February 2023 Diary

VIVALDI FOUR SEASONS

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.

JOY AND SORROW

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?

DANCE AROUND THE WORLD

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.

ILYA GRINGOLTS PLAYS BRUCH

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.

ODE TO JOY

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

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE IN CONCERT

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).

CITY OF LIGHTS: FROM PARIS, WITH LOVE

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.

CHAUSSON’S CONCERTO

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.

AN EVENING WITH AMY

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.

BETWEEN US

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.

SYMPHONIC SANTA 2022

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.

CROSSING

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.

BOAT ON THE OCEAN

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?

PHOENIX TRIO

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.

ORPHEUS

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 . . .

SATURDAY SONATAS

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.

VORTEX

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.

BRISBANE SINGS MESSIAH

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

JOSEPH CALLEJA

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.

STUDIO SESSIONS 5

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?

MIGHTY RACHMANINOV

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.

HAYDN THE CREATION

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.

STRINGS AND STEMS

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.

SIGNUM SAXOPHONE QUARTET & KRISTIAN WINTHER

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.

MESSIAH

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.

STUDIO SESSIONS 6

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

WHITE NIGHTS

Southern Cross Soloists

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sunday October 2 at 3 pm

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

CONTRA SCHUBERT

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

Holy Trinity Hall, Fortitude Valley

Friday October 7 at 6 pm

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

GRIEG, LISZT, CHOPIN

Piers Lane

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sunday October 9 at 3 pm

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

BEETHOVEN & DVORAK

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall., Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Friday October 14 at 11:30 am

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

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

MOZART, MILLS & MAHLER

Ensemble Q

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sunday October 16 at 3 pm

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

VIENNESE CLASSICS

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sunday October 23 at 11:40 am

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

ANDREA BOCELLI

Brisbane Chorale

Brisbane Entertainment Centre, Boondall

Tuesday October 25 at 8 pm

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

MUSIC FOR THE SISTINE CHAPEL

The Tallis Scholars

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Wednesday October 26 at 7 pm

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

TRANSCENDENCE

Roger Cui

Holy Trinity Hall, Fortitude Valley

Friday October 28 at 6:30 pm

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

BRUCKNER SYMPHONY NO. 8

Queensland Conservatorium Orchestra

Conservatorium Theatre, South Bank

Friday October 28 at 7:30 pm

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

MUSICAL THEATRE GALA

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Saturday October 29 at 1:30 pm

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

The program will be repeated at 7:30 pm.

WHEN WE SPEAK

Jodie Rottle, Katherine Philp, Alex Raineri

Holy Trinity Hall, Fortitude Valley

Saturday October 29 at 3 pm

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

WINTER JOURNEY

Brenton Spiteri & Alex Raineri

Holy Trinity Hall, Fortitude Valley

Saturday October 29 at 6 pm

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

September 2022 Diary

ORAVA QUARTET

Brisbane Festival

South Bank Piazza, 410 Stanley Street

Sunday September 4 at 2 pm

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

PIANO POWER

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Friday September 9 at 11:30 pm

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

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

HEART CRY

Brisbane Chorale

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Sunday September 11 at 11:30 am

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

EXTASE

Voxalis

St. Andrew’s Uniting Church, 299 Ann Street

Sunday September 17 at 7 pm

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

MENDELSSOHN’S ELIJAH

The Queensland Choir

Brisbane City Hall

Sunday September 18 at 3 pm

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

STUDIO SESSIONS 4

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio

Sunday September 25 at 3 pm

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

SCHUBERT’S TROUT

Australian Chamber Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Monday September 26 at 7 pm

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

MEDITERRANEAN

Avi Avital & Giovanni Sollima

Queensland Conservatorium, Griffith University

Tuesday September 27

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

August 2022 Diary

RAY CHEN

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Thursday August 11 at 8 pm

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

FOUR LAST SONGS

Brisbane Music Festival

Loyal Hope of the Valley Lodge, Fortitude Valley

Friday August 12 at 6:30 pm

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

DEFIANT WOMEN

Brisbane Music Festival

Loyal Hope of the Valley Lodge, Fortitude Valley

Saturday August 13 at 6:30 pm

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

ORCHESTRAL ADVENTURES

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Saturday August 13 at 7:30 pm

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

THE CROWD & I

Australian Chamber Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Monday August 15 at 7 pm

