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‘QSO Favourites: Beethoven to Bolero’ // Queensland Symphony Orchestra

‘QSO Favourites: Beethoven to Bolero’ was stunning.

The Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s (QSO) 2021 season opened with an exciting program to a full audience at QPAC’s Concert Hall. To celebrate this amazing return after a tough year of scarce performances, QSO asked their audience to submit the pieces they most wanted to hear. The concert was conducted by the incomparable Dane Lam, an internationally acclaimed orchestral and opera conductor, and featured solos from both the QSO orchestra and special guests.

The concert began with Mozart’s energetic overture from his opera, ‘The Marriage of Figaro’. The infamous opening motif was perfectly in time and the ever-changing dynamics and classical phrasing were handled expertly, while maintaining a gorgeous balance between the different sections of the orchestra.

Next, the audience was indulged in a breathtaking and sombre performance of the second movement from Beethoven’s ‘Symphony No. 7’. Lam forwent his baton with this piece, conducting with just his hands. This choice created a very sensitive and powerful rendition of the piece.

Tchaikovsky’s third movement from his Fifth Symphony was absolutely sublime. Aptly named ‘Valse’ – or waltz – this movement is reminiscent of Tchaikovsky’s infamous ballet scores. Lam conducted with elegance and his communication with the musicians, and their connection with each other, resulted in a lush and perfectly in-time performance.

The special guests of the evening, saxophone players Emma Di Marco, Pierce Hurne, and Matthew Christensen, joined the orchestra for ‘An American in Paris’ by George Gershwin. This rambunctious piece delighted the audience and contained instruments that aren’t seen too often in an orchestra such as saxophones, taxi horns, and celeste. QSO’s interpretation of this piece was both technically and musically remarkable and had a special flair that drew the audience in.

Antonín Dvořák’s beautiful second movement of his New World Symphony (Symphony No. 9) followed. This piece gave the brass and woodwinds, especially the cor anglais, many moments to shine and show off the unique timbre of their instruments. The delicacy and brilliance they added to the piece balanced superbly with the strings. 

The final piece on the program was Maurice Ravel’s ‘Bolero’. This landmark piece, which originally premiered in 1928, is one of the most revered pieces of orchestral music. The snare drum is particularly integral in this piece and QSO’s section principal percussionist, David Montgomery, played the part with skill and finesse . This piece also featured various solos from the musicians in the orchestra including Vivienne Brooke playing the oboe d’amore, Di Marco on the sopranino saxophone, and Hurne on the tenor saxophone. The gradual increase in volume and intensity through each instrument’s dynamic markings and layering was successfully achieved.

After thunderous applause and a standing ovation from the audience, Lam returned to the podium to conduct an encore piece; Johannes Brahms’ ‘Hungarian Dance No. 6’. 

Between the pieces, concertmaