Diary June 2023


Musica Viva

Conservatorium Theatre, Griffith University

Thursday June 1

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


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio, South Brisbane

Friday June 2 at 7:30 pm

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

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


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Thursday June 8 at 10 am

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


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Friday June 9 at 10 am

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

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


4MBS Festival of Classics

Main Auditorium, City Hall, Brisbane

Sunday June 11 at 3 pm

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


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Friday June 16 at 11:30 am

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

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


Southern Cross Soloists

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sunday June 18 at 3 pm

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


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Saturday June 24 at 1:30 pm

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

This program will be repeated at 7:30 pm.


Medici Concerts

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sunday June 25 at 3 pm

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


Australian Chamber Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Monday June 26 at 7 pm

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

Diary May 2023


Brodsky Quartet

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Tuesday May 2 at 7 pm

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


Musica Viva Australia

Queensland Conservatorium Theatre, South Brisbane

Wednesday May 3 at 7 pm

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


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio, South Brisbane

Friday May 5 at 7:30 pm

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

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


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Friday May 12 at 7:30 pm

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

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

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


Australian String Quartet

Conservatorium Theatre, Griffith University

Friday May 19 at 7 pm

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


Queensland Youth Symphony

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Saturday May 20 at 7 pm

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


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sunday May 21 at 11:30 am

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


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Friday May 26 at 7:30 pm

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

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


Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra

Conservatorium Theatre, Griffith University

Friday May 26 at 7:30 pm

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


Brisbane Chorale

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

Sunday May 28 at 2:30 pm

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

Diary April 2023


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sunday April 2 at 11:30 am

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


Rebecca Lloyd-Jones

Ian Hanger Recital Hall, Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University

Wednesday April 12 at 7:30 pm

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


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Friday April 14 at 11: 30 am

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

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


Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra

Conservatorium Theatre, Griffith University, South Brisbane

Friday April 21 at 7:30 pm

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


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, South Brisbane

Saturday April 22 at 1:30 pm

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

This program will be repeated at 7:30 pm.


Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Friday, April 28 at 7:30 pm

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

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


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio, South Bank

Saturday April 29 at 5:30 pm

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


Ensemble Q

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sunday April 30 at 3 pm

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


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio, South Bank

Sunday April 30 at 3 pm

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

Diary March 2023


Musica Viva Australia

Queensland Conservatorium Theatre, Griffith University

Tuesday March 7 at 7 pm

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


Opera Queensland

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Thursday March 9 at 7 pm

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

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


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio, South Brisbane

Sunday March 12 at 3 pm

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


Australian Chamber Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Monday March 13 at 7 pm

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


Ensemble Trivium

Old Museum Building

Thursday March 16 at 7 pm

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


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Friday March 17 at 11:30 am

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

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


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio, South Brisbane

Tuesday March 21 at 7:30 pm

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


Ensemble Q

The Raven Cellar, 400 Montague Rd., West End

Tuesday March 28 at 7 pm

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

February 2023 Diary


Eclective Strings

St. John’s Cathedral, Ann Street

Friday February 3 at 6:30 pm and 8:30 pm

Beginning the year with absolutely no style at all comes this run-through of Vivaldi’s greatest hit. Not the whole thing, mind you, but ‘selections’. I suppose the excuse will be that such an abridgement, a digest helps bring in punters who don’t usually listen to serious music, or who want to graduate from enterprises like the Tamworth mud bath. So, as a benefit to the intentionally stupid, let’s give voice to those movements from these four violin concertos that have become most recognizable through TV advertisements. Tonight is one of the more presentable efforts in a program of candlelight concerts, most of which are homages to various pop singers and groups; this program sticks out in its context like a diamond in a sewer. Still, I’m rather wary of the main performing structure; we’re not offered a soloist but a string quartet – which is not enough of a resource to carry even this lightweight music. As far as I can see, the Eclective haven’t operated much outside Victoria but they specialize in tribute concerts – ABBA, Adele, Beatles, Coldplay, AC/DC – when they’re not indulging in cut-down Baroque. On its website, the ensemble claims to be respectable by day, up-to-the-mark rockers by night; I would have been impressed if the roles/times were reversed. Anyway, they’re giving their selections twice on this evening, depending on your eating arrangements, I suppose; tickets start at $29. To be honest, I’d need a lot of persuading to sit through even a filleted version of these works, particularly when there’s so much more Vivaldi to hear.


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio, South Brisbane

Friday February 10 at 7:30 pm

Chief conductor Umberto Clerici takes a small set of forces through this three-component program schedule to last 75 minutes without interval. He begins with Strauss’s Metamorphosen for 23 solo strings, written in the dying days of World War II and probably intended as a threnody for German culture which was at that time being pounded into dust. Not the most interesting of the composer’s works but it has relevance to the current world situation, given the war being inflicted on us by the latest in a series of Russian megalomaniacs. It’s hard to tell how this will come across in the Studio’s close quarters; you’ll certainly know if anyone wavers. Then comes a new work by the QSO’s long-time principal percussionist, David Montgomery – a suite for brass and percussion that, at time of writing, has no name. I know of Montgomery as a performer and educator – not as a composer, which could make part of this night revelatory. Finally, we hear Stravinsky’s Pulcinella Suite, eight movements from the original ballet: Sinfonia (Ouverture), Serenata, Scherzino, Tarantella, Toccata, Gavotta, Vivo, and Minuetto+Finale. The instrumentation asks for pairs of flutes, oboes, bassoons and horns, with a trumpet and trombone for ballast and a string quintet alongside a string orchestra. The composer’s transformation of Pergolesi pieces, the full ballet is rarely heard (or seen) but this suite is packed with piquancies: a rare sight of Stravinsky the Funster. Tickets are $75, unless you have a concession or are very young; children get in for $30, but will they put up with the Strauss willingly?


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sunday, February 12 at 11:30 am

Another special with QSO chief conductor Umberto Clerici holding the leading strings. I’m not sure how far around the world this dancing extends; what we know of what is to be played leaves me feeling more than a little Eurocentric. The problem is that, after listing a number of highlights, the promoters promise ‘. . . and more’, which always makes me wonder if that more has been decided or will it be decided between lunchtime tomorrow and Australia Day. We know that we’re getting the Can-can from Offenbach’s comic opera Orpheus in the Underworld, an energetic terpsichorean remnant of the belle epoque and forever associated with impossibly frilled petticoats and startlingly unrevealing knickers. Further along the morning promenade, Clerici & Co. will perform Strauss’s Voices of Spring, presumably without the optional soprano; like the Offenbach, a musical portrait of a world of outward brilliance but rotten to the core. Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5 in F sharp minor/G minor puts in an appearance, doing its best to live up to proud Zigeuner pretensions in orchestral garb supplied by Schmeling, Parlow, or Ivan Fischer. The tone moves upwards with the Act 1 Waltz from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, which is a splendidly balanced product in every sense. As a Me Too genuflection, the program includes the third of American black composer Florence Price’s Dances in the Canebrakes: the cakewalk Silk Hat and Walking Cane, probably in the orchestration by William Grant Still. But there’s more, and good luck with that. Tickets range from $75 to $105 for a scheduled 80 minutes playing time without interval; good value, if there’s no irritatingly amiable chats involved.


Australian Chamber Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Monday February 13 at 7 pm

Five years ago, ACO habitues heard this Russian violinist play Paganini brilliantly. The popular appeal item this time (and it’s the only one on the program) is the first of the three Bruch concertos in an arrangement for the string ensemble by the organization’s librarian, Bernard Rofe. What we will miss out on hearing are the pairs of flutes, oboes, clarinets, bassoons, trumpets, the horn quartet, but the original score’s timpani part is spared any editorial cut. Will you feel the lack? Probably, if you know the work well, and I’d say most of us do. Still, it saves on employing an extra 14 musicians and transporting them round the country for a series of one-night stands. Gringolts also contributes his solo skills to Frank Martin’s Polyptyque of 1973, written to a Menuhin commission and calling for two small string orchestras underpinning the solo violin. These six images de la Passion de Christ make a substantial work, slightly longer than the Bruch concerto, and most of us will be hearing them for the first time. As well, the ACO performs Mendelssohn’s one-movement String Symphony No. 13, a new score – Slanted – from Melbourne-born Harry Sdraulig, and Bacewicz’s 1948 Concerto for String Orchestra, a major composition from the Polish composer and one which carries its neo-classicism with an impressive pnache. Prices range from $49 to $115 with concessions available for qualified patrons.


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Friday February 17 at 7:30 pm

Always a crowd-pleaser – except for those pesky three movements before the choral finale – Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 can be a shattering experience. The trouble is that you have to take it as a job lot, instrumental predecessors and all before you get to the furious heaven-storming of the choir’s massive explosions. Umberto Clerici conducts his orchestra and the Brisbane Chamber Choir with a clutch of four soloists, three of whom I know well from their concert/recital/opera work: soprano Eleanor Lyons (I’ve not come across this artist), mezzo Deborah Humble, tenor Andrew Goodwin, bass Michael Honeyman. We’ve all got a perfect Ninth in our heads, and some of us have had poor experiences (one of mine was an appalling realization of the males’ Seid umschlungen entry from the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic under Tzipine, and a recent one was a painfully lacklustre reading from Bendigo this past December), but the omens are propitious for this reading. With monstrous over-reach, the publicists have claimed that Peter Sculthorpe is Australia’s Beethoven because he is the founding father of this country’s music. Well, he was a lovely fellow but he wasn’t the founder of anything except his own sound world. We get a well-worn sample of that in his Earth Cry of 1986 which has an optional part for didgeridoo; no options about if because tonight we enjoy the services of William Barton. Following this theme of finding a place for Aboriginal-inspired music, the concert begins with a collaboration between Barton and violinist Veronique Serret: Kalkani, which was a 2020 commission by the ABC. Here, it has been transmuted from a duet into orchestral dress and enjoys its Queensland premiere. Does the whole set of proceedings sound like a mess? That’s because it is one, no matter which way you try to dress it up. Admission ranges from $90 to $130 and the program includes an interval; the two didgeridoo-inclusive pieces last about 20 minutes while the symphony has an average length of about an hour plus five minutes.

This program will be repeated on Saturday February 18 at 1:30 pm and again on Sunday February 19 at 1:30 pm


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, South Brisbane

Saturday February 25 at 1:30 pm and 7:30 pm

Ah, this brings back happy memories of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra opening its year’s practice at the Plenary space near the Convention and Exhibition Centre with Dr. Who or Wallace and Gromit extravaganzas, as well as some films for the masses. Then, throughout the year, we would enjoy more film screenings in Hamer Hall with the MSO providing a live soundtrack – which usually meant the films had to be supplied with subtitles. Starting the academic year with a dollop of infantile necromancy, the QSO under Nicholas Buc will support David Yates’ adaptation of J. K. Rowling’s sixth novel in the Harry Potter series, which is one of the darkest of the lot – well, it’s the darkest (novel and film) so far because it (the film) begins with the suborning of Snape and climaxes in the death of Dumbledore – after which fun times at Hogwarts definitely come to an end. Nicholas Hooper’s score uses elements of the John Williams music that we have imbibed into our very souls but his instrumentation is an interesting, carefully placed element in the narrative. Has the Potter fever been sustained? Will audience members come dressed in their house colours or swathed in cloaks and besoming their ways into the auditorium? You’d have to be there to find out, I suppose. Tickets range from $59 to $120 and I couldn’t find any concessions. Bookings attract that meaningless Service Fee, which is an accounting swindle both universal and unavoidable (believe me, I’ve tried).


Southern Cross Soloists

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sunday February 26 at 3 pm

Here we go once more, perpetuating the legend about Paris being the artistic centre of the world. Yes, it was: not anymore, The last time I visited (pre-COVID), the population was in a sour mood with strikes galore and consequently a fair few sites shut. Very little music-making and no opera. Still, the Soloists are determined to celebrate its palmy days, beginning with some selections from Gluck’s Orfeo ed EuridiceBlessed Spirits, anyone? Actually, yes: Portuguese flautist David Silva will be exposed in this bracket. The composer was German, the libretto was Italian, but Gluck did revamp his work in 1764 for Parisian audiences; something of a link, then. Mozart’s A minor Piano Sonata, K. 310, was apparently written about the time of his mother’s death – in Paris; this will be performed by the Soloists’ artist-in-residence, Konstantin Shamray. A firmer connection comes with selections from Debussy’s books of Preludes (Flaxen? Sunken? Fireworks?), which will also involve Shamray. And another Debussy appears in the art song Beau soir, which features one of the night’s guests, cellist Guillaume Wang, the programmers possibly deciding on using Julian Lloyd Webber’s arrangement. Wang also leads the way through Georgette by Rumanian violinist Georges Boulanger. This is a piece of salon music named after the composer’s daughter; despite his (adopted) name, Boulanger had no connection to Paris – perhaps his daughter did. As far as I can tell, Prokofiev wrote his Piano Concerto No. 4, the one for left-hand alone, in Paris during 1931. Commissioned by that unpleasant personality Paul Wittgenstein, the work was never performed during the composer’s lifetime. I don’t know if the Soloists will play the score as written or (more probably) an arrangement; regardless, you’ll be hearing Shamray at work again. Finally, Ravel’s Tzigane will exhibit the talents of guest violinist Courtenay Cleary. By the time he wrote this, the composer was living outside Paris but let’s not be too pedantic at this late stage of the program. The program lasts for 90 minutes (interval? maybe) and the cost is a flat $85.

January 2023 Diary

There is nothing.

I’ve looked assiduously in every potential corner, wherever information could be assimilated, assessed, obscured.

But in January, no musical activity worth the name is being presented in Brisbane or on the Gold Coast.

It makes me long for the Organs of the Ballarat Goldfields that has shrunk from its previous impressive substance to a few days’ shadow of its former self. And the Mornington Peninsula Summer Festival is spreading itself even more thinly these days. But at least both these events promise something.

Not north of the Tweed.

For your cultural input, perhaps Sydney may offer something with its Festival. From what I can see, a couple of contemporary operas and a chamber concert would seem to be the main (only?) offerings.

The nation is on holiday, but nowhere more seriously inactive than in the land of the Where-The-Bloody-Hell-Are-You?

Better luck for us all next month.

December 2022 Diary

To say that the Brisbane music scene dies across the Christmas season is probably a trifle exaggerated. But, if you’re after some solid holiday fare, you might look in vain; I can’t recall ever living in (or near) a capital city so bereft of activity in the later summer period. It’s as though all the local musicians have decided en masse to take a two-month break from all action. Of course, a good reason for this famine is obvious: people would rather enjoy the Queensland sunshine than sit indoors. Further, ticket sales for serious music have obviously fallen off in direct proportion to the desperation shown by online publicity communiques. The times have changed – in a negative way – for most organizations in these allegedly post-COVID months; why risk putting on events for which any financial return is doubtful?

If not for Alex Raineri‘s music festival, the list below would be ludicrously small.


Natsuko Yoshimoto, Alex Raineri, Ensemble Q Quartet, Courtenay Cleary

St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Kangaroo Point

Monday December 5 at 7:30 pm

In the catalogue, Chausson’s large-scale work to be played tonight is not a concerto but a concert for piano, violin and string quartet; in simpler and less confusing terms, it’s a sextet. Can we writhe around linguistically for some time wondering why the composer styled his score a concert? Well, probably, but the best explanation I’ve found is that the work does not subscribe to the Classical/Romantic definition of a concerto but harks back to the Baroque, setting Yoshimoto’s violin and Raineri’s piano as soloists against the Ensemble Q group’s accompaniment/ripieno. I can’t definitively identify the quartet personnel, by the way; Yoshimoto has played first violin with the Ensemble for some time, and Trish Dean seems to be the resident cellist. As for the rest, anybody could show up. The only other work on offer here is Elizabeth Maconchy’s brief String Quartet No. 3 from 1938; an early contribution to the composer’s output of 13 works in the form, it gives an opportunity for us to encounter a voice that British historians and critics regard as a significant one. Yes, we’ve heard that one many times before but nationalistic special pleading may be justified this time. It’s possible that the other named artist – violinist Cleary – will be taking part in the short quartet; as with many of these Brisbane Music Festival recitals, the final reveal can be an intriguing part of the experience.


Amy Lehpamer, Luke Carbon, Alex Raineri

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

Friday December 9 at 6:30 pm

You look across the relevant websites fruitlessly for much by way of nitty-gritty biographical information about musical theatre performer Lehpamer. All her appearances on stage are documented; not so much detail about her career as a violinist. But she’s an attractive and photogenic artiste; as well, the press have been complimentary/kind. For this Brisbane Music Festival night, she’s supported by the inevitable Alex Raineri, our pianist for all seasons, and Luke Carbon who is billed to play ‘woodwinds’ – and that’s exactly what he can provide: all four of the standard orchestral instruments, as well as the saxophone of many colours. How does this evening go? It seems to comprise excerpts from the top-drawer of music theatre writers as well as some oddities: Sondheim, Porter, Gershwin, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Bacharach (a bit dodgy as far as musicals go, but many brilliant individual songs), Lizzo (the hip-hop artist? Good luck with that), Cohen (Leonard? Or George M.?) and King (even worse – Carole? B.B.? Paul? Marcus? Tony? And other possibilities that stretch out into the middle distance). More surprising than finding out which composer is which in these last-named, consider the venue inside which these musicians will do their best; Eliot has nothing on this.


Thea Rossen, Courtenay Cleary, Jeremy Stafford, Alex Raineri, Luke Carbon, Miriam Niessl, Daniel Shearer

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

Friday December 9 at 8:30 pm

Possibly part of the Brisbane Music Festival’s Up Late Series, this recital involves seven musicians including two violinists in Cleary and Niessl, Carbon restricting himself to clarinet, Raineri the essential pianist, percussionist Rossen, guitarist Stafford and a cellist in Daniel Shearer. As a focal point, the program gives us the world premiere of Corrina Bonshek’s The Space Between Us, about which I can find no information – not even its instrumentation or its length. Two things I can report: you are encouraged to walk around the cathedral while listening, and its forces are ‘spatialized’ – by which I believe that they will be spread out, not operating at one focal point. As well as this piece by the Brisbane composer, we are offered a potpourri of Bach, Saariaho, Messiaen, Taylor/Rose (is that Taylor Rose, the Ugandan gospel singer? Or a composite of James and Axl?), and Greenfell (presumably the Hobart-based musician Maria). Whatever the sonic logistics, this performance is scheduled to last for 90 minutes – which is fine when you have permission to wander; think how many vast late Romantic symphonies would benefit from being played to ambulant audiences, especially if the doors are left open.


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio

Saturday December 10 at 9:30 pm

Not to carry on too much, but is this the best that the QSO can do at Christmas? One concert in the whole month and that an entertainment for children? It wouldn’t afflict me so much were it not for the sell-out involved to the ghastly reductiveness of a commercial festive season. No, I’m not hankering for the Ensemble Gombert’s arcane resuscitation of Renaissance motets; not even the Melbourne Symphony’s dry combination of popular and less popular Yuletide classics; not even the Australian Brandenburgers’ principle of playing anything remotely Xmas-related that isn’t nailed down. But for this Santa celebration, only one musician is listed by name: James Shaw playing Sneezy the Reindeer, which is something of a crazy character transmigration since Sneezy is surely one of Disney’s Seven Dwarves. Izzy the Elf and the Claus couple also appear in this inter-active entertainment that mixes the familiar with the deservedly unknown. As the aim is to introduce the young to orchestral players and their instruments, great trust is being placed in the persuasive talents of the orchestra’s players. Good luck to everyone; the running time is 50 minutes and the appropriate age stretch is babies (you’ve got to be joking) to 10 years.

This event will be repeated at 11: 30 am and on Sunday December 11 at 9: 30 am and at 11:30 am.


Jane Sheldon, Jeremy Stafford, Thea Rossen

Merthyr Rd. Uniting Church, New Farm

Thursday December 15 at 8:30 pm

Soprano Sheldon is collaborating with guitarist Stafford and percussionist Rossen in an hour of contemporary music. Pride of place goes to a world premiere of Jodie Rottle’s it has no end; this is a work written for Rossen and features her alone, as far as I can tell. The only misgiving comes inevitably from the title; with the composer’s penchant for events and a kind of musical pantheism, this recital’s 60 minutes could be stretched. Then there’s Phillip Houghton’s Ophelia (A Haunted Sonata), a work for solo guitar which has been espoused by Karin Schaupp; its five movements add up to about 10 minutes’ worth of playing from Stafford. Finally, Sheldon appears in her own collaboration with Julian Curwin: a sequence of eleven songs that gives this Brisbane Music Festival event its title. Essentially, this is an album recorded four years ago and enjoying a live-performance revival. In the original, Curwin played guitar, harmonium and melodica; Sheldon sang and also performed on a zither in the last song, L’Amour triste; and a viola contributed to three of the tracks, including Crossing. There’ll be a certain freshness as Sheldon works with two new musicians at this exercise, although it strikes me as rather lazy programming, particularly as it makes up the major component of the night’s music-making: the recording comes in at a tad less than 37 minutes. Still, perhaps it’s worth it, even if the publicised descriptor of ‘Medieval minstrel band meets Radiohead’ makes my gut uneasy.


Alex Raineri & Thea Rossen

Merthyr Rd. Uniting Church, New Farm

Thursday December 15 at 6:30 pm

As far as I can see, Brisbane Music Festival director Raineri bears most of this recital’s heavy work, particularly as the night ends with Ravel’s Gaspard de la nuit: a mighty challenge for many pianists, a lot of them skidding out of contention in the first Ondine round. Of course, it’s not hard to build up atmospheric presence in all three parts, thanks to the composer’s genius in acoustic painting. But, if Le Gibet is a lay down misere for any moderately gifted interpreter, the outer poemes are more taxing: in the first, a temptation to blur too much, especially across the near-conclusion scintillations; in Scarbo, the chance to let loose with a Bartokian percussive exercise. I don’t think I’ve heard a satisfactory Ondine for years; probably since Carl Vine played it at the North Melbourne Town Hall as part of a catch-all program in which nothing else came close to this display of interpretative brilliance. But I digress. Raineri also has charge of the premiere of John Rotar’s Piano Sonata No. 1, which the publicity calls ‘Ravelian’; phew, you can be lucky. This work is listed in the composer’s catalogue with the subtitle Gongs and Bells from the Black Bamboo Cathedral (Thailand or Trinidad?). And both Raineri and percussionist Rossen collaborate to spark things off with arrangements by Rotar of two parts from Ravel’s five-part Miroirs: the middle piece, Une barque sur l’ocean and the concluding La vallee des cloches which I can easily see suited to Rossen’s resources. About the marine soundscape, I’d be interested to see how the arrangement copes with page after page of arpeggios; give them all to the pianist, or share them out? Which rather makes you wonder: why pick this highly pianistic piece for re-fashioning? Because it’s there?


Lina Andonovska, Alexina Hawkins, Harold Gretton

Mrghyr Rd. Uniting Church, New Farm

Friday December 16 at 6:30 pm

The Brisbane Music Festival here presents a rum trio. Andonovska is a flautist, Hawkins a violist, Gretton a guitarist. I haven’t come across any music written for this instrumental format but I believe that, after this night, that ephemeral knowledge gap will be filled to fine effect. Fortunately, this ensemble is an established one, not just created for the occasion, or yesterday. They will play Melbourne-based Samuel Smith’s Sun Opener, which remains a mystery but will probably include guitar as that is Smith’s instrument; the ensemble performed this work some years ago. Then comes Leo Brouwer’s Pasajes, Retratos y Mujeres (Landscapes, Portraits and Women), a 1997 three-movement suite that was actually written for flute, viola and guitar. As was Francesco Molino’s Op. 45 Grand Trio Concertant: an allegroromanzerondo construct in a happy D Major (the top line can also be played by violin, and some authorities think it’s best performed that way); or are we to hear the composer’s earlier Op. 30 which comprises a larghetto, theme and variations, minuet and rondo? Anyway, then comes veteran flautist/mathematician and Wagga resident Fran Griffin’s Snow Gum which is a trio involving guitar but presents something of a conundrum as it requires two flutes; the first plays alto and C, the second supplies bass and C – a test of Hawkins more than anyone else, although the piece is not over-taxing. Last of all is an Australian premiere: one half of the Assad brothers, Sergio’s Mangabeira which is another true flute/viola/guitar trio, if rather short and salonesque.


Eljo Agenbach, Alex Raineri, Ben Hughes

Merthyr Rd. Uniting Church, New Farm

Friday December 16 at 8:30 pm

Not Monteverdi, not Gluck, probably not Offenbach, this event is presenting as an Up Late Series piano recital by Brisbane Music Festival director Raineri. Agenbach is credited as the night’s visual artist, Hughes its lighting designer. So you’d assume that the performer (if not his audience) is getting a sensurround envelope in which to unveil his wares. The only overt intimation concerning content is a quote from Rilke: the last tercet of the first of the poet’s Sonnets to Orpheus. The composers concerned are Natalie Nicholas, Samantha Wolf and Jane Sheldon. The last-named we know mainly as a soprano, but her compositional credits are observable at the Festival’s Crossing recital on the day before this. In her current catalogue, I can’t find anything directly Orphic but her latest album I am a tree, I am a mouth uses texts by Rilke, although these come from the poet’s earlier Book of Hours. Nicholas is based in Sydney and has enjoyed an active career in terms of commissions; on her confusing website, I can’t find anything documented as aimed towards this night, so I’m assuming her contribution will come from her existing catalogue. In piano works, this comprises five very short pieces and a Rhapsodie L’Insanite which might have some connection to Orpheus before his final encounter with the Thracian maenads. Wolf’s work is called Life on Earth and Raineri will be giving its first performance tonight. Does it have a connection to the bard’s post-Underworld existence? Maybe; it’s probably best to tamp down such suggestions; just because the recital has a suggestive title doesn’t mean that everything has to connect with it. Although . . .