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

ICONIC CLASSICS

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio, Southbank

Wednesday August 17 at 10 am

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

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

SUBITO

Brisbane Music Festival

Opera Queensland Studio, Southbank

Wednesday August 17 at 6:30 pm

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

MOONDRUNK

Brisbane Music Festival

Opera Queensland Studio, Southbank

Thursday August 18 at 7 pm

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

HOMEGROWN

Brisbane Music Festival

Opera Queensland Studio, Southbank

Friday August 19 at 7 am

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

75TH BIRTHDAY CONCERT

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Friday August 19 at 7:30 pm

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

SUPERFAMOUS

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Saturday August 20 at 7:30 pm

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

MAHLER 3

Brisbane Chorale

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

Saturday August 27 at 7 pm

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

KREUTZER

Brisbane Music Festival

St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Kangaroo Point

Sunday August 28 at 3 pm

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

ITALIAN SONGBOOK

Brisbane Music Festival

St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Kangaroo Point

Sunday August 28 at 6:30 pm

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

July 2022 Diary

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

Friday July 1 at 7:30 pm

FESTIVAL OPENING

Claire Edwardes, Alex Raineri

Salvation Army Brisbane City Temple, 167 Ann St.

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

Saturday July 2 at 3 pm

MOTIONS

Paul Dean, Alex Raineri

Salvation Army Brisbane City Temple, 167 Ann St.

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

Tuesday July 12 at 7:30 pm

RETURN TO THE STAGE

Australian Youth Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

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

Wednesday July 13 at 7:30 pm

EAST MEETS WEST

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

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

Thursday July 14 at 12 pm

QUIRKY

Real and Diverse Theatre/Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Cremorne Theatre, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

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

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

Thursday July 14 at 7 pm

A WINTER’S JOURNEY

Allan Clayton, Kate Golla

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

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

Wednesday July 20 at 7:30 am

LA LUNE BLANCHE

Ensemble Q

City Workshop, 139 Charlotte St.

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

Sunday July 24 at 11:30 am

FANTASY AND FOLKLORE

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

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

Friday July 29 at 11:30 am

TRIUMPHANT TCHAIKOVSKY

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre

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

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

Sunday July 31 at 3:30 pm

MAHLER & STRAUSS

Leanne Kenneally, Caitlin Weal, Alla Yarosh, Francis Atkins

St. Mary’s Anglican Church, Kangaroo Point

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

April Diary

Wednesday April 1

SERIOUS BUSINESS – AN APRIL FOOLS DAY CONCERT

Conservatorium of Music, Griffith University

Ian Hanger Recital Hall, Queensland Conservatorium at 1:05

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

 

Thursday April 2

COMPASSION

Camerata

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 7 pm

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

 

Friday April 3

MOZART’S JUPITER

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 11 am

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

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

 

Friday April 3

SEEN BUT NOT HER

Muses Trio and Vulcana

Visy Theatre, Brisbane Powerhouse at 7:30 pm

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

 

Wednesday April 8

Goldner String Quartet & Piers Lane

Queensland Conservatorium Theatre at 7 pm

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

 

Wednesday April 15

Leanne Jin

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

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

 

Sunday April 19

BEETHOVEN, ROSSINI AND WEBER

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio at 3 pm

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

 

Sunday April 19

WHEN THE WORLD WAS AT WAR

Ensemble Q

Queensland Conservatorium Theatre, Griffith University South Bank at 3 pm

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

 

Friday April 24

OPERA GALA

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

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

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

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

 

Tuesday April 28

Umberto Clerici and Daniel de Borah

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

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

 

 

March Diary

Sunday March 1

Jayson Gilham

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 3 pm

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

 

Tuesday March 3

VIVALDI’S VENICE

Brandenburg  Chamber Orchestra

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

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

 

Friday March 6

MUSICAL SORCERY

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 11 am

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

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

 

Saturday March 7

SPANISH SOUVENIRS

Jonathan Henderson and Emily Granger

Old Government House at 3 pm

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

 

Sunday March 8

BEYOND MESSIAH: HIGHLIGHTS OF HANDEL

Brisbane Chamber Choir

St. John’s Cathedral at 2 pm

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

 

Sunday March 8

THE KING’S TRUMPETER

Queensland Baroque Orchestra

St. Andrew’s Uniting Church at 2 pm

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

 

Sunday March 8

THE MAN WHO CRIED

Ensemble Q

Conservatorium Theatre, Southbank at 3 pm

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

 

Wednesday March 11

BEN FOLDS: THE SYMPHONIC TOUR

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

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

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

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

 

Sunday March 15

THE BALLET BEAUTIFUL

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

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

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

 

Friday March 20

THE JUPITER SYMPHONY

Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra

Conservatorium Theatre, Griffith University at 7:30 pm

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

 

Saturday March 21

THE PEASANT PRINCE

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

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

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

 

Monday March 30

ARVO PART & SHOSTAKOVICH

Australian Chamber Orchestra

Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre at 7 pm

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