceable You, But Not For Me, I Got Rhythm. Still, top-class music like that would probably over-tax some of this occasion’s soloists: Amy Lephamer, Lucinda Wilson, Alexander Lewis, and Aidan O’Cleirigh – two fresh faces and two experienced artists. It’s not all dross from here on, however. Noble takes the two female singers through A Boy Like That from Bernstein’s West Side Story, and possibly Lewis will work at the same work’s Something’s Coming. More Bernstein emerges with the finale to the operetta Candide, Make Our Garden Grow. A couple of other musicals score two appearances: from The Sound of Music come the title song and the Something Good duet; I Dreamed a Dream and One Day More from Schonberg’s Les Miserables massacre; John Kander’s Chicago hit All That Jazz and Maybe This Time that was inserted into Cabaret; a surfeit of Lloyd-Webber with Superstar and Herod’s Song from Jesus Christ Superstar, plus the Entr’acte and Wishing you were somehow here again from the same composer’s The Phantom of the Opera. As you’d expect, patrons will be treated to a fair number of one-offs in this 20-number event, like Billy Bigelow’s Soliloquy from Carousel; Fanny’s exuberant Don’t Rain on My Parade from Styne’s Funny Girl; Popular from Stephen Schwartz’s unaccountably popular Wicked. But the big name that this occasion cannot do without is Sondheim, represented by the male duet Agony from Into the Woods, the hero’s self-justifying Finishing the Hat from Sunday in the Park with George, and Being Alive that brings Company to its conclusion. At present, there are plenty of seats available at the back of the stalls and balcony. Because of the amplification that this sort of show demands, I doubt if you’ll miss much from anywhere in the hall.

The program will be repeated at 7:30 pm.

WHEN WE SPEAK

Jodie Rottle, Katherine Philp, Alex Raineri

Holy Trinity Hall, Fortitude Valley

Saturday October 29 at 3 pm

This is a Brisbane Music Festival recital that is also a collaboration with the Brisbane Writers Festival, which I thought had been done and dusted in the first half of May but which resurged for a single day in September. Whatever else has happened beforehand or along the way, this exercise features a combination of music and words, involving three freshly minted musical works by the afternoon’s flautist, Jodie Rottle; the program’s cellist, Katherine Philp; and festival director/this event’s pianist, Alex Raineri. The musicians have collaborated with some poets (unknown at present) and these are the results. Other contributions are noted as ‘works by Smith, Cheney, and Ablinger.’ You’d assume that this last is the Austrian composer Peter; the middle one could be Lisa Cheney, originally from Queensland and now a Melbourne resident; the identity of Smith could keep you occupied for hours – Rebecca? Margery? Sam? Bil? Kile? Gabriella? Wade? The solution is a typically Australian one: you’ll never never know if you never never go.

WINTER JOURNEY

Brenton Spiteri & Alex Raineri

Holy Trinity Hall, Fortitude Valley

Saturday October 29 at 6 pm

So what distinguishes this Winterreise from others? Spiteri is a pretty well-known quantity, thanks to his appearances in several local opera companies; a tenor with promise, although his European forays have led to pretty minor roles in slight Offenbach, slender Rossini and a significant Monteverdi (L’incoronazione). But I don’t know anything about his abilities in lieder. And that form doesn’t come more demanding than this collection of 24 Schubert songs that run the full gamut from depression to despair. Even an experienced hand (or two) like Raineri faces interpretative problems, as the music is so well-known. Added frissons will apparently emanate from Ben Hughes‘ lighting design, which you’d assume will be just that – a sort of Scriabinesque kaleidoscope of colours rather than scene-setting backdrops. The promise is that this lighting plan will be ‘immersive’; a tad worrying, but you can always shut your eyes and concentrate on the music.

September 2022 Diary

ORAVA QUARTET

Brisbane Festival

South Bank Piazza, 410 Stanley Street

Sunday September 4 at 2 pm

The city’s own quartet – brothers Daniel (violin) and Karol (cello) Kowalik, Thomas Chawner (viola), David Dalseno (violin) – is contributing to the festival’s serious music component with this 60-minute recital in a part of South Bank/South Brisbane that I haven’t come across yet. The action is taking place in the Bank of Queensland Festival Garden, which could be interesting acoustically, although the players won’t have to compete with any opposing night music from nearby coffee bars and nightclubs. As currently scheduled, the event lasts 60 minutes and the group will play a world premiere in the form of a new piece by Elena Kats-Chernin which revolves around Greek folk song, strong women, and family ties across four generations . I understand how you’d use the first source (a big hello, Maurice) but struggle to see how the personality/relationships facets will be expressed. You’d hope that the musicians will be playing something else as well: I admire Kats-Chernin’s industry but an hour-long string quartet is a big ask – from her and from us.

PIANO POWER

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Friday September 9 at 11:30 pm

Here’s something to please those of us with a weakness for old-fashioned symphony orchestra programs. Under Asher Fisch, the QSO treats itself to the Brahms Symphony No. 3, distinguished for its striding power and conciseness of utterance. Before this, patrons can revel in Rachmaninov’s C minor Piano Concerto, the work that broke the composer’s compositional/psychological impasse in 1900/01. This is a powerful, instantly recognizable masterpiece: the harbinger of a plethora of Hollywood scores that celebrate angst and the moody side of romance. Soloist will be Behzod Abduraimov, a player I heard several years ago in Melbourne and a very impressive talent in a crowded field. For an overture we are offered Lachlan Skipworth’s Hinterland which Fisch premiered with the West Australian Symphony Orchestra in 2018; this morning, it receives its first Queensland performance. I don’t know anything worth writing about this Australian work, let alone how long it lasts; the Perth critics liked it but supplied no information beyond inane generalisations. All I can report with certainty is that Skipworth’s vision is probably more elemental than and environmentally different to what we on the Gold Coast call ‘hinterland’.

This program will be repeated on Saturday September 10 at 7:30 pm

HEART CRY

Brisbane Chorale

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sunday September 11 at 11:30 am

For this event, the focal work is Welsh composer Karl Jenkins’ Stabat Mater of 2008. This is something of an organizational nightmare as the Near Eastern colours that Jenkins requires need the help of a duduk (Armenian reed instrument) and at least four non-Western percussion. As well as the choral forces, a mezzo soloist is a sine qua non; in this case, Shirin Majd. The guest conductor is definitely Stefanie Smith who will direct the Chorale and Brisbane Symphony Orchestra in this work that you could wait a long time to hear again, I should think. Much of the singing element is set in your normal Latin, but it changes along the way several times into Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, Arabic as well as a few English texts by the composer and his wife. In 12 movements, Stabat Mater is substantial – over an hour long – and, in the best Bach tradition, Jenkins has recycled parts of his previous compositions. For prefatory matter, the orchestra plays Barber’s Adagio for Strings, Milhaud’s brief Meurtre d’un chef d’etat of 1963 which commemorated President Kennedy’s assassination, and Sculthorpe’s 1986 Earth Cry that requires a didjeridu performer – or does it? I recall William Barton coming on stage for a Melbourne Concert Hall performance but can’t find his instrument entered in a score sample. Still, the composer did publish an arrangement for string quartet and didjeridu; perhaps we’ll be hearing that version – and (with a bit of luck) the quartet original of the Barber work.

EXTASE

Voxalis

St. Andrew’s Uniting Church, 299 Ann Street

Sunday September 17 at 7 pm

Now that we’ve re-buddied up with our cher ami Manny, three members of the Voxalis group are leading an artistic rapprochement by presenting this excursion into French 19th/20th century song. I don’t believe I’ve heard any of the participants at work but that’s clearly because of my lack of familiarity with Queensland’s opera scene. Soprano Annie Lower will collaborate with tenor Mattias Lower (a relation?), both supported by pianist Mark Connors. As to what’s on offer, that’s rather opaque. For certain, patrons will hear Duparc’s Baudelaire setting, L’invitation au voyage and the earlier Op. 2 Serenade. And they will hear some unspecified Faure songs; in this latter area, the possibilities are vast. Because of the singers’ repertoire and experience, the program offers excerpts from Gounod’s most popular operas: Faust and Romeo et Juliette. Well, you can let your imagination run riot while anticipating this: Ah ! je ris de me voir, Salut, demeure, Laisse-moi contempler, Oui. c’est toi. Or, Je veux vivre, Ah! leve-toi, soleil, Ange adorable, O nuit divine, Salut, tombeau. Perhaps all of the above? Probably not, because the event is meant to last 70 minutes only. Although, if they get a move on . . .

MENDELSSOHN’S ELIJAH

The Queensland Choir

Brisbane City Hall

Sunday September 18 at 3 pm

For many years, this oratorio was almost as popular as Handel’s Messiah in English-speaking countries. Apparently am ongoing general consensus determined that one annual religious concert observance per year was enough and Elijah became de trop for any conscientious Anglican. I’ve experienced its joys only once – from the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic in its stodgier days; not a trace of that performance remains in the memory. Proving that not everything I write has a basis in truth, The Queensland Choir is performing Mendelssohn’s masterpiece today and is mounting Messiah exactly three months later; well, they do things differently here as the Bjelke-Petersen era proved It’s hard to track down details about this Elijah except that the organization is presenting it ‘complete’, and the orchestra is that of Ensemble Q – a surprise in all senses as I thought the Qers were a chamber ensemble and incapable of stretching to the woodwind pairs, horn quartet, pair of trumpets trombone trio and ophicleide/tuba, as well as timpanist, organist and formidable body of strings that the composer’s large-scale construct requires. A choir that can stretch to 8 parts? Fair enough. Will there be the designated octet of soloists, or will conductor Kevin Power (I assume ’tis he) revert to the usual practice of having only four? For all those reservations, the only one of the work’s 42 numbers that I know is O rest in the Lord which sums up powerfully the composer’s four-square, unexceptionable standard of inspiration for this representative Victorian-era composition.

STUDIO SESSIONS 4

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio

Sunday September 25 at 3 pm

Here is a contemporary program that rivals most of what I’ve heard since moving north in terms of challenging an audience. Well, it looks that way on paper. The QSO is touting this chamber music recital as giving an audition to female and Australian composers. But is this exactly true? First up will be Holly Harrison’s Balderdash of 2017, an entertainment for string quartet which was given multiple outings at the Melbourne International Chamber Music Competition of 2018. Then there’s Caroline Shaw’s Entr’acte of 2011; well, I’m assuming it will be in its original string quartet version. Shaw is certainly a woman composer, but she’s American. Not (as they say in Seinfeld) that there’s anything wrong with that, and it spreads the net somewhat wider: you don’t have to be both a woman and Australian to get a hearing this afternoon. Both works will be performed by violinists Sonia Wilson and Nicholas Thin, viola Nicole Greentree and cello Matthew Kinmont. Another entrant in these programmatic lists is Melbourne-born Harry Sdraulig, whose Meridian won the Arcadia Winds Composition Prize of 2020, and who is also qualified to be here as he’s Australian, if a man. For a mystery contributor, we have another wind quintet by ‘Green’ This could be Christina Green, who is based in Melbourne. It may be Thomas Green, a well-known presence in Brisbane. It might even refer to Brooke Green, although her interests lie more in strings than in wind composition. Whoever it turns out to be, his/her score and Meridian will be presented by flute Alison Mitchell, clarinet Irit Silver, bass clarinet Nicholas Harmsen, bassoon Nicole Tait, and horn Lauren Manuel. Which line-up leaves one rather major problem unsolved: we don’t know about the Green piece, but who from the QSO ranks will play the oboe line for Sdraulig? Huw Jones? Sarah Meagher? Alexa Murray? Or perhaps Vivienne Brooke indulging in some extra-cor anglais moonlighting?

SCHUBERT’S TROUT

Australian Chamber Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Monday September 26 at 7 pm

Central to this small-sized recital is the presence of pianist/composer Olli Mustonen, a musician who can delight and debilitate in turn. He’s become a regular visitor to this country over the last two decades and he has proved to be an asset in live performances on this scale, more so than in orchestral events; that’s been my experience, so far. He is part of an ACO-extracted ensemble that mounts the Schubert gem: one of the more delectable ways I can think of to spend a lazy 40 minutes or so. The other contributors are either Satu Vanska or Liisa Pallandi on violin, viola Stefanie Farrands, cello Timo-Veikko Valve, and double bass Maxime Bibeau. Before interval, a Bibeau-less ensemble will present Milhaud’s jazz-saturated La creation du monde ballet in the composer’s arrangement for piano and string quartet. Following this quarter-hour of cross-fertilization, Mustonen presents his own Piano Quintet of 2015 – the Milhaud format, rather than the Schubert idiosyncrasy. He’s a very competent composer and his three movements’ titles indicate his emotional tendencies: Drammatico e passionato; Quasi una passacaglia (Andantino); Finale (Misterioso). I heard this work some years ago and a repeated encounter convinces me that its language is hyper-emotional in a post-Romantic manner, on a par with the brilliantly contrived, skin-deep intellectual plunges of Britten.

MEDITERRANEAN

Avi Avital & Giovanni Sollima

Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University

Tuesday September 27

You’d have to assume that this partnership came about through the players themselves, rather than an ad hoc something initiated by sponsors Musica Viva Australia. Let’s be brutally honest: the repertoire of original works for mandolin and cello is slim. What exactly can you perform when both instruments present as an unadorned duo? Lots of arrangements, of course: transcriptions, transpositions, transformations, transpondences for all I know. Our musical couple has roamed around the inland sea and come up with some folk-music to amplify their material: two traditional Sephardic melodies, one from Turkey, another from Macedonia, and one from Italy’s Salento region. As another source, publicity material mentions Bulgaria which these days is not strictly Mediterranean. The rest comprise a Scarlatti sonata, another one by Castello, a Frescobaldi canzone, and a slew of pieces by Sollima himself, along with a piano solo from 1939 by his father Eliodoro: Tarantella orientale. The cellist gives us an improvisation and the first movement, Federico II, of his string quartet Il viaggio in Italia; then, the second movement – Alep (pesce) – from his Il bestiario di Leonardo that was originally written for guitar quartet. Your projected experience involves a fair amount of mind-opening, particularly if you’re used to regular Musica Viva operations, but a reassuring factor for any agnostic comes through the virtuosity of both musicians involved.

August 2022 Diary

RAY CHEN

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Thursday August 11 at 8 pm

The young Taiwanese/Australian violinist has special ties with Brisbane where he carried all before him as an extraordinarily talented pre-teen. His career since leaving the Sydney Conservatorium has been remarkable, distinguished by winning the 2008 Yehudi Menuhin Competition and the 2009 Queen Elisabeth, named for one of the few worthwhile European royals of the last century. It was a tedious struggle but I eventually found out what Chen is performing, with the support of Melbourne pianist Timothy Young. The duo will work through Beethoven’s Violin Sonata No. 8 in G, the one that precedes the Kreutzer and which is welcome for its extended, sunny disposition. Also, patrons will hear Stravinsky’s Divertimento of 1934, wheedled out of his The Fairy’s Kiss ballet for Samuel Dushkin. Bach’s solo E Major Partita, last in the set, stands out for that non-stop Preludio that appealed so much to Robert Moog; Chen plays all six (seven) movements. He also works through two of Brahms’ Hungarian Dances in arrangements by Joachim (No. 7) and Kreisler (No. 17), before taking on Sarasate’s Gypsy Airs – a piece I heard him play some years ago with brilliant effectiveness. I fear this event may be sold out; the one stalls seat I found was going for $250. I like both players, but not at that price.

FOUR LAST SONGS

Brisbane Music Festival

Loyal Hope of the Valley Lodge, Fortitude Valley

Friday August 12 at 6:30 pm

No, Alex Raineri hasn’t managed to cobble together the large orchestra that Strauss called into being for this farewell to arms. Indeed, I’m going on the assumption that soprano Rebecca Cassidy will have pianist Raineri’s backing only, although another guest on this program – violinist Courtenay Cleary – may come in to bat for the central violin solo in Beim Schlafengehen. This is a big ask for Raineri who has to suggest a world of warmth and orchestral detail; but then, he made a pretty fair fist of the transcribed Dance of the Seven Veils from Salome which he performed last year. Showing us more of his talents, Raineri also plays Bach’s transcription for organ of Vivaldi’s RV 565, for which D minor Concerto the pedal line is mercifully not too taxing. The only other artist mentioned as contributing is Drew Gilchrist who will take front spot for Margaret Sutherland’s 1949 Sonata for clarinet and piano in two movements. Cleary’s also performing a chamber work in Arthur Benjamin’s heart-on-sleeve Sonatina for violin and piano of 1924. All respect to Cassidy for taking on those long lyrical arches but I’d be anticipating with more interest the Australian pieces which attract much fewer public performances.

DEFIANT WOMEN

Brisbane Music Festival

Loyal Hope of the Valley Lodge, Fortitude Valley

Saturday August 13 at 6:30 pm

It could be part of the Me Too movement’s attempts to find valuable avatars; this recital focuses on female composers of the Baroque. The details of exactly what is being sung or played have not been made clear but the roll-call is impressive. Naturally enough, the list is headed by Barbara Strozzi, one of the most published composers of her time who lived a life that is half open-book, half innuendo. Less sensational was Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre, a Louis XIV musician who also enjoyed considerable success in her lifetime. Her countrywoman Mlle Guedon de Presles was primarily a singer but also wrote the first book of airs written and published by a woman. Lady Mary Dering’s output survives, thanks to its publication by Lawes, but it comprises only three pieces, all songs: the first music by a woman published in England. Mlle Bocquet, a lutenist, composed music for her instrument; I can’t find anything else in her output. Rosa Giacinta Badalla had a book of solo motets published in her lifetime, as well as two cantatas. Providing a bit of balance to an almost-all Italian/French program comes Countess Amalia Katharina von Waldeck-Eisenberg who published Pietist poems and songs in 1692. All very well, but I don’t know how defiant any/all of these women were; the music will tell us, undoubtedly. Performing these rarities are soprano Bethany Shepherd, guitarist Jeremy Stafford, cellist Katherine Philp, and harpsichordist (who else?) Alex Raineri.

ORCHESTRAL ADVENTURES

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Saturday August 13 at 7:30 pm

Newly-ordained associate conductor for the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, Elena Schwarz is here to direct this one-night, one-off program which features Jack Liebeck, who takes over as the new controller of the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, while maintaining a high activity level in a wide-ranging solo career. He’s here to play the middle one of the canonic Mozart violin concertos, No. 3 in G. It’s one of the quirky joyful discoveries of this craft to know that the composer wrote the whole set by the time he was 19; yes, he didn’t have time to waste but this rate of focused production still dumbfounds me. Schwarz conducts the Shostakovich E flat Symphony No. 9, written after World War II and a disappointment to some of that conflict’s winners because of its lack of heroic blather. Mind you, these are the same people who misinterpreted the Symphony No. 5 for decades. This five-movement score only lasts for about 25 minutes which (so far as I can judge) will suit the QSO patrons to a T. As a prelude to the swelling scene, Schwarz leads her players in the Australian premiere of Piece 43 for Now, written in 2020 by Brisbane-born Cathy Milliken. This chamber orchestra-sized piece takes its inspiration from three sources: the COVID-19 lockdown of March 2020; the August 2020 police shooting of Jakob Blake in Kenosha, Wisconsin; and Shakespeare’s Sonnet 43 – When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see. Well, that’s plenty to be going on with, especially seven orchestral explosions representing the shots that crippled Blake for life. But you have to ask yourself: in a state that has produced intellectual debris like Palmer, Hanson and Katter, do black lives matter?

THE CROWD & I

Australian Chamber Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Monday August 15 at 7 pm

This, by my count, is the fourth of Richard Tognetti‘s documentary films with musical accompaniment, following a path set by Mountain (2017), The Reef (2013) and Luminous (2005). Only the first-born of these has come my way as a reviewer, the other two experienced partially, in fragments. You get lots of suggestive film/photography – in this instance, showing massed humanity in all its goriness – and a selection of whole pieces (sometimes) and extracts (more often) from scores that the creators find appropriate. Speaking of the onlie begetters, they are Tognetti, director Nigel Jamieson, and cinematographer Jon Frank. To be honest, I can take or leave the film component of exercises like this, being able to find only the most superficial relationships between the seen and the heard. So, for the latter, we are promised that the ACO will be airing music by Chopin, Ives, Shostakovich, Sibelius and Tognetti himself – although I think that listing may be partial only. Yes, the purpose is admirable: to give us snapshots of humanity and show us that we are part of the main. Will we learn much more than this? Let’s wait and see.

ICONIC CLASSICS

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio, Southbank

Wednesday August 17 at 10 am

They’re scraps of classics, the pieces on this program; there is only one discrete score. A good many events from the QSO belong to this bitty genre and they lead you to think that the administration finds benefit in offering Reader’s Digest-type entertainments; possibly, there’s a tapping-in to a different audience to the one that is prepared to sit through the Mahler Symphony No. 3 later in this month. It’s sort of working on the same premise that spoon-feeds the classics to children, popular wisdom being that kids can’t concentrate for extended periods. Maybe so: for me, it all depends on the presentation as mediocre playing leads to impatience when you’re 7 or when you reach 70. Guy Noble serves the dual role of conductor and host for this concert; an ideal choice for these circumstances. Setting the bar low from the start comes The Toreadors, the concluding movement from Guiraud’s Suite No. 1 from Bizet’s Carmen. Move to a scrap from John Williams’ score for E.T., then Morricone’s well-known Gabriel’s Oboe from Roland Joffe’s film The Mission – a delight for any delusional Jesuit. Later, Noble leads his forces in music from Babe, a film which, as I recall, features strongly the fourth movement to Saint-Saens’ Symphony No. 3, complete with four-hands piano and organ (do they have one in the Studio?). A bow in the direction of Vienna with the Radetzky March from Strauss Vater will probably lead to mass-clapping, like it does at those predictable New Year’s concerts; what the Austrians call audience participation. But this is the complete piece mentioned above. Some masterworks are truncated: Beethoven’s C minor Symphony, first movement only; Eine kleine Nachtmusik, the opening Allegro only. And finally, two ballet score extracts: the second movement from Elena Kats-Chernin’s Wild Swans Suite, Eliza aria; and the finale to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake which should send everyone home feeling appropriately apotheosized.

The performance will be repeated on August 18 at 10 am and 11:30 am.

SUBITO

Brisbane Music Festival

Opera Queensland Studio, Southbank

Wednesday August 17 at 6:30 pm

British violinist Victoria Sayles makes her only Australian recital appearance here. Accompanied by Festival director Alex Raineri, she plays a pretty orthodox program that starts with Mozart: the two-movement Sonata in E Minor K. 304, written about the time of the death of Mozart’s mother, and his only work in this particular key. Sayles wraps up her demonstration with Elgar’s Violin Sonata, also in E minor and coming from the last active burst in the composer’s life. You hear it rarely in live performance but its manifold merits argue for it against criticism of Elgar’s later years’ introspection. In the evening’s middle comes Lutoslawski’s Subito, a duet written in 1992. As its title suggests, it’s abrupt, compressed (less than 5 minutes), and takes no prisoners. As a companion relief, Sayles and Raineri give an outing to Takemitsu’s Distance de fee of 1951 where the Japanese composer extends the line running from Debussy through to Messiaen, his teacher. A well-hinged program, pivoting on two substantial sonatas with a soft centre comprising two samples of 20th century fare by writers with individual voices.

MOONDRUNK

Brisbane Music Festival

Opera Queensland Studio, Southbank

Thursday August 18 at 7 pm

Any festival that gives you Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire is doing right by its patrons. The epoch-shredding melodrama of 1912 remains one of the corner-stones of 20th century composition, at the apex of modernism and a thorny test for its executants. Speaking of which, the original personnel number has been expanded here; from the original sextet, this performance boasts seven participants. That dilation comes about because the violin/viola part has been divided between Courtenay Cleary and Nicole Greentree. For the rest, Jonathan Henderson has charge of the flute/piccolo lines, Drew Gilchrist is undertaking the clarinet in A/clarinet in B flat/bass clarinet trio, Trish Dean will play the cello part, and festival director Alex Raineri presides at the all-important piano. Our Sprechstimme expert is Tabatha McFadyen, no stranger to Brisbane as a director, and an authority on the vocal part of Schoenberg’s String Quartet No. 2. It will be a great pleasure to hear this taxing vocal/speaking part in capable hands (so to speak) for once. Not complaining, mind you, but this will be a pretty focused night: the work lasts about 40 minutes. And it will be sung/chanted in English, which I think is in line with the composer’s preference for the vernacular wherever Pierrot is performed.

HOMEGROWN

Brisbane Music Festival

Opera Queensland Studio, Southbank

Friday August 19 at 7 am

And who better to embody this title than a collection of Australian female composers? Soprano Rebecca Cassidy, having negotiated the Four Last Songs of Strauss a week ago, now has the joy of singing a program of local bon-bons, accompanied by festival director Alex Raineri. No details are available of what is being presented; just a list of names from recent historical reaches, including a world premiere by Deborah Cheetham who was the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s composer in residence for 2020. There will be blasts from the recent past by Margaret Sutherland, Peggy Glanville-Hicks, Dulcie Holland, Miriam Hyde, Queensland’s own Betty Beath, and American-born Mary Mageau. Also, we hear from some senior composers who are still with us – Helen Gifford, Elena Kats-Chernin and Linda Kouvaras, as well as a younger voice in yet another Queensland-born writer, Lisa Cheney. That’s a fine collection; as varied in number of contributors as a Joan Sutherland recital program, but with somewhat more focus on sources than what looks good on me.

75TH BIRTHDAY CONCERT

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Friday August 19 at 7:30 pm

How do you celebrate achieving 75 years of existence? If you’re sensible, you let the occasion pass without drawing attention to yourself; it’s an achievement of sorts, but not that extraordinary. Longevity starts at 100, I think; the lead-up is unremarkable these days. Still, the QSO is obviously happy to have come of age in the sense of graduating into an exclusive set; or it may be just happy to have lasted, given the hurdles put in place for any symphony orchestra’s continued existence. To observe this underwhelming feat, the organization is bringing in two conductors: Johannes Fritzsch, who has been associated with the QSO officially since 2008 and has recently returned as chief conductor; and Guy Noble, one of the country’s most well-known musical personalities and all-rounders. Fritzsch rounds off the occasion with Respighi’s Pines of Rome, which will showcase the QSO, in a way: all colour, no substance. He also directs percussionist Chantel Chen, the QSO’s 2022 Young Instrumentalist prize-winner, in Keiko Abe’s Prism Rhapsody for Marimba and Orchestra. Well, sort of: we won’t hear the full thing, but excerpts – in keeping with the administration’s penchant for fragmentation. Noble has charge of Sean O’Boyle’s 2001 Concerto for Didgeridoo, with soloist Chris Williams. Again, sort of: we will hear only the last of the work’s four movements – Fire. And Noble also repeats his interpretation of the Swan Lake Finale, resuscitated from the Iconic Classics program of two days previous. Not sure who has the job of re-animating Strauss’s Radetzky March – also from the collation of August 17 – and you’d have to assume that the Fanfare for the Seventy-Fifth Birthday of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra will play itself if it’s an all-brass/timpani undertaking in the best Copland manner. The composer of this last is Craig Allister Young, one of the more active (extra-QSO) members of the organization’s cello septet.

SUPERFAMOUS

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Saturday August 20 at 7:30 pm

Here’s Guy Noble back to head a program that is half a repeat of the Iconic Classics menu of August 17/18. Kats-Chernin’s Eliza Aria from the Wild Swans ballet suite, Morricone’s Gabriel’s Oboe from The Mission film, the final pages of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake ballet, John Williams’ Adventures on Earth from the E.T. soundtrack, and the opening Allegro to Mozart’s Eine kleine Nachtmusik serenade all re-appear. True, there are some novelties: Rossini’s The Barber of Seville Overture, Debussy’s Clair de lune as orchestrated by Stokowski, the second movement to Beethoven’s A Major Symphony, the Nimrod dirge from Elgar’s Enigma Variations and – most impressive of all – Michael Giacchino’s Full Mayhem from the soundtrack to The Incredibles computer-animated film. Now, the promoters are pushing this event as ‘For all those people new to classical music that think, “I just want to hear the really famous pieces” – this concert is for you.’ Good luck with that. Do you think your one-time first-go patrons will come back, given the extracts to be aired? That Mozart piece has been bastardized beyond belief; God knows what a newcomer will make of Kats-Chernin’s segment; and why play the Beethoven Allegretto when you could have energized the audience with the symphony’s final Allegro con brio? Still, the powers-that-be must know what they’re doing.

MAHLER 3

Brisbane Chorale

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Saturday August 27 at 7 pm

I’ve heard a few performances live of this mammoth symphony. Markus Stenz worked through it as part of his cycle of the complete symphonies. Sir Andrew Davis also gave it to us when he was attempting to mount the same series. And I heard it again from Stenz when the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra visited Sydney in the Olympics year as part of a concomitant cultural festival. I don’t understand what it is about this composer’s large-scale constructs that proves so attractive to officials in charge of celebrations. For example, to mark the centenary of Federation, we endured No. 8 in the Exhibition Building; I’m still struggling to see how No. 3 relates to competitive sport. And as for using No. 2 as a demonstration of the improved acoustics in Sydney’s Opera House Concert Hall, the mind boggles. What were they demonstrating, exactly? How a massive orchestral fabric has improved in sound quality because the suspended reflectors have been replaced? If the hall did its job properly, you wouldn’t need them. Ditto the box fronts’ panels. A better indication of acoustic quality would have come from a Gabrieli canzone, Webern’s Symphonie, Penderecki’s Threnody, Ionisation, the Gran Partita, and the Janacek Sinfonietta for a clear big sound – not Mahler’s waffling. All that content would give you some precise ideas on how the ‘new’ acoustic works. Anyway, here comes Brisbane’s home-grown Mahler, the often teeth-on-edge No. 3 in D minor. Not all the Chorale is needed; only the women appear, having to wait around (just like the unfortunate choir in the Resurrection Symphony), in this case for the second-last movement. So does the children’s choir, in this case that of the Queensland Youth Orchestra who will be put to work by Simon Hewett, the QYO’s spanking new Music Director. Mezzo Deborah Humble, who came in as a last-minute replacement for Michelle DeYoung at Sydney’s extravaganza on July 22, will have the pleasure of giving us Mahler’s fourth movement setting of Nietzsche’s O Mensch! Gib acht! verses.

KREUTZER

Brisbane Music Festival

St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Kangaroo Point

Sunday August 28 at 3 pm

Put to further use in the initial flurries of this festival, Courtenay Cleary is performing one of the violin repertoire’s cornerstones: Beethoven’s Sonata No. 9 in A Major, yclept Kreutzer following its re-dedication to a violinist who never played it. The more fool he, as it is one of the most exhilarating duos to work through, even for mediocre performers. At this stage, it probably doesn’t need noting, but I will anyway: the accompanist is festival director and factotum Alex Raineri. After this sonata’s exuberant finale, both artists will be joined by violinist Miriam Niessl and cellist Daniel Shearer for a work that I’ve never heard: Korngold’s Suite Op. 23. This quartet is in five movements and is constructed on a broad canvas, although the piano part is for left hand alone; the work was commissioned by Paul Wittgenstein for his own use. You’ll get your money’s worth at this event: both works last well over half-an-hour each.

ITALIAN SONGBOOK

Brisbane Music Festival

St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Kangaroo Point

Sunday August 28 at 6:30 pm

Here’s another special, the sort of thing you expect to hear at a festival. Soprano Alexandra Flood and baritone Alexander York are accompanied by festival guru Alex (three of them!) Raineri in the two volumes of Wolf’s Italienisches Liederbuch. There are a lot to get through: 22 in the first book, 24 in the second. The practice has been that two singers alternate in their performance, the whole thing taking between 75 and 80 minutes. The composer has had wonderful interpreters, both male and female, but you can go some years without coming across any Wolf lieder on a recital program; indeed, the only Wolf I’ve heard in the last decade has been the Italian Serenade, a quick-witted exhibition piece for string quartet. On this night, the musicians take a break between the books, during which interval complimentary cannoli and wine will be served. Flood, originally from Victoria, is a well-travelled artist, a good part of her time spent in German opera houses and concert halls; Wisconsin-born York is similarly internationalist, with a recent accent on France. He and Flood sang this Wolf cycle in Munich on July 7 this year, so they should arrive here pretty well-prepared.

July 2022 Diary

Is it safe to bring back The Diary? Let’s hope that Monkeypox doesn’t have the virulent power of COVID-19, so that the teetering semblance of normality that is currently prevailing continues, or even strengthens.

Friday July 1 at 7:30 pm

FESTIVAL OPENING

Claire Edwardes, Alex Raineri

Salvation Army Brisbane City Temple, 167 Ann St.

To start his annual Brisbane Music Festival with some sonic oomph, director/pianist Alex Raineri is pairing up with percussionist Edwardes. If they each had a double, we might have enjoyed the Bartok Sonata; as it is, the bag on offer looks very mixed with only one composer’s name familiar to me (Alex Turley), one other possibly half-recalled (Matthew Shlomowitz), and the other four complete strangers. ‘Macens’, I presume, is Ella Macens, a 30-year-old Sydney writer of Latvian extraction; Peggy Polias is another Sydney artist moving into the central years of her creative life with a solid academic pedigree. Also with a Sydney background is Cyrus Meurant, many of whose works appear to be written for theatre or dance, and so would not have hit my field of operations. Turley from Western Australia lived for some time in Melbourne as well as Sydney. So, all Australians, including expatriate Turley, originally from Adelaide. Odd one out is Nicole Lizee, a Canadian composer of eclectic output – by which I mean that her influences are wide-ranging and ‘modern’, although what that entails when used in reference to a former indie rock band member is probably best left unexplored. Or. if you want to leave it all in the laps of the gods, join Edwardes and Raineri in their exposition of this ‘kaleidoscopically colourful’ hour’s music-making.

Saturday July 2 at 3 pm

MOTIONS

Paul Dean, Alex Raineri

Salvation Army Brisbane City Temple, 167 Ann St.

I suppose the main feature for some of us at this afternoon recital will be the Brahms Sonata No. 2 in E flat for Dean’s clarinet and Raineri’s piano. They don’t come more canonic in that wind instrument’s repertoire than this, the second of two produced just before the composer’s death, and this could serve as a congenial filling-out of recent Brahms-through-Raineri experiences, thanks to the pianist’s recent Move recording of the Sonata No. 1 with clarinet Luke Carbon. Dean premieres his own Miniatures, presumably the pieces for clarinet and piano from 70 works written for other musicians in lockdown during 2020. Jorg Widmann’s Five Fragments won’t take long, being exactly what the composer promised. As well, more Australian content comes with Catherine Likhuta‘s 2010 composition for alto saxophone and piano that gives this recital its name; I’m assuming that Dean will play the clarinet arrangement that appears in the composer’s list of compositions.

Tuesday July 12 at 7:30 pm

RETURN TO THE STAGE

Australian Youth Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sir Mark Elder, venerable director of the Halle Orchestra, is visiting this colony once more, this time to take the AYO’s aspirational players through a 70-minute non-stop program of Berlioz and Strauss. I suppose the stage return referred to is that of the AYO itself; it probably doesn’t refer to Strauss, although his output usually shows that he was never off it. This evening, we hear An Alpine Symphony, which is one of the great landscape works in the Western repertoire, complete with offstage hunting horns, a storm, sunrise, sunset, cowbells, a waterfall, sheep bleats. On top of the massive orchestra, you get a wind machine and even the organ roars out in the tempest scene. And that’s what it is: a big tone poem packed with musical set-changes. Before this extravaganza, the AYO will play Berlioz’s Les francs-juges Overture: part of one of the composer’s first failures. Not that the opera was intrinsically bad; how can we tell when nobody got to hear it? But the composer destroyed his manuscript and revisions, only a few scraps remaining of which this overture is one; in musicological terms, his first surviving work for orchestra.

Wednesday July 13 at 7:30 pm

EAST MEETS WEST

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Local lad Dane Lam conducts this program where we are shown just how much European musical concepts have invaded the brave new world of Mao Zedong and his successors. Top of the list will be the Yellow River Piano Concerto, written by a panel of two/three at the command of Jiang Qing of happy memory, and displaying to all the world the aspirations of the nation. Soloist is Tony Lee who carried all before him at the Sydney International Piano Competition of 2016. A more sensitive type of chauvinism comes in the Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto, written by two students in 1959 and performed here by Anna Da Silva Chen. Other details are not available but you are promised sopranos Victoria Lambourn and Sharon Zhai, with guzheng young artist Angie Liu coming up from Sydney to infuse a touch of exoticism through her instrument of fixed and moveable bridges . I’m assuming the singers will present some standard West Meets East repertoire – perhaps a touch of Liu and/or Turandot?

Thursday July 14 at 12 pm

QUIRKY

Real and Diverse Theatre/Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Cremorne Theatre, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Here is an offshoot of our recent pandemic, the RAD Theatre people showing us how our daily life regularities altered; whether for good or ill, or both, I guess we’ll find out. The ensemble is at pains to state that their piece is not about COVID but rather how cast members reacted to and coped with the new order. As for the music, that has been written by Nicole Murphy, a name that doesn’t ring any bells but whose career has been packed with activity, both here and in the United States (of America). Nothing is explicit about the QSO’s role in all this, but you’d have to guess that the forces are chamber-size when the promotional spiel speaks of ‘musicians from [the] Queensland Symphony Orchestra’.

The performance will be repeated on Friday July 15 at 7:30 pm and on Saturday July 16 at 2 pm.

Thursday July 14 at 7 pm

A WINTER’S JOURNEY

Allan Clayton, Kate Golla

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

In this year’s Musica Viva season, Schubert’s mighty, depressing song cycle will be performed by English tenor Clayton and Sydney-born, London-based Golla. It should be a musical discovery for most of us in Brisbane because I don’t think Clayton has worked here before, and Golla moved to the UK pretty soon after finishing a stint as repetiteur and coach with Opera Australia. To add to the stimulation, Lindy Hume is directing this performance, with videographer Dave Bergman projecting large-scale backdrops of Fred Williams paintings – 24 of them, just like the cycle’s number of songs! I wish everybody well, of course, but the last time I witnessed a staged Winterreise was at the Melbourne International Festival of 2004 when English baritone Simon Keenlyside sang and danced the music – sort of. I thought much of that exercise was ludicrous miming; other members on the panel of the newspaper I was writing for considered it worthy of an award as Performance of the Festival. I remain(ed) unconvinced and, proving that I was in the right, most of them are dead now (however, not Keenlyside).

Wednesday July 20 at 7:30 am

LA LUNE BLANCHE

Ensemble Q

City Workshop, 139 Charlotte St.

A real knock-’em-down chamber music recital from this group which boasts a variety of instruments at its disposal. At the core comes a string quartet: violins Natsuko Yoshimoto and Anne Horton, viola Imants Larsens, cello Trish Dean. Two other performers will feature in proceedings: Q guru Paul Dean on clarinet and soprano Eva Kong. And what do you get? There’s some Mozart, a touch of Faure, a little scrap of Borodin, and various whispers from Webern. As far as Kong is concerned, Reynaldo Hahn is mentioned as a contributor to the program, so you’d anticipate a song or six; not much else is feasible as all the chamber music by Hahn that I can find involves piano. The Borodin would have to be that string quartet, wouldn’t it? As for Mozart, it could be anything, especially if you take into account ad hoc arrangements. A Faure song – like La lune blanche – would be welcome. But the Webern? The Five Movements? The Six Bagatelles? The String Quartet? The String Trio? Then there’s the white moon suggestion in this music-of-the-night celebration, or does that just apply to one song? Whatever, you’re encouraged to bring champagne – which, at my age, is the ultimate debilitating narcotic as far as listening to nocturnal music goes.

Sunday July 24 at 11:30 am

FANTASY AND FOLKLORE

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

This is one for the kids, the recommended audience age being 6+ (good luck with keeping them enthralled for 80 minutes). Umberto Clerici, having completed his sea-change from cellist to conductor, will take his young auditors through a miscellany, starting with Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain, presumably in the Rimsky whizz-bang orchestration and without Walt Disney’s Fantasia film interpretation. A Tchaikovsky valse from The Sleeping Beauty ballet suite, a few of Ravel’s Mother Goose miniatures, the first movement to Vaughan Williams’ Oboe Concerto with Huw Jones the soloist, that most equine of warhorses in Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries (without the girls), Dvorak’s The Noon Witch tone poem (has anybody heard that in live performance? I haven’t) – most of these fall under the concert’s titular umbrella, apart from the concerto which might suggest The Shire to some of us. Speaking of films, the orchestra plays John Williams’ The Flight to Neverland from Hook, which summons up adventure and fantasy as efficiently as any other of the American’s more forgettable scores. And an indirect reference to our world today emerges with Catherine Likhuta‘s Rituals of Heartland which is based on musical motifs from the composer’s native Ukraine. This work was written for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra’s Cybec 21st Century Composers program of February 2018, well before the abomination that struck Likhuta’s birth country, that pointless disaster emanating from Ukraine’s large neighbour, whose leader should be – like Arthur Miller’s Abigail – cut out of the world.

Friday July 29 at 11:30 am

TRIUMPHANT TCHAIKOVSKY

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Yes, it is Tchaikovsky at his most affirmative as the QSO takes on the Symphony No. 4 in F minor in this program’s second half. Leading the players through this weltering masterpiece is conductor Giordano Bellincampi, an Italian-Danish musician who is currently music director of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra; I’m unsure whether he has worked before in this country. He also will exercise his talents on the overture to Verdi’s Nabucco and the Intermezzo that opens Act 3 of Manon Lescaut by Puccini. The concert’s soloist is tenor Kang Wang, well-known in Queensland as he has sung many times with the QSO, as well as appearing with Opera Queensland. He gets to thrill the audience with more Puccini in Nessun dorma and Che gelida manina. As well as these over-familiar favourites, we hear two Verdi rarities: Adorno’s enraged O inferno/Sento avvampar nell’anima from Simon Boccanegra; and Quando le sere e placido, Rodolfo’s Act 2 aria in Luisa Miller – both examples of characters who have been emotionally diddled.

This program will be repeated on Saturday July 30 at 7:30 pm

Sunday July 31 at 3:30 pm

MAHLER & STRAUSS

Leanne Kenneally, Caitlin Weal, Alla Yarosh, Francis Atkins

St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Kangaroo Point

Sopranos Kenneally and Weal eventually team up with mezzo Yarosh for the final trio from Der Rosenkavalier in this lush late-Romantic program, pianist Atkins having to provide a substitute for that lush orchestral fabric that eventually overwhelms the opera’s three main female singers as all those 6/4 chords have to be resolved. More importantly, someone is singing Mahler’s Kindertotenlieder; probably the mezzo, because the vocal line suits that register. And we are promised some very familiar Strauss songs, including Allerseelen and that superbly robust-yet-hushed Standchen. Kenneally is a well-known quantity; the other two singers are hopefully (as we say ad nauseam in sports interviews) on their paths to satisfying careers.

April Diary

Wednesday April 1

SERIOUS BUSINESS – AN APRIL FOOLS DAY CONCERT

Conservatorium of Music, Griffith University

Ian Hanger Recital Hall, Queensland Conservatorium at 1:05

What passes for an April Fool north of the Tweed?   This concert may hold the answer.  On the other hand, it could be a simple-minded come-on from a latter-day advertising sad sack; it could be just a few smart young people from the Con using the day’s nickname as a fulcrum for the title of their musical exercise.   Whatever the case, students from the Conservatorium are presenting a program of well-known japes.  Among these are Haydn’s Joke String Quartet Op. 33 No. 2 in E flat where the humour is both broad and refined; Mozart is necessarily represented by his A Musical Joke sextet for two horns and string quartet in which the best of the laughs are formal; Beethoven used the same instruments as Mozart for his three-movement  Horn Sextet Op. 81b.   And that fills out the great Classical trinity’s essays at raising levity, even though few of us know the last of these and are unaware of its relationship to the  April Fool theme.   To end, we get Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals, that great 14-movement compendium of inspired effects which may be given in its original scoring for two pianos, string quintet, flute, clarinet, glass harmonica and xylophone.   Or maybe not.   Whatever comes up on the day, the organizers have it right: getting through this program is going to be a serious concern for the players, no matter how much we are entertained.

 

Thursday April 2

COMPASSION

Camerata

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 7 pm

At this first concert for the year from Brisbane’s chamber orchestra, the focus will fall on a well-travelled collaboration between Nigel Westlake and Lior which gives this concert its title.   I first heard this local equivalent to The Song of the Earth about six years ago in the Sidney Myer Music Bowl; it’s a fine vehicle for the singer (as far as I can work out, he has taken part in every performance since the first one in 2013) who performs tonight, and a very accessible work that carries its philosophical and humanitarian burdens lightly.   While it exists in two versions, you’d anticipate that Camerata will perform the later one that eschews the original large orchestra scoring for the reduced forces of string quartet, double bass, piano and percussion as a background for the tenor’s keening line.   Artistic director Brendan Joyce opens the night with Beethoven’s Grosse Fuge in one of its string orchestra manifestations.   Before the short La Oracion del torero by Turina, presumably in its 1926 string orchestra raiment, we hear the equally brief Echorus for Two Violins and String Orchestra by Phillip Glass, a reworking of the composer’s Etude No. 2.    A 1967 poem by Ginsberg, Wales Visitation, goes with the music and it will be read by local actor Barbara Lowing.   This composite is somehow a tribute to Yehudi Menuhin who might have been nonplussed by the score which is, as usual, an exploration of a simple arpeggio.

 

Friday April 3

MOZART’S JUPITER

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 11 am

Last month, the young musicians of Griffith University’s Conservatorium of Music had their say on Mozart’s last symphony; today, the state’s top professionals have their way with it.   Conductor Alexandre Bloch is in charge; getting on for 35 years old, he has conducted the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra (2016) and the Australian Youth Orchestra (2014).   Now he comes to Brisbane to direct the great C Major symphony.   He begins this matinee with more Mozart: the Don Giovanni Overture with its composer-supplied concert ending.   In pride of place comes soprano Emma Pearson to sing the solo line in Les Illuminations by Britten – another child prodigy, if not as flashy a one as Mozart.  Thanks to Peter Pears, many people forget that the cycle – settings of Rimbaud – was originally written for the female voice and the few times I’ve come across it in live performance over recent years, sopranos have done the honours.  The work is brilliant in its melodic sweep and mastery of string orchestral writing.   No, it’s not profound or mentally challenging, but neither is the poetry.   As with a fair amount of music by the British composer, you do best to be content with its splendid surface.

This program will be repeated on Saturday April 4 at 7:30 pm at which the Don Giovanni Overture will be replaced by Schubert’s B minor and Unfinished Symphony.

 

Friday April 3

SEEN BUT NOT HER

Muses Trio and Vulcana

Visy Theatre, Brisbane Powerhouse at 7:30 pm

A collaboration between two organizations, this event is a performance that will ‘celebrate women being heard and taking up space’.  As all the performers are female, that shouldn’t be too difficult to carry out.   As far as the musical component goes, this will be provided by the Muses Trio: violin Christa Powell, cello Louise King, piano Therese Milanovic; an ensemble that has made an intentional choice to promote music by women composers.  There’s no indication as to what music will be played, however. But the more overtly physical component of this music theatre entertainment comes from Vulcana Circus, an organization that also seems to concentrate on expanding and exposing the talents of female artists.   It all sounds like a version of the sort of concept that we have seen in the past from the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Circa, although this latter collaboration finds its musical sources in more reactionary reaches.   You’d hope that the evening’s necessary polemic is tempered to a finer edge than the night’s title which probably seemed clever at the planning stage.   Seen But Not Her lasts for 50 minutes.

 

Wednesday April 8

Goldner String Quartet & Piers Lane

Queensland Conservatorium Theatre at 7 pm

As with Garrick Ohlsson’s Musica Viva appearances, there are two programs on offer for this latest in the organization’s international series.   The venerable Sydney quartet and expatriate pianist Lane are collaborating in three piano quintets across both programs: Brahms in F minor,  Korngold in E Major, and Elgar in A minor from the remarkably fecund (for the composer) year of 1918.   The artists have recorded the Korngold (2018) and the Elgar (2010), so the performances ought to be exemplary.   Brisbane gets to hear only the British work.   As well, the Goldners trot out that hoary chestnut, Dvorak in F Major Op. 96 from the American years.   But, as a balance, they will premiere a new String Quartet No. 1 by Adelaide composer  Jakub Jankowski; in fact, this will be its third hearing, after Sydney and Perth.   I’ve had no exposure to this composer’s work, as far as I can tell, but am intrigued by the title that the Musica Viva promotional material gives to this quartet: Kairos.   Which means the proper time: not the correct tempo, but the suitable or appropriate moment.   Granted, that’s old-time Greek; in my family, we use the word to talk about the weather.

 

Wednesday April 15

Leanne Jin

Ian Hanger Recital Hall, Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University at 7:30 pm

This musician is currently studying at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and has a string of awards to her name, including last year’s Lev Vlassenko, the Sydney Eisteddfod Kawai Piano Scholarship and the Sydney Conservatorium Piano Concerto Competition. She has won places at competitions in Vienna and New York, but you have to work hard to find out about her repertoire.    A few concertos: she has fronted the Prokofiev No. 1 and Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, while only last month, she was soloist in Beethoven’s E flat Emperor in Chatswood, Sydney.   As for recital material, two years ago she was playing Haydn’s E flat Sonata Hob. XVI/49, Scriabin’s Sonata No. 2, Liszt’s Paganini Etude No. 2 from the S. 140 collection of six,  Falla’s Four Spanish Pieces, Beethoven’s Sonata in B flat Op. 22 (the one that featured in Garrick Ohlsson’s recent Musica Viva recital), and Schumann’s Kreisleriana.    She’s presenting Scarlatti, Haydn and Rachmaninov on April 28 at the Camberwell Uniting Church in Melbourne, so you might guess that those three composers will feature on tonight’s bill of fare.  Exactly what Jinn will present remains up in the air – a normal state of affairs with these Conservatorium recital programs.    It’s as though you’re expected to come along on trust and be happy with the music that  is served up.   Whatever we do hear, you can be pretty sure it won’t be too adventurous.

 

Sunday April 19

BEETHOVEN, ROSSINI AND WEBER

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio at 3 pm

Here is the second in the QSO’s somewhat checkered chamber music recitals in which success is a hit-or-miss affair.   For all that, they’re popular enough, possibly because of the reasonable price of admission.   This afternoon, the Beethoven 250th birthday celebrations continue with a Rasumovsky, the String Quartet in F op. 59 No. 1 in which the composer gets serious and asks his chamber music interpreters to work hard.    The lucky winners here are violins Alan Smith and Jane Burroughs, viola Nicholas Tomkin and cello Andre Duthoit.   The other major work is Weber’s Trio in G minor for flute (Alison Mitchell), bassoon (Nicole Tait, substituting for the original cello)), and piano (Anna Grinberg, who took part in this year’s first QSO chamber music Sunday afternoon program, herbing powerfully through the Brahms Piano Quintet).   On a lighter note, in the middle come arrangements of arias from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville; well, I’m assuming the intended atmosphere will be on the less hefty side, but who can tell?  These arias (and duets, and trios) have been arranged for two bassoons (Tait and Evan Lewis);  probably the transcriptions by Francois Rene Gebauer of which there are 12.    We’ve all got our favourites, even if the best is over by the time the Act 1 curtain falls; here’s hoping we get All’idea di quell metallo and Zitti, zitti, piano, piano.

 

Sunday April 19

WHEN THE WORLD WAS AT WAR

Ensemble Q

Queensland Conservatorium Theatre, Griffith University South Bank at 3 pm

When isn’t the world in a state of conflict: Taliban? Daesh? Coronavirus? Brexit?  Nonetheless, this recital has a clear reference to the two world wars, although some of the composers involved were more terribly affected than others.   With regard to World War 1, the Ensemble presents two compositions: Ravel’s remembrance of dead soldier-friends Le tombeau de Couperin (piano solo played by Daniel de Borah, or one of the many arrangements?), and Battle-of-the-Somme sacrifice Frederick Septimus Kelly’s 1915 Elegy in memoriam Rupert Brooke for Strings (presumably Richard Divall’s arrangement for string quintet eschewing the original’s harp).   A victim of a Nazi camp, Erwin Schulhoff wrote his four-movement Concertino for flute, viola and double bass in 1925, before the shadows deepened intolerably.   Another Czech composer, Hans Krasa wrote his Passacaglia and Fugue for string trio in the year of his murder at Auschwitz.   Heinrich Kaminski survived World War II but not by much.  His Quintet for clarinet, horn and string trio dates from 1917, so he sits in this program as a sort of middle-man, straddling the World Wars.   The regular Q Ensemble personnel will host German-Canadian guest violinist Annette-Barbara Vogel

 

Friday April 24

OPERA GALA

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 7:30 pm

If there’s no staged opera being offered this late in the year, why not give a greatest hits concert hall selection?    Conductor Giovanni Reggioli has conducted here before, most recently at a similar concert to this one in 2019.    I can’t find out much that is current about his present overseas activities; doubtless he wouldn’t be here unless he had proven his talent.    The concert is a grab-bag, as you’d expect, with four soloists: soprano Emma Pearson, mezzo Bronwyn Douglass, tenor Andrew Goodwin, and bass James Clayton.  The QSO gets to shine in three pieces: the overture to Verdi’s The Sicilian Vespers, the greatest polonaise of all from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin, and the Intermezzo from Act 3 of Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz which tears a passion to tatters on the flimsiest of excuses. Mascagni’s opera is notable for this extract as well as the Cherry Duet in Act 2 which we also get to enjoy; the rest of the piece is lost in transition.   As for more Verdi, all the singers come together for the Rigoletto quartet, and Clayton has the last say of the night with Iago’s profession of faith.   Rossini scores with three extracts, all from The Barber of Seville: Figaro’s self-introduction, Rosina’s opening gambit, then the pair’s duet Dunque io son.    As well as the Polonaise, Eugene Onegin is further exposed in Lensky’s Kuda, kuda and the Letter Scene, Puskai pogibnu, that lays bare the marvellous character of Tatyana.   There will be two Mozart excursions: the Countess’s Dove sono from The Marriage of Figaro, and that magical quartet No ti fidar, o misera from Act 1 of Don Giovanni.   The two Gounod slabs are unexceptional: the love duet O nuit d’amour from Act 3 of Faust, and the opportunity for Pearson to sparkle in Juliet’s waltz song,  Je veux vivre.    Saint-Saens and Donizetti are represented by one aria each: for the former, Delilah’s neglected solo Amour! viens aider ma faiblesse, while Goodwin is gifted with Nemorino’s  Una furtiva lagrima from L’elisir d’amore.

About half of this program will be performed on Sunday April 26 at 11:30 am.

 

Tuesday April 28

Umberto Clerici and Daniel de Borah

Ian Hanger Recital Hall, Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University at 7:30 pm

Clerici is principal cello with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra and my experience of his work has been exclusively through Selby & Friends recitals where he has put in several fine appearances.   Here he is again in that field, partnered with de Borah from the Conservatorium’s staff.    This pianist also has been to my ears a chamber music performer.   From the sketchy details on the concert diary of the Conservatorium, I learn that the pair will play sonatas by Chopin and Mendelssohn.   You’d assume that the Polish composer would be represented by his G minor Cello Sonata.   And you’d be right.  Fortunately, more specific information can be found on de Borah’s website.   Of the two Mendelssohn possibilities, the duo are presenting No. 2 in D Major.   By way of introduction to the proceedings, they will also perform Mendelssohn’s Op. 109 Song Without Words.   Half way through the recital, they intend to play some ‘songs without words’ by Chopin, referring specifically to the composer’s Opus 74.   This work, you’d have to assume, is the composer’s 17 Polish Songs; I’m almost ready to guarantee that Clerici will play the vocal line, not sing it wordlessly.   The scheduled No. 8 ‘song without words’ is indeed in D Major – that finger-snapping hit, Sliczny chlopiec; No. 9 is, however, not in G Major, as the web-site has it, but a Melodia in E minor.

 

 

March Diary

Sunday March 1

Jayson Gilham

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 3 pm

Hailing from the recently drought-stricken, now over-wet town of Dalby, Gilham has carved out for himself a respectable career as a recording and touring pianist based in London but making frequent return visits to home soil.  Appearing under the local Medici Concerts banner, this 33-year-old musician is presenting an all-sorts program with some old-fashioned virtuoso favourites to further the melange’s attractiveness.  Not one, but two Beethoven sonatas: the No. 17 Tempest in D minor with its spinning-wheel finale, and the No. 14 in C sharp minor yclept Moonlight.   Gilham ends with a group of three ‘Schubert’ arrangements by Liszt: Auf dem Wasser zu singen, Der Muller und der Bach, and Widmung which, since my Eileen Joyce days, I’d always thought was written by Schumann.   Anyway, as exotica, the pianist will perform the Chopin Barcarolle, and then two French bagatelles in the unexpectedly mobile Melancolie by Poulenc, and  Chaminade’s lilting Op. 89 Theme varie; these last two serving the function of mid-program encore materiel, to my mind.

 

Tuesday March 3

VIVALDI’S VENICE

Brandenburg  Chamber Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 7:30 pm

French harpist Xavier de Maistre is returning to perform as guest with the Brandenburgers, wedging in one Brisbane appearance between his duties in Sydney and Melbourne.   I’m not as hyperbolically responsive to this musician’s talents as most of my colleagues; his transcription of Smetana’s The Moldau – one of this musician’s signature pieces – works well as far as it goes but there are slabs of the original score that have gone missing.   Anyway, this program looks less of a grab-bag than that for de Maistre’s previous tour because it does focus on Venice in the days of its musical (and economic) greatness; an inspiring vision of a city that these days is an unpleasant tourist trap.   We will hear the Vivaldi Lute Concerto in D, RV 93 in D Major, transcribed for harp soloist; the same composer’s Winter from The Four Seasons, also transcribed from the violin solo original.  There will be a Marcello transcription also of the D minor Oboe Concerto, the one that Bach arranged for solo keyboard.   The evening ends with a concerto grosso from Gregori’s Op. 2 set for two violin soloists, this performance billed as an Australian premiere; possibly it will be given as originally scored.   It’s a tad out of place, as this composer lived in Lucca, but what’s a separation of 300 kilometres between friends?     Salzedo’s transcription of Pescetti’s keyboard Sonata in C minor gives us another Venetian voice from Vivaldi’s time.    For non-Venetian filler, de Maistre plays Parish Alvars’ La Mandoline, called a gran studio in my score and a repeated-note test-piece par excellence.  This 19th century salonesque aberration apart, the rest of the program is laudably homogeneous.

 

Friday March 6

MUSICAL SORCERY

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 11 am

Conducted by Benjamin Northey, the QSO begins this entertainment with Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, irremediably linked in my mind with Walt Disney’s vision of it in his 1940 film Fantasia, ruined at the end by Stokowski condescending to an enthusiastic Mickey Mouse.   The night ends with the Saint-Saens Symphony No. 3, complete with piano (two and four hands) and organ parts; such a fine constituent of contemporary Australian culture, thanks to Nigel Westlake‘s interpolation of its Maestoso into both Babe films.   Lucky Brisbane to have the splendid Klais instrument at the orchestra’s disposal for this rousing score; to general astonishment, Melbourne’s Hamer Hall lost its Casavant organ in the building’s refurbishment 10 years ago, which consequently made performances of works like this one impossible in that city’s main orchestral concert-giving venue.   The night’s soloist, principal horn of the Berlin Philharmonic Stefan Dohr, fronts the first Strauss Concerto in E flat, written when the composer was about 18.   You’d expect a really authoritative reading; I’d be happy for an intonationally accurate one.

This program will be repeated on Saturday March 7 at 7:30 pm with the addition of Brisbane-born Cathy Milliken‘s Earth Plays, Þingvellir or Thingvellir, which refers to a park in Iceland where the country’s first parliament, the Althing, assembled from 930 to 1798.  I’ve not heard the work but would anticipate that the writer might have concentrated on musically illustrating the site’s natural properties rather than its legislative achievements.

 

Saturday March 7

SPANISH SOUVENIRS

Jonathan Henderson and Emily Granger

Old Government House at 3 pm

I came across flautist Henderson in Alex Raineri‘s chamber music festival towards the end of last year, during which he played difficult music in several consecutive recitals.  Here, he partners harpist Granger for an hour-long program in which some of the composers have been named; several details are specific, others inferential.   For example, the players begin with Ravel, who wrote nothing for this duo combination, but we are getting his Piece en forme de Habanera, originally a Vocalise etude for bass voice and piano.   Marin Marais?  A treatment of La Folia from its original viol publication into a version for solo flute.  Then Bizet, and automatically you think of that intermezzo in Carmen between Acts 2 and 3; but that isn’t on offer.   Rather, Henderson flaunts his gifts in Francois Borne’s showy Fantaisie brillante on Carmen tunes, mainly the Habanera and the Act 2 Gypsy Dance.   Here comes Jacques Ibert who wrote some entr’actes for flute and harp, as well as a clutch of splendid harp solos, but who also wrote a piece that simulates the Spanish guitar; I can’t find much in his works that brings Spain to mind, except some Don Quixote-related songs.   Chabrier is unrepresented in this combination’s stakes, so you get another habanera: the piano solo from 1885.   De Falla is a near-absentee from the instrumental chamber music field, so we’ll be treated to the Nocturne piano solo of 1896 and all of the Seven Spanish Folksongs.   In addition, we can sample Alphonse Hasselmans, a famous Belgian/French harpist and teacher who wrote a good deal for his instrument, but the only potentially flamenco-reminiscent work I can find is his Gitana caprice.   Whatever comes out, it’s a lot to pack into an hour.

 

Sunday March 8

BEYOND MESSIAH: HIGHLIGHTS OF HANDEL

Brisbane Chamber Choir

St. John’s Cathedral at 2 pm

On the premise that there’s more to the great German composer than his evergreen oratorio, the BCC are presenting other music by Handel.  God knows there’s a lot to choose from but details are non-existent.   Brisbane University’s Graeme Morton will conduct; there will be a supporting band, led by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Associate Concertmaster, Alan Smith.   About the pieces to be attempted, I am as much in the dark as anybody else not associated with this event.   ZadokMy heart is inditing? Judas MaccabeusSolomonSaulThe Water MusicThe Fireworks Music??   Behold, I tell you a mystery.

 

Sunday March 8

THE KING’S TRUMPETER

Queensland Baroque Orchestra

St. Andrew’s Uniting Church at 2 pm

Here is another program about which details are very few.   The guest soloist is trumpeter John Foster, who is also this body’s artistic director.   His CV is an impressive one, with a lengthy list of appearances in the United States and Europe.   For all that, I can’t recall seeing and/or hearing him in Melbourne.   This afternoon’s music features works by Purcell, Handel, Corbett (presumably William) ‘and others’.  The list of this ensemble’s members is substantial, even if none of the names is familiar to me; 20 strings, 4 woodwind, a brace of trumpets, Baroque guitar and harpsichord adds up to a considerable body.

 

Sunday March 8

THE MAN WHO CRIED

Ensemble Q

Conservatorium Theatre, Southbank at 3 pm

The title comes from a 2000 film with a soundtrack featuring some original pieces supplied by Osvaldo Golijov.   The two extracts nominated for this occasion are Lullaby and Doina; the former is probably the soundtrack number called Close Your Eyes, while the latter has me stumped as it refers to a Romanian musical style well-documented by Bartok.   It could be referring to another track called Without a Word which is an instrumental number from the film that features the Kronos Quartet –  on the recording, not in the film itself.   The concert opens with The Unanswered Question by Ives, that puzzling pseudo-philosophical scrap that asks for four flutes (with an oboe and a clarinet possible for the bottom two lines), a trumpet (or a cor anglais, oboe or clarinet) solo, and a body of strings.   This is followed by a Beethoven string trio, the C minor last of the Op. 9 set; then Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder in one of its several arrangements – Henze, Christophe Lootem, Alain Bonardi, or maybe just as the composer wrote it: voice and piano.   Hindemith’s Trauermusik for viola soloist and strings follows, written at short notice on the death of George V.    Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12 in A rounds out the central German/Austrian core of the entertainment; it can be performed a quattro, without the need for braces of oboes, bassoons and horns.   In the Hindemith, Tobias Breider from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra will be soloist; soprano Greta Bradman sings the Wagner cycle; Daniel de Borah takes centre-stage in the concerto.  Violinist William Huxtable from Victoria is guest concertmaster.