Lina Andonovska, Luke Carbon, Alexina Hawkins, Alex Raineri

Merthyr Road Uniting Church, New Farm

Saturday December 17 at 10:30 am

Last of the Brisbane Music Festival’s Morning series, this 90-minute program features three works. First up, Hawkins and Raineri perform Rebecca Clarke’s Sonata for Viola and Piano from 1919, one of the American/British composer’s most well-known works; which is not saying that much as Clarke’s music is notoriously hard to come by. Then Carbon and Raineri come together for Bernstein’s Clarinet Sonata, a two-movement construct from 1941/2 and the American master’s first published work. These musicians have recorded the sonata on a Move Records disc released at the end of 2021. After interval, flautist Andonovska presents her arrangement for her own instrument of Richard Strauss’s Violin Sonata in E flat Major Op. 18. All glory, laud and honour, of course, but I can’t see why you’d bother. The first movement has the violin occupied pretty high; it’s quite a while until the part moves outside the flute’s range to an A sharp and an A below Middle C and pretty soon after that we encounter a quadruple stop chord and a couple of triple-stop punctuations. At four points in the Andante cantabile, the violin line moves below the flute’s reach and there are some multiple-stop chords and a few bars of double-stopping to negotiate. Later, these two problem areas are exacerbated in the Andante/Allegro movement where a key theme is required to launch itself time after time into an upward-rushing scale-type vault that starts on an impractical low note. Further, you have to wonder how a flute will carry off the biting vitality of these pages.


Lina Andonovska, Luke Carbon, Natsuko Yoshimoto, Alexina Hawkins, Katherine Philp, Alex Raineri

Merthyr Road Uniting Church, New Farm

Saturday December 17 at 6:30 pm

And so we say farewell to this year’s Brisbane Music Festival with a mixed sextet playing two works written for their particular combination, one of them by a young Australian writer specifically for this occasion. Taking up the lion’s share (two-thirds) of this hour-long event is Gerard Grisey’s Vortex temporum, one of the French composer’s last works and – to his probable irritation – a sterling example of the Spectralist movement. Which sounds ghostly but has nothing to do with the supernatural – rather, it is concerned with musical spectra – the which phrase, as far as I can determine, refers to frequency and timbre. I know precious little about this artistic movement or school because the spread of its music is non-existent, as far as Australian performances go, but it strikes me that the above mini-descriptor is akin to your good old-fashioned Klangfarbenmelodie. Or is that over-simplifying, trying to find an anchor in the past for a near-contemporary branch of activity? The Spectralist composers – even those unwillingly included in that grouping, like Grisey – have roused a low level of controversy, juiced up by those who want their music to be beautiful and enjoyable; yes, I too thought we’d moved beyond that sort of thinking but the lazy you will always have with you. No details are available about Bragg’s piece, except that the program and the composer himself call it new work and it fits into the Grisey operating instrumentation of flute (Andonovska), clarinet (Carbon), violin (Yoshimoto), viola (Hawkins), cello (Philp) and piano (Raineri). You’ll be exercised by this music, sent off a week before the big day of grace and gorging with a wealth of aesthetic knots to consider – or leave untouched.


The Queensland Choir

Brisbane City Hall

Sunday December 18 at 2:45 pm

Reassuring to see that colonial habits have not all fallen totally by the wayside. Handel’s great oratorio – a chain of popular recitatives, arias and choruses – spells Christmas for very little reason except tradition. This performance doesn’t look like one of those original versions where the strings are all gut and non-vibrato, the organ a chamber one, the singers number about 16 (including the soloists), the oboes operate off-key in best historical practice, and the conductor leads from a harpsichord. No, I get the impression that this afternoon will be a solid 19th century reading, especially since members of the public have been encouraged to rehearse with The Queensland Choir and participate in the performance. All four soloists are new to me: soprano Leanne Kenneally-Warnock, mezzo Hayley Sugars, tenor Sebastian Maclaine, and baritone Leon Warnock. The orchestra is the Sinfonia of St. Andrew’s, whose home is the Ann St. Uniting Church and which regularly works with this choir. As for the conductor, none is specified but you’d have to think that long-time Choir eminence Kevin Power will do the honours in this final celebration of the Choir’s 150 years of operation, December 18 being the date of the organization’s first concert in 1872. This performance is scheduled to end at 5 pm – which it may, if nobody troubles with breaks and/or a certain amount of Part the Third (as usual) is excised.

November 2022 Diary


Andrew McKinnon/Opera Queensland

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Thursday November 3 at 7:30 pm

This recital has been postponed from early September and, as well as the noted Maltese tenor, also features soprano Amelia Farrugia (herself of Maltese heritage) and pianist Piers Lane. In other words, it’s quite a line-up – and so it should be, considering the prices being charged: $99 to $169 with no apparent concessions for the elderly or the young. Still, why complicate your box office management strategy? The associate artists get a fair share of the limelight; Lane will play two Chopins – the D flat Nocturne and the Op. 18 Valse brillante – and Liszt’s Tarantella from the Venice/Naples book, while Farrugia will rollick through Sempre libera, Musetta’s Waltz Song, Tosti’s Serenata and Lehar’s Vilja. She will also partner Calleja in the exquisite Tornami a dir from Donizetti’s Don Pasquale, O soave fanciulla concluding Act 1 of La Boheme, and Bernstein’s Tonight for a big West Side finale. As for the man himself, he’ll be working hard before interval with La donna e mobile to settle us all down, Una furtiva lagrima to show his relationship to the greats like Tagliavini, and Cavaradossi’s Act 3 self-pitying (understandably so) lament from Tosca. Later, the tenor moves to the salon with Donhaudy’s neatly four-square Vaghissima sembianza and Tosti’s Ideale before hitting the popular trail with Charmaine, which the publicity material falsely attributes to Annunzio Mantovani; then, Moon River, which is indubitably the product of Henry Mancini; following which you’ll hear Parla piu piano – which also is not a Mantovani product but a gem from Nino Rota’s score for The Godfather. And Calleja leads into Tonight with a Bernstein classic in Maria from the same musical. I know Farrugia’s work pretty well and have heard Lane many times; Calleja is an unknown quantity to me in live performance but, as an odd recommendation, his French and Italian operatic repertoire is most impressive.


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio

Friday November 4 at 7:30 pm

This is close-quarters playing for a Classical period ensemble: optimal conditions for hearing two sunny masterpieces. The QSO’s concertmaster, Natsuko Yoshimoto, directs and plays along with Mozart’s Symphony No. 29 and the Beethoven No. 1 in C Major. Of course, we’re used to this re-creation of the leader-director character, thanks to Richard Tognetti’s lengthy presence at the Australian Chamber Orchestra’s principal desk; Melbourne has seen the same control/participation double-act from William Hennessy with his Melbourne Chamber Orchestra. One of the pleasures of this particular evening is that both symphonies are familiar creations: the performers would have met them before – several times, if they’re lucky. And they make a fine comparison as youthful products – Mozart’s work from when he was 18, Beethoven’s somewhere between his 25th and 30th year. For some reason, the earlier work has exercised an affection since its re-discovery in the middle of the last century; possibly it’s the gently aspirational nature of its opening ascending scale melodic pattern that prefaces a melodic feast which culminates in Mozart’s allowing his brace of horns to break into hunt-call mode only 16 bars from the end of his final Allegro. Along with Nos. 2, 4 and 8, Beethoven’s C Major Symphony is among the second-rank in performance numbers across the full series but its amiable brusqueries exhibit an individuality that leapt into astonishing regions a mere three years later. Still, not sure that I’d want to pay $75 for 50 minutes’ worth of music-making. Still, unlike the QPC event listed above, there are concessions available – and that egregious ‘transaction fee’ of $7.95 for doing – what?


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Saturday November 19 at 7:30 pm

This night’s big work is Rachmaninov’s Symphony No. 2; well-known to Melbourne audiences because of Hiroyuki Iwaki’s penetrating performances during his time there as chief conductor. I believe that conductors have given up the practice of randomly cutting the score at points where the argument grows too extended for their powers of concentration; just as well, as the work’s canvas is a marvellously rich experience, despite the repetitions and divergences. Conductor Johannes Fritzsch will relish slashing out every band of colour from this work which is one of the high points of late Romanticism. The QSO’s principal double bass will play solo in Paul Dean’s freshly-minted Double Bass Concerto – an addition to one of the lesser populated genres of musical activity. The night opens with Sydney composer Andrew Howes’ Luminifera – Wild Light for Orchestra which enjoyed its premiere in September from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra under Edo de Waart. I can’t find anything informative about this last-mentioned piece and haven’t come across Howes in any other context. But what an unusual program that features two Australian works comprising the occasion’s first half – and in a series that even the kindest observer would find staid.


Brisbane Chorale

Brisbane City Hall

Sunday November 20 at 3 pm

Once upon a time, they tell me, this oratorio was an integral part of our colonial musical culture; as popular as Messiah and as annually inevitable. How times have changed: with many years of concert-going behind me, I’ve heard Haydn’s magnum opus live once only – from the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir, bringing back into the light one of its erstwhile regular offerings. To my generation, the only fragment of this work that made any appearance in our limited experience was The heavens are telling chorus; even the opening Representation of Chaos took me by surprise at that first hearing, not to mention the garrulity of Adam and Eve in the work’s third part. This reading will be conducted by the Chorale’s director, Emily Cox, and her soloists are soprano Leanne Kenneally, tenor Tobias Merz, and baritone Jason Barry-Smith. The St. Andrew’s Sinfonia performs the work’s instrumental component; I presume this ensemble is associated with the Uniting Church at 299 Ann Street. The Chorale singers will be joined by the Oriana Choir from the Sunshine Coast to produce the requisite full-bodied volume for the hefty choruses in Parts 1 and 2.


Brookfield Rose Farm

10 Massey Place, Brookfield

Sunday November 20 at 3 pm

As far as I can tell, this recital is rather close to the open-air exercises that I’ve experienced across Victoria’s southern reaches – in places like Mornington, Flinders, Ballarat, the Yarra Valley and beyond. The idea is to give your patrons music in a picnic setting; people can bring along their hampers – or buy one at the venue – then find a convenient space, throw down a territorial blanket, have some soporific alcohol, and listen to the music on offer. Most of the time, these excursions are pretty civilized and nobody gets rampagingly bierhaus exuberant. Mind you, that is often due to the musical fare on offer which is usually small-scale. I don’t know anything about the Brookfield Farm, but the organizers have sited their recital in the property’s rose garden. There will be stalls, including a gin bar which strikes me as an advertisement for soggy depression. But the actual music content remains unspecified; there’ll be an 8 piece orchestra – what some of us call an octet. But I wouldn’t place any bets on the Mendelssohn Op. 20, or Mozart’s K. 375, or (wildly improbable) Schubert D 803; in a rose garden setting, you’d be more disposed to enjoy an afternoon of thistledown-light musical floralisms – anyone for Ketelbey or MacDowell? Tickets are $26 with no concessions advertised and the hampers/baskets range from $40 to $53 in both regular/normal composition and vegan. Here’s hoping for fine weather.


Musica Viva

Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University

Thursday November 24 at 7 pm

Probably not the first visiting saxophone quartet we’ve seen on these shores, although I can’t definitely recall any predecessors. The Signum players – soprano Blaz Kemperle, alto Hayrapet Arakelyan, tenor Alan Luzar, baritone Guerino Bellarosa – met while studying in Cologne during 2006. Well, three of these players did: the original alto, Jacopo Taddei, has obviously been replaced – the group’s publicity had Taddei as still a Signum member in recent European appearances but Arakelyan’s managerial online page states that he has been a Signum since 2018. Whatever the facts, this last appearance on their Musica Viva-sponsored means the Signums (Signa?) have given tonight’s program nine times before winding up at the Queensland Con. Everything they perform here is an arrangement. They start with a version of Bach’s Italian Concerto by Katsuki Tochio, work through Gershwin’s Three Preludes in their own arrangement, continue the American engagement with the Symphonic Dances from Bernstein’s West Side Story in Sylvain Dedenon’s transcription, finishing with Dominican musician Michel Camilo’s popular Caribe as seen through the prismatic perceptions of Slovenian jazz guru Izidor Leitinger. In the middle comes Kurt Weill’s 1924 Violin Concerto; originally for soloist and wind (two flutes, oboe, pairs of clarinets, bassoons, horns, a trumpet and some extraneous forces in a double-bass with timpani and assorted percussion), it has been recast for solo violin and the Signum ensemble by Australian film composer Jessica Wells. The violinist in this half-hour rarity will be Kristian Winther whom I’ve not come across since that weird 2014-15 personnel split in the Australian String Quartet.


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Saturday November 26 at 7:30 pm

For better or worse, this great oratorio is polished off several times each year in Australia around Christmas, the impetus for this timing apparently coming from the Nativity Scene 4 of Part 1. The first performance in Dublin took place around Easter and the great thrust of the work is towards a depiction of Christ’s death and resurrection. However, there’s no real reason why you couldn’t perform this piece as a musical celebration of Pentecost, All Souls’ Day, Eid al-Fitr, Yom Kippur, or Diwali. This will be the one and only QSO performance and the event is to be conducted by Benjamin Northey, the most competent and likeable of the country’s crop of young conductors. His soloists are soprano Emma Pearson, mezzo Dimity Shepherd (no toying around with counter tenors for this reading), veteran tenor Paul McMahon and bass David Greco; even I’m rather impressed by the high quality of this quartet. As for the work’s mighty spine, these fall to the Voices of Birralee which is a Brisbane-based youth choral organization; great to see a change from your established choirs and you can live in hope that the Birralees will bring some creative energy to that final blaze of Worthy is the Lamb and the Amen fugue, a sequence that usually smashes a congregation – sorry, audience – into an aesthetic coma. Plenty of concessions available but the hall is packing out quickly.


Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio

Sunday November 27 at 3 pm

Finishing its chamber music forays for the year, the QSO has curated a cleverly contrived program with familiar masterworks at both ends of the afternoon. Further, the organization hasn’t stinted on the number of players involved. At the start, there’s the Mozart Dissonance Quartet K. 465, last of the set dedicated to Haydn; at the end we hear the ebullient Schumann Piano Quartet in E flat where pleasures and surprises flow from every corner. In the middle is a slight piece of Richard Strauss juvenilia in the Variations on a Bavarian folk song, Dirndl ist haub auf mi’, a string trio which doesn’t amplify your appreciation of this composer even if it’s amiable enough in shape and utterance. All in all, enough to keep a string quartet in work, with pianist Daniel de Borah emerging for the big Schumann finale. The total playing time adds up to a little over an hour’s worth.. For which purpose, we hear concertmaster Natsuko Yoshimoto and her associate Alan Smith with Jane Burroughs fleshing out the violin ranks; two violas in principal Imants Larsens and Nicholas Tomkin; a similar cello group with principal Hyung Suk Bae and colleague Andre Duthoit. I don’t know who is participating in what (apart from de Borah) but that’s a wealth of talent to play around with. And there are concession tickets available for seniors, students and children although you have to allow for that inexplicable $7.95 ‘transaction fee’ that is so prevalent whenever you use a credit card – an unavoidable necessity in making bookings, it seems, and not just for QSO events.

October 2022 Diary


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


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.



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 . . .


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.


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?


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.


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.