‘Arabian Nights’ was magical.
The Queensland Symphony Orchestra (QSO) stunned audiences with a beautiful program for their first ‘Friday Nights’ concert of the season, conducted by the unparalleled Johannes Fritzsch.
The first piece played was Rimsky-Korsakov’s symphonic suite ‘Scheherazade’. The piece tells the tale of the Persian queen who entertains her terrifying husband, the sultan, by telling stories for 1,001 nights in order to stay alive. The character of Scheherazade is personified by violin solos scattered throughout the suite and was masterfully played by the co-concertmaster Natsuko Yoshimoto.
‘Scheherazade’ consists of four movements: The Sea and Sinbad’s Ship, The Story of the Kalendar Prince, The Young Prince and the Young Princess, and Festival at Baghdad – The Sea – The Ship Goes to Pieces on a Rock Surmounted by a Bronze Warrior – Conclusion. Each of the notable themes in the piece that represented different parts of the stories Scheherazade told was combined and heard clearly in the movements with ease. The darker and almost violent theme of the sultan, sea, and ship were perfectly counteracted with the delicate solo violin, as well as solos from the woodwind and brass sections, plus the dazzling harp.
The first movement immediately swept the audience into the vast world of Scheherazade’s tales and established the turbulent relationship between her and the sultan. The second movement heavily featured the woodwind section, which was always balanced with the rest of the orchestra. The intense dynamics were handled with skill. The third movement contrasted so starkly and beautifully to the first two movements, with both lovely and playful music reflecting the love between the prince and princess. The final movement was a culmination of the previous themes with some new aspects. The articulation was crisp, both melodically and harmonically, and the transitions between tempi and different themes were immaculate.
The second and final piece of the evening was Maurice Ravel’sLa Valse’; a French perspective of the infamous Viennese waltz. Under a magnificent, lavish waltz reminiscent of Johan ‘n Strauss II – one of the most revered composers of waltz music – Ravel wrote an interesting harmonic tension that was expertly balanced by the orchestra. The glissandos in the strings and harp created a hazy, dream-like atmosphere punctuated by bustling and rhythmic sections. The musicians were impeccably in time, as were the changes in tempo. Generous rubato conducted and communicated flawlessly by Fritzsch added to the luscious feel of the waltz. The somewhat chaotic yet whimsical feel of this piece, which Ravel himself describes as “through rifts in eddying clouds waltzing couples can be glimpsed” was achieved under Fritzsch’s precise and eloquent conducting.
To make the night even more special and exciting, it was announced that Fritzsch has been named the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Principal Conductor and Artistic Adviser through to 2023. The audience was beyond thrilled, as were the musicians of the orchestra, everyone behind the scenes, and of course, Fritzsch himself.
This performance made for an incredible experience for the audience, who indulged in a lush fantasy of faraway places and times. It left everyone in high anticipation for the wonderful concerts in the future.
For more information on the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and their upcoming concerts, visit their website.
Photography Peter Wallis.