 

Wednesday March 11

BEN FOLDS: THE SYMPHONIC TOUR

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 7:30 pm

Look, I don’t know about this.   Not the merits of it, but how the actual collaboration will work and make sense.    Or perhaps I really am troubled by its value as my main question is: what is Folds bringing to the orchestra and to an informed public?   The American singer-songwriter has appeared several times in this country, notably in 2006 when he performed with most of the state symphony orchestras.   This time around, he’s fronting all these mainland organizations again.    He has a piano concerto in his catalogue of compositions, and that might be interesting to experience.   But what I’ve heard of his songs makes me think that the premier orchestral musicians of this country will be slumming.    We’ve seen plenty of this in Melbourne as far back as when the MSO collaborated with Elton John and got so excited by the experience that the organization made him a life member.    But then, Kiss also stood in front of the MSO, after which certain participants struggled to sound grateful for the experience.   In any case, audiences will obviously come in droves to these concerts; otherwise, putting them on the annual program couldn’t be justified.    It’s probably a pleasant enough event to sit through, but it’s mindless and, in these mentally tremulous times, we have to exercise our brains more often than we have done over the past seven decades.   Oh, and I’ve just listened to the Folds Piano Concerto.    It’s another case of somebody playing at being creative but with absolutely nothing new to say, the construct emanating from a musical type who shows no awareness of developments in serious music over the past century and hence is hard to take seriously.

This program will be repeated on Thursday March 12 at 7:30 pm.

 

Sunday March 15

THE BALLET BEAUTIFUL

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 11:30 am

Here is the first of this year’s five ‘Music on Sundays’ concerts from the QSO.   For one mad moment, I thought that the event would have dancers to bring the music into the dimension where it belongs.   But a look at what is being offered put paid to that daydream.    Popular local lad Simon Hewitt, currently principal conductor at the Hamburg Ballet, is one of the two directors listed; the other is Guy Noble, who also has the narrator’s job thrust upon him.   You’ll have to be ready to do a lot of jumping around, with several ‘selections from’ on the menu.   Bits from Rameau’s Les Indes Galantes preface selections from Delibes’ Sylvia and Coppelia,  The concert ends with the Suite No. 2 from Roussel’s Bacchus et Ariane with its exhilarating and entirely appropriate Bacchanale.  Speaking of which, we also get to hear the Bacchanale that starts the last act of Saint-Saens’ Samson et Dalila, an extract that cemented Near Eastern atmospherics for some generations of Hollywood composers.   The Grand Pas de deux from Adam’s Giselle is ranged alongside the Dance of the Furies and its balancing Dance of the Blessed Spirits from Gluck’s Orfeo.    Also, the QSO brass get a chance to shine in the Fanfare pour preceder ‘La Peri’ by Dukas – music for a ballet before the curtain actually goes up.   And, on this kind of program, you can always rely on an outsider sneaking up on you; in this case, another Saint-Saens in the Morceau de concert, today showing off the talents of Alex Miller, the orchestra’s associate principal horn, and having no relevance at all to The Ballet Beautiful.

 

Friday March 20

THE JUPITER SYMPHONY

Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra

Conservatorium Theatre, Griffith University at 7:30 pm

The most aristocratic of Classical period symphonies concludes this night’s work, its student participants under the control of Johannes Fritzsch, conductor laureate of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and currently guest conductor of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra.    Preceding this elevating masterpiece, Fritzsch takes his charges through Stravinsky’s eight-movement Pulcinella Suite, extracted from the 1920 ballet which marked the composer’s descent into neoclassicism; this requires pairs of woodwind and horns, as well as a single trumpet and trombone, with a string corps.  Requiring probably even fewer numbers, at the night’s centre stands Takemitsu’s 10-minute Tree Line for chamber orchestra.    Put it all together and you get a bit over an hour’s playing time, which strikes me as rather short, especially for a university concert.    However, you’d hope that the music-making itself will prove brisk and refreshing.

 

Saturday March 21

THE PEASANT PRINCE

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio at 9:30 am and 11 am

This is a musical re-telling of Li Cunxin‘s life story: how the country boy became one of the world’s most famous dancers.   There’s no choreography involved but the exercise is reinforced with illustrations by Anne Spudvilas, and actor Bryan Probets will provide the narrative component.   This work, written in 2009, is a ‘symphonic tale’ which lasts half an hour, involving single woodwind, single brass, timpanist and two percussionists, harp and 30 strings.   The story has, of course, particular significance for Queensland as Li is artistic director of the state’s ballet company.    But, even to outsiders like this writer, the dancer’s story is a gripping one: it illustrates how having the right people helping you at the right time makes the difference between a successful career in the upper echelons of Australia’s cultural world and a lengthy term of detention on Christmas Island or Nauru.  Brett Kelly conducts.

 

Monday March 30

ARVO PART & SHOSTAKOVICH

Australian Chamber Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 7 pm

Again, something of a mixed bag from the country’s leading chamber orchestra.   One of the more revealing works will be Prokofiev’s 1947 Solo Violin Sonata being played by all ten of the ACO violinists.   In fact, the composer wrote this work for massed performers, in line with Russian teaching practice (then? now?) where groups regularly played soloists’ music en masse.   ACO Artistic director Richard Tognetti and Satu Vanska are the violin soloists in Arvo Part’s Tabula rasa Double Concerto, which requires a prepared piano as well as string orchestra support.   Shostakovich provides the concert’s conclusion with his Chamber Symphony: the Quartet No. 8 arranged for string orchestra by notable violist/conductor Rudolf Barshai.   Prefacing these major works will be Wojciech Kilar‘s Orawa, a work relating to a district on the border between Poland and Slovakia.  Nevertheless, the most linguistically advanced work on this program is also its shortest: the Misterioso movement from Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho‘s Nymphea Reflection in which the textures are added to by the players’ whispering lines of a poem by Arseny Tarkovsky at the same time as articulating the composer’s wispy textures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

February Diary

SONATA WORLD TOUR 2020

Yundi Li

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Thursday February 6 at 7:30 pm

Somewhere along the line, I must have  missed this pianist’s Melbourne appearance in 2018; surprising, because his standing as the youngest competitor ever to win the Chopin Piano Competition (in 2000) would have brought him to any interested party’s attention.  Fortunately, he’s back in Australia to electrify his devoted adherents with a solo recital that – you’d guess from its title – features sonatas; in this instance, works by Chopin (No. 3, which Li has recorded twice) Schubert (the A Major D. 664) and Rachmaninov (not much of a choice here and Li has opted for No. 2).   As a filler, the performer moves outside the format and brings in the eight Etudes-tableaux by Rachmaninov.   If you’re interested, prepare to pay: the worst seats (and they are pretty terrible) cost $89 apiece while a decent place puts you back $129.   Group discounts are available but none for individuals, as far as I can work out from the QPAC site.   Li is being presented by Harmonie International, this Brisbane recital following appearances in Melbourne and Perth before two nights in Sydney, a stop-off in Auckland, then on to the US and Canada.  A limited world tour, then.

 

POWER AND GLORY

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Saturday February 8 at 7:30 pm

One-time teenage prodigy Alexander Prior conducts this opening concert for the QSO’s 2020 operations.   Building on his Russian heritage, he directs the Shostakovich Symphony No. 5 that most of us considered to be a paean to Communist ideology until we were admitted into the arcane world of the composer’s sub-texts which turned every pre-conception on its head.   Still, it never fails to energize the spirit, whether you interpret its import as sustaining the down-trodden kulak or condemning Stalin’s police state.   Opening the night, we hear a new score from Melody Eotvos, currently teaching composition at the Melbourne Conservatorium.   The name of this freshly-written work is, as yet, unknown but it was a QSO commission and Eotvos is well-versed in such occasional tasks.   At the night’s centre comes Beethoven’s Triple Concerto – with the Brahms Double Concerto, one of my guilty pleasures.   The soloists all have strong local connections:  violinist Emily Sun comes fresh from reviving Matthew Hindson‘s Violin Concerto Australian postcards at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl; cellist Caleb Wong has been a Melbourne regular, thanks to the Australian National Academy of Music, for several years; and pianist Aura Go has made a recurrent and welcome presence in Australia’s recital programs.   How the three of them will work together in this work is anyone’s guess; my preference has always been for an established piano trio fronting a work that is all too often undervalued.

 

STAR WARS: RETURN OF THE JEDI

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre

Saturday February 15 at 2 pm

Everybody’s favourite in the first trilogy, I guess; having just endured the overblown Gothic of the last instalment of the final set, this old (1983) masterpiece shows up how poorly the scripts have developed over 36 years.   I’ve not experienced the production modes of Brisbane as far as film soundtracks go but am assuming they’re not that much different to Melbourne’s practices.   The music will be very prominent, probably to the point where projected surtitles will be necessary for those desert-dwelling Stylites who haven’t seen this film twenty times over.   There’s no avoiding the warming inevitability of the John Williams score with its memorable main title and the motifs that hurl out every time Darth Vader and the storm troopers come into view, although you get some relief with the Ewoks and the final medieval celebration music is a splendid touch.  Nicholas Buc here adds to his impressive repertoire of realized film soundtracks, getting the audience well onside before the QSO brass bursts out across the first frame.

This program will be repeated at 7:30 pm.

 

A NEW WORLD: INTIMATE MUSIC FROM FINAL FANTASY

New World Players

Brisbane Powerhouse

Saturday February 15 at 7:30 pm

These players are new to me.  Are they locals?  I can’t trace them; moreover, the ensemble plays a lot in the USA, if you can trust the internet for your information.  Further, the group’s advertised conductor/director, Eric Roth, is a famous American jack-of-all-trades: composer, orchestrator/arranger. producer and conductor with wide acclaim for this particular program.  It’s based on a video game which revolves around fantasy and science fantasy role-playing games.  Right: I’ve got some awareness of this from my grandson although the exercise seems to be far more directed towards participants than observers; mind you, they’re probably one and the same.  In any case, Roth and his ensemble – a decet, if the publicity photo is any guide – will play this video-game music, written by Nobuo Uematsu who is a big noise in the industry and composed most of the scores for the Final Fantasy franchise.  An individual musician singled out for note in this concert is German pianist Benyamin Nuss who has had composer-approving success interpreting Uematsu’s work.  With only limited exposure to Final Fantasy‘s soundtrack, I found the product charming, Romantic, salonesque; no matter what happens in the games, it’s as though 20th century music didn’t happen.

 

BEETHOVEN 1, 2 & 3

Australian Chamber Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Monday February 17 at 7 pm

And here we go on the Beethoven sestercentennial.  Richard Tognetti and his excellent orchestra – expanded for the occasion with 12 wind (13 for the Symphony in E flat), timpani and some extra strings provided by the Australian National Academy of Music. This is a marvellous juxtaposition of two scores that we rarely hear live and one of the cornerstones of the repertoire, all written across a five-year span and demonstrating Beethoven’s expansiveness of vision; already obvious in the first C Major work but explosive in the Eroica.   Have we heard the ACO’s reading of the composer’s first two essays in the symphony form?   I don’t think so but we are assured of a dust-free evening as Tognetti and his charges unveil a fresh battery of sparkling facets to music that all too frequently is delineated with numbing solemnity and attention-dulling heft.  The question that faces us after tonight is: will anybody better this program in a year full of celebratory observances?

 

PURELY MOZART

Ensemble Trivium

Old Government House

Friday February 21 at 7 pm

This will be one of the more concentrated chamber music experiences of the year.  Flautist Monika Koerner and three friends are taking on the four Flute Quartets by Mozart.  Not particularly difficult, these small-frame gems exemplify the composer’s melodic facility and his capacity to surprise you with unexpected quirks that are absent in his contemporaries’ more four-square creations.   Helping Koerner through the hour’s worth of music performance are violinist Anne Horton from the Australian National University’s School of Music, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s associate principal violist Yoko Okayasu, and cellist Trish O’Brien from Ensemble Q.   It will all be a leisurely stroll, these works products of Mozart’s early 20s and of a piece with his lighter string quartets or divertimenti.   Fleshing out the entertainment, the quartets will be interwoven with readings from Mozart’s letters; you assume the musicians will carry out this task as no speaker is specified.

 

BEETHOVEN AND BRAHMS

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio

Sunday February 23 at 3 pm

Opening its Beethoven celebrations in this 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth, the QSO dedicates half of this chamber recital to a rarely performed piece: the Wind Sextet Op. 71.   Its catalogue number would make you think that the score belongs to the period of the Pastoral Symphony, the Emperor Concerto, the Ghost Piano Trio, and Fidelio.  But it actually belongs to the era of the first two piano concertos, the early cello sonatas, the C minor Piano Trio, and the Quintet for piano and winds.   Its four movements show a brusqueness, if not too aggressive in its application; for many of us, this will be the first live performance we’ll have heard – and are likely to hear for some time.  The clarinets are acting associate principal Brian Catchlove and Kate Travers; principal Nicole Tait and Evan Lewis provide the bassoon lines; the horn players are associate principal Alex Miller and Lauren Manuel.   As an odd complement to this rarity, we hear the massive Piano Quintet in F minor by Brahms, thanks to concertmaster Warwick Adeney and fellow violinist Shane Chen, violist Bernard Hoey, associate principal cello Hyung Suk Bae, with guest Anna Grinberg from the University of Queensland’s School of Music taking on the formidable keyboard element.   Both works total only about an hour in performance but there’s a fair chance you’ll be satisfied, if not sated, at the event’s conclusion.

 

THE TRUMPET UNLEASHED

Southern Cross Soloists

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sunday February 23 at 3 pm

To be honest, I’d be delighted to hear a trumpet player let loose; most of the time, they’re inclined to behave as if constipated, tastefully controlling their dynamic level to avoid any semblance of domination.    From the Concertgebouw comes principal Miroslav Petkov who opens his innings with Maurice Andre‘s arrangement of the Vivaldi Trumpet Concerto RV 20, which in my book is the Violin Sonata No. 4 in F Major.  Did the composer write a concerto for single trumpet?   If so, I can’t find it.   For relief, Paul Dean interpolates a clarinet solo by Tasmanian-based saxophonist Jabra Latham before the ensemble launches into Frozen River Flows from 2005, originally for oboe and percussion, by Petkov’s fellow Bulgarian Dobrinka Tabakova.   Then come some arrangements for trumpet of Rachmaninov Romances – probably not all 7 in the list of the composer’s compositions.    Stravinsky’s Petrushka then appears, but surely not the whole ballet?   And Petkov ends with La Virgen de la Macarena in the version made popular by the famous Mexican trumpeter Rafael Mendez: a nice piece of kitsch to round off another mixed bag of offerings from this unpredictable ensemble.  Oh, and the recital will take place in Reverse Mode, with the audience positioned in the choir seats surrounding the stage, thereby enjoying close proximity to the performers.

 

Karlsruhe Konzert-duo

Commissariat Store Museum, 115 William Street

Tuesday February 25 at 6:30 pm

This ensemble, established in 1998, comprises cellist Reinhard Armleder and pianist Dagmar Hartmann.   For this event, the musicians are being sponsored by the Royal Historical Society of Queensland, which might go some way to explaining the recital’s venue.   In any case, we are promised works by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schumann,  Liszt, Ravel and de Falla.  No problems with the first two names, thanks to five formidable sonatas from Beethoven and two sonatas as well as a set of fine concert variations from Mendelssohn.   Schumann produced the 5 Stucke im Vokkston, and the cello is a possibility in the Op. 70 Adagio and Allegro, as well as the Op. 73 Fantasy Pieces.  Liszt arranged two elegies for the cello/piano combination, as well as the Romance oubliee and La lugubre gondola.  R avel wrote nothing for this instrumental duo; Falla wrote a Melody, a Piece and a Romance for cello and piano.  Or perhaps this list of possibilities is a tad purist.   The duo certainly play Liszt’s Liebestraum No. 3 in an arranged format and I suspect they may play other transcriptions as well.   Try as I might, details of actual works are impossible to find: you just have to invest the players with a certain amount of  trust.  There will be no intermission and the event lasts for 90 minutes.

 

GARRICK OHLSSON

Musica Viva

Queensland Conservatorium Theatre

Thursday February 27 at 7 pm

Always a welcome visitor, American master-pianist Ohlsson is offering two programs for this tour, Brisbane scoring the first of them.   The offerings range from Beethoven, through Prokofiev, landing finally on a substantial Chopin bracket.  Over the years, Melbourne has heard a good deal from Ohlsson, most of it in solo recital format, and he never disappoints, his interpretation standards informed without excessive erudition and his technical command unfaltering.   Beethoven to begin, then: the B flat Sonata No. 11 of 1800 which some commentators esteem as formal perfection, in this case wedded to an easy-flowing optimism across all four movements.   Ohlsson then bounds forward 140 years to the bracing Prokofiev Sonata No. 6: brilliant virtuosic writing for keyboard and asking for rapid-fire recovery rates.   As for the Chopin, the pianist – only American winner of the Chopin Piano Competition (1970) – genuflects to the well-known with the Berceuse, as well as the half-remembered in the Impromptu No. 2, gives an airing to the open-hearted C sharp minor Scherzo, and treats us to some of the Op. 25 Etudes – Nos. 5 to 10.   Unmissable.

 

January Diary

This note is by way of saying what I hoped was unprintable.

There’s nothing on.

Not that there’s much difference in Melbourne.   Over many decades, the only serious music offering during January involved a rural retreat in the form of the Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields Festival.   Over recent years, this was complemented by the Peninsula Summer Music Festival which offered a compendium to suit the season and required a retreat of a more intellectual character.

Both were out-of-town, of course, and involved road-trips hat could veer alarmingly in time spans.

But, as far as I can see, there’s nothing comparable in Brisbane.  My favourite niece is taking her family to the Woodford Folk Festival, which is my idea of physical and mental hell, in this case possibly serving as punishment for domestic misdeeds

But that seems to be the only music available and that concourse entertainment falls mainly across the dying days of December 2019.

December Diary

Sunday December 1

BRISBANE SINGS MESSIAH

The Queensland Choir

Brisbane City Hall at 2:45 pm

The choir is one of the country’s oldest, on a par with the Hurlstone Choral Society of blessed memory and the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic.  Despite its venerable status, the northern body seems to be pretty focused on this one exercise: a seasonal observance that probably obtains in every Australian state.  The choral forces number about 100 and their Handel appears to be a popular event in which certain members of the Brisbane public are invited on board.  Which makes it a cross between your regular orthodox performance without surprises and those odd occasions where the soloists are professionals but the choir comprises anyone who turns up with a score.   Conductor this afternoon is QC’s long-time director Kevin Power; his soloists are soprano Eleanor Greenwood, mezzo Sarah Winn, tenor Phillip Costovski and bass Sam Hartley.  Supplying the instrumental component will be the Sinfonia of St. Andrew’s, which is associated with the city’s central Uniting Church.

 

Tuesday December 3

AUSTRALIAN WORKS FOR PIANO TRIO: #1 HERITAGE

Maree Kilpatrick

Ian Hanger Recital Hall, Queensland Conservatorium at 6:30 pm

Kilpatrick is fulfilling part of the requirements for her Doctorate of Musical Arts from the Queensland Conservatorium (I assume) with a series of recitals.  This evening, the pianist is accompanied by violinist Jason Tong and cellist Kirsten Tong in Australian ‘heritage’ works by Percy Grainger (that field is wide open: I don’t know anything for piano trio by our GOM  but God knows the possibilities are myriad) and Miriam Hyde who wrote a Fantasy Piano Trio.  As well, we are promised pieces by ‘others, including unpublished works’, which suggests the programming of a few products of academic research that may have lain dormant for some time and might be worth resurrecting.   Still, any attempt to bring part of our fast-fading historical record to light is well worth encouraging.   Further, the 90-minute recital is free.

 

Saturday December 7

SYMPHONIC SANTA

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio at 9:30 am

I reviewed a few concerts of this genre from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra before the administration had the good sense to stop inviting me.  The musical fare on offer is essentially populist – tunes everyone knows or pap that won’t stress the brain-cells at all.  And nothing too long, either.  This methodology continues with the QSO’s family-oriented series of matinee concerts which features music by conductor (and QSO cellist) Craig Allister Young and five collaborations with his song-writing partner, Donna Dyson.  Young contributes the exercise’s Overture, conducts the whole event and plays Santa Claus;  Dyson has paired up with him to produce Sneezy the Reindeer, I Won’t Believe It’s Christmas, Santa’s Christmas Cake, Santa Boogie Woogie and Lucy and the Orchestra – that’s half of the music-making today.  As well, families get to experience Santa Claus Is Coming to TownRudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Silent Night, all in Young arrangements.  The odd man out is Stephen Lawrence‘s The Incredible Shrinking Clarinet.  Helping the versatile Young in his endeavours will be QSO horn  player Vivienne Collier-Vickers as Mrs.Claus. Zac Parkes playing Sneezy, and Ashleigh Denning as Izzy the Elf.

This program will be repeated at 11 am a/nd 1 pm.

 

Saturday December 7

MESSIAH

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 7:30 pm

A more polished version than that from December 1 above, I’m guessing.   Is this venerable oratorio out of vogue here in the north?  The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra manages to attract two pretty full houses to its Messiah renditions in Hamer Hall (and an extra one this year at Costa Hall in Geelong); the QSO seems content with one.   Tonight’s conductor is Stephen Layton, a well-known visitor down south, and his soloists are soprano Sara Macliver. mezzo Helen Charlston, tenor Gwilym Bowen and bass Laurence Williams, with the brunt of the work’s argument falling to the Brisbane Chamber Choir.  It’s useless to rail any more about the suitability of this choral monument to Christmas when its central matter and conclusion centre on Easter, but it might be time for more consideration to be given to Bach’s massive Christmas Oratorio as a more suitable seasonal celebration.   Mind you, such a change would mean doing without your annual overdose of hearty musical plum pudding.

 

Sunday December 8

JOURNEYMAN

Brisbane Chamber Project

Old Government House at 5 pm

It’s not clear to whom the title of this recital refers.   It might be to the Chamber Project’s guest artist, baritone Jason Barry-Smith, although this musician has progressed well beyond the post-apprenticeship stage of his life.   More probably, ‘journeyman’ refers to one of the works that feature on Barry-Smith’s bill of fare: Mahler’s Songs of a Wayfarer, whose narrator has made a profession out of Weltschmerz.   A wind quintet and a speaker (Barry-Smith?) are required for Berio’s 1950-1970 Opus Number Zoo; its gestation length seems inordinately long when you consider that it only lasts for a fraction over 7 minutes.  As for the rest of the night, details are scant although the Project organizers seem to be particularly gratified in announcing the inclusion of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah which has, for inexplicable reasons, attracted continued popular acclaim since its 1985 debut.  I saw Cohen once in the State Theatre during a Melbourne International Arts Festival many years ago; ‘underwhelmed’ comes close but I didn’t know how impressed I was meant to be until much later.  Tonight, this journeyman work comes under the generic heading of ‘festive music’, which might have surprised the composer.

 

Sunday December 8

METAMORPHOSIS

Brisbane Music Festival

St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Kangaroo Point at 7:30 pm

This is a remarkable series of recitals that brightens up a usually barren time of year across the country.   Living up to its title, tonight’s program is a thoroughly Austro-German affair featuring masterpieces from both Viennese schools (the more extraordinary metamorphoses coming from the Second) but the chief burden of the players’ output comprises work by Brahms.  To open, Alex Miller from the horn corps of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra partners with pianist Alex Raineri in Beethoven’s Horn Sonata; no, I don’t know it, either.   Raineri then has the joy of providing the keyboard part for two glorious Brahms scores: the F minor Clarinet Sonata with Luke Carbon, followed by the A Major Violin Sonata with Anne Horton.  Carbon returns after interval for Berg’s Four Pieces Op. 5 and Raineri enjoys a solo with Webern’s transparent Variations for Piano.  Finally, Miller, Horton and Raineri have the enviable task of outlining the Brahms Horn Trio in E flat – packed with melancholy in balance with vibrant good humour and the outstanding example of this format (not that Brahms has much competition).

 

Wednesday December 11

SLOW FLIGHT

Brisbane Music Festival

356 Bowen Terrace, New Farm at 7 pm

In this admirable series, artistic director/pianist Alex Raineri serves as a fulcrum for several programs.  Tonight, he works with double bass Marian Heckenberg in Suspended Preludes by Andrew Schultz, a seven-movement work from 1993 by the fertile Adelaide-born composer.   Swiss writer Beat Furrer has not crossed my path previously; his Phasma of 2002 is one of only four works for solo piano in Furrer’s voluminous catalogue.  The Sonatine for flute and piano by Boulez still gives me nightmares.  I had to play the keyboard part for a Master’s concert by an ambitious flautist friend back in the 1960s and our necessarily  sporadic preparation took months of labour; even the recorded version by David Tudor and Severino Gazzelloni from 1957 was little help as the players’ congruity proved to be a moveable feast.  On this occasion, the flautist will be Jonathan Henderson.  To end, we hear Liam Flenady‘s Oikeios Topos (Inbuilt/Interior Theme?) which will here enjoy its world premiere and, as a consequence, the composer is withholding its elements or trace constituents from public gaze.

 

Friday December 13

DIALOGUES

Brisbane Music Festival

Old Museum Building, Bowen Hills at 7:30 pm

This festival’s artistic director, Alex Raineri, sees the four components of this program as two-way streets: it’s instrument talking to instrument in a set of duos, or composer addressing listener in a set of four vignettes.   The latter comes to life in Debussy’s early Suite bergamasque for solo piano which proposes four discrete scenes, the most famous being Clair de lune.  A fledgling musician’s staple, this opulently arpeggiated gem shines out in some odd surroundings, although the concluding Passepied has an attractive falling note to its whimsy.   Cellist Oliver Scott works with Raineri through Prokofiev’s Ballade Op. 15, a lavish sectional rhapsody with plenty of spiky dissonances to smarten up a surprisingly conservative harmonic backdrop.   Jonathan Henderson‘s flute returns to the series for another Sonatine for flute and piano, this one by Pierre Sancan and the most famous work by this composer who remains pretty much an unknown quantity outside France.   In case Scott didn’t feel as though the 12-minute Ballade had given him ample exposure, he works with Raineri through Rachmaninov’s weighty G minor Sonata of 1901, a product of the months after the famous hypno-/psychotherapy treatment of the composer’s depression by Nikolai Dahl.

 

Sunday December 15

THE TROUT

Brisbane Music Festival

Old Museum Building, Bowen Hills at 3 pm

You see this fish and your thoughts automatically turn to Schubert, unless you’re gastronomically monomaniacal.   In this penultimate recital of the festival, Alex Raineri provides the pivotal piano part for Schubert’s evergreen quintet, in partnership with violinist Anne Horton, violist Yoko Okayasu from the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, cellist Oliver Scott, and double bass Marian Hackenberg.   This composition, even for Schubert, is remarkably splayed out with a good deal of potential tedium inbuilt because of the bank of repeats that are involved in a ‘true’ performance.   But the fourth movement variations are always a delight, especially in confident hands.   By way of prelude to this score, flautist Jonathan Henderson appears in his third recital across four days to perform the Bach A minor Partita: one of the cornerstones of this instrument’s repertoire and as impermeable in its surfaces as the composer’s output for solo violin.

 

Sunday December 15

CAROLS ON THE CLIFFS

Canticum Chamber Choir

St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Kangaroo Point at 5:30 pm

A regular seasonal contribution from the well-regarded Brisbane choir, this seems to a newcomer to be a good old-fashioned service of Lessons and Carols, if probably a bit more free in format than those re-creations that cling with fidelity to the King’s College tradition.   Founder Emily Fox is not slated to direct but then neither is anybody else.  Some community singing is advertised as part of the proceedings; fine, as long as those members of the public who choose to participate can actually stay on pitch.   As a warm-up, Cox’s husband, Christopher Wrench, is playing a short recital starting at 5.10 pm; don’t know how much he can get through in 20 minutes on the state’s oldest organ but it would be a pleasure to hear this musician after a long hiatus (I’ve not heard him play since he won the Melbourne International Festival of Organ and Harpsichord Bach Competition in 1985) and, as a bonus, working at the instrument of a church where he was organist for 18 years.

 

Wednesday December 18

PASSING BELLS

Brisbane Music Festival

Old Museum Building, Bowen Hills at 7:30 pm

You’d think that the title of this final Festival event would owe something to Wilfred Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth.  But maybe not: it doesn’t do to second-guess composer Christopher Dench, one of this country’s more intellectually agile composers.   His new composition – here enjoying its first exposure under the hands of Festival artistic director/pianist Alex Raineri – builds on an earlier work from 2004 called passing bells: night which presents a resonance-rich range of tintinnabulations to the listener and a challenge in rhythmic capsules for its interpreter.  Raineri surrounds this premiere with Ginastera’s Piano Sonata No. 1 which shows that you don’t have to give up your nationalistic vitality when you employ 12-tone writing; and he ends the night with Chopin’s 24 Preludes Op. 28 which offer a round trip through all major and minor keys as well as displaying an astounding emotional variety.

 

 

 

October Diary

Wednesday October 9

A MULTITUDE OF VOICES

Arcadia Winds

Melbourne Recital Centre at 6 pm

Well, there’ll be four of them, which isn’t too many.   Oldest of all is J.S. Bach who yet again comes in for a transcription exercise: the Organ Sonata No. 6 in G.   You’d have to assume that this will involve only three members of the Arcadia quintet – perhaps flute, oboe and bassoon?   Around this venerable construct are much more contemporary voices, like Steve Reich whose Vermont Counterpoint for amplified flute and tape will showcase the talents of Kiran Phatak.   English-Australian composer Andrew Ford’s Scenes from Streeton melds some of the artist’s paintings with what the various landscapes look like these days as reported by people who farm them; at the same time, there will be illustrative music, you’d hope.   This will be the world premiere of a work commissioned to commemorate the Recital Centre’s 10th birthday.   As a bonus, the Arcadians perform a work chosen as the recipient of their own Composition Prize.

 

Saturday October 12

Nevermind

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

This quartet, performing under the Musica Viva aegis,  comprises flute Anna Besson, violin Louis Creac’h, viola da gamba Robin Pharo and harpsichord Jesn Rondeau. Their collaboration in Baroque performance dates from their student years at the Conservatoire Superieur National de Paris – which can’t have been too long ago as they all look young, although their chronicled activities and discographies so far are impressive.   Tonight focuses on two composers: J.S. Bach and Telemann.  From the former come selections from the Art of Fugue, an arrangement of the Organ Sonata in C, and the Trio Sonata in G BWV 1039 which usually calls for two flutes as well as the inevitable continuo.    As for Telemann, the group plays the first and last of his Paris Quartets (of which these musicians have made a particular study), as well as Fuga 14 from the 20 Small Fugues which are not that small, nor what you would commonly call fugues.

The second program on Tuesday October 15 at 7 pm is more adventurous in scope for the audience.  The group starts off with some Marais –  Suite IV from the Trios for the King’s Bedtime.   Then comes L’Espagnole from Couperin’s Les Nations suite.  The Nevermind fixation on Telemann is exercised here as well with No. 4 of the Paris Quartets.  The ensemble moves into unknown territory for most of us with quartet sonatas by Quentin and Guillemain – once (in the 18th century) well-known names, now all but forgotten.

 

Sunday October 13

A THOUSAND THOUGHTS

Kronos Quartet

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

The fabled group is here as part of the Melbourne International Arts Festival’s meagre serious music line-up.   This time, the Kronoi are accompanying a documentary film by Sam Green and Joe Bini, the subject of which is  –  you guessed it   –   the players themselves.   Such larks.   I can’t think of an exercise more self-reflective than playing the score to a film about yourself, but that’s the sort of thing you can get away with when you’re numbered among the legends.   This exercise lasts for 85 minutes with no interval – which either argues for the concentration necessary for such an experience or a fear that audience numbers might plummet if the chance arose for an interval exit.   But you can’t be too unkind about a group that gave us those searing performances of George Crumb’s Black Angels dating back about 45 years.   And, as with the Ardittis, where would contemporary music be without them?

This program will be repeated on Monday October 14 at 7 pm.

 

Thursday October 17

STALIN’S PIANO

Robert Davidson

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

This odd program is another element from the Melbourne International Arts Festival collation.   It features pianist  Sonya Lifschitz playing the music of Robert Davidson, a Brisbane composer-musician whose name hasn’t come across my path, as far as I can tell.   The hour-long work has an audio-visual component and it offers pretty much everything  –  ‘a maelstrom of history, politics, art and rebellion.’    Great.   The pre-performance blurb makes reference to Maria Yudina, an uncompromising pianist of the Soviet era admired by Stalin, or so the story goes.   She was a proponent of 20th century music and was a fellow-student of Shostakovich.   Whether her repertoire features in Davidson’s work, I don’t know; whether he quotes giants that Yudina favoured like Bartok and Stravinsky is unclear.  All will be revealed on the night

 

Friday October 18

SPRING: LU SIQING IN RECITAL

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

Lu is the MSO’s soloist-in-residence for 2019 and tonight gets the opportunity to show his abilities in recital, rather than in the concerto format.   He collaborates with Melbourne-based Chinese-Australian pianist Angela Li in a program that moves from solid repertoire to frolicsome encore material with a couple of Chinese bagatelles in the middle.   Debussy’s Violin Sonata of 1917 makes for a brave opening, immediately followed by Beethoven’s F Major Spring Sonata.   Lei Zhenbang’s Why Are the Flowers So Red is essentially a folk-song, presumably organised here for violin/piano duo; Lei arranged it some time ago with Julian Yu for a CD entitled Willow Spirit Song.   Cantonese composer Han Kun Sha’s Pastoral is a straight duo and, as far as I can tell, an original composition.  Then we come to the show-pieces: Kreisler’s Praeludium & Allegro, Svendsen’s Romance, and Sarasate’s Zigeunerweisen to raise the performance temperature while the aesthetic level sinks to the flashy virtuosic.  Nevertheless, this violinist is a brilliant performer, not just a fleet-fingered lightweight.

 

Friday October 25

NEMANJA RADULOVIC

Ensemble Liaison

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7 pm

It’s the hair.  Every time Serbian violinist Radulovic hits Melbourne, the promotional photos feature the musician in full flight with his substantial mane streaming around his skull.   What does this crowning glory have to do with his playing?   Well, the only way to find out is to drop in and watch the man at work, alongside his friends from Ensemble Liaison – cello Svetlana Bogosavljevic, clarinet David Griffiths, piano Timothy Young.  The night begins with J.S. Bach’s Clarinet Sonata in D minor BWV 1034, better known as the Flute Sonata in E minor.    Bogosvljevic and Radulovic collaborate on Johan Halvorsen’s Passacaglia on a Handel original theme.   Khachaturian’s G minor Trio for clarinet, violin and piano will enjoy a rare outing, only to be outshone by Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances, presumably in a violin/piano format.   And another arrangement ends the night: Griffiths’ version of the monumental Brahms Piano Quartet in G minor, in which the clarinet takes the viola line, although a few of us will find it hard to repress memories of Schoenberg’s brilliant orchestration of this score.

 

Saturday October 26

BRAHMS’ REQUIEM

Melbourne Symphony Orchestra Chorus

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

This performance will be one that uses two pianos as an orchestral substitute; all quite hunky-dory as Brahms arranged the work himself in this format.   The players are Donald Nicolson, better known to me as the harpsichordist member of Latitude 37, and Tom Griffiths who has been the MSO Chorus’s principal repetiteur/accompanist for yonks.   Soloists are soprano Lee Abrahmsen and baritone Simon Meadows while the lengthy work will be conducted by Chorus Master Warren Trevelyan-Jones.   The concert begins with two Schutz motets: a precursor of the Requiem’s conclusion in Selig sind die Toten; and Herr, nun lassest du deinen Diener – the Song of Simeon that the composer set twice.   Sorry I can’t get to it; besides the tender and massive choral complexes, there is little more wrenching and moving in Western music than the Ihr habt nun Traurigkeit movement – enough to make humanists of us all.

 

Monday October 28

INTIMATE BACH

Australian Chamber Orchestra

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

A bitzer of a program here.   There will be Bach, beginning with the Violin Sonata in A minor; no, not all of it – just the third movement Andante.   This will probably feature Richard Tognetti in solo mode.   And the night ends with my favourite Brandenburg Concerto: No. 6 with two violas as the top voices.   Speaking of which, one of the night’s guests will be composer/violist Brett Dean.   The program’s second piece brings the other guest into play: Erin Helyard will give a harpsichord accompaniment to Tognetti (one expects) in the Violin Sonata No. 2.   Adding to the mix are selections from the  15 Three-Part Inventions which will be surely entrusted to Helyard.   As punctuation, patrons get to experience Kurtag’s Hommage a J.S.B. which is for a solo instrument – any one you have to hand, it appears; the Sonnerie de Sainte-Genevieve du Mont de Paris by Marais that generally involves violin, viola and continuo; and Dean’s own Approach (Prelude to a Canon), here enjoying its Australian premiere.

 

Wednesday October 30

Quatuor Ebene

Melbourne Recital Centre at 7:30 pm

Like the Kronos, this quartet has been fortunate in retaining most of its original members.  Violinists Pierre Colombet and Gabriel Le Magadure have been there since the beginning in 1999; so has cellist Raphael Merlin.  Only the violist has changed: from Mathieu Herzog to Adrien Boisseau to Marie Chilemme who has been an Ebeniste since 2017 and the ensemble’s first female.   For its Australian debut under our Recital Centre auspices, the ensemble plays three Beethoven works: Op. 18 No. 2 in G, the Serioso Op. 95 and the Harp Op. 74.   This comes about because the players are celebrating the composer’s 250th birthday (next year, in fact) by playing all 16 quartets as they tour the globe, recording their performances and, for local colour, audience reactions.   Quite a challenge for musicians who have not really specialised in any corner of the repertoire, although a CD (recorded in Vienna?) of the first two Razumovsky quartets is to be issued at the end of September.

 

Wednesday October 30

BEETHOVEN’S BACK!

Selby & Friends

Tatoulis Auditorium, MLC Kew at 7:30 pm

OK, although for many of us he never went away.   Kathryn Selby and two friends we’ve not seen so far this year – violinist Andrew Haveron from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s concertmaster desk, and cellist Richard Narroway who becomes Lecturer in Cello at Melbourne University’s Faculty of Music next year – take up the Beethoven challenge with two sonatas and a piano trio.   First up is the penultimate cello sonata, Op. 102 No. 1 in C with its unusual two-movement structure operating in a time-frame of about 15 minutes.   Then comes the C minor Violin Sonata No. 7 which takes nearly twice as long; this is the work that Brahms is reputed to have transposed up a semitone at sight to accommodate Remenyi’s unwillingness to re-tune his violin.  Well, the composer became a master of chromatic shifts, so it’s sort of credible.   Finally, all three musicians work through the Op. 70 No. 2 – a welcome appearance given the popular penchant for its companion: the Ghost Trio.   These three works offer an interesting tour of significant points in Beethoven’s compositional journey; a nimble piece of programming that avoids the well-trodden path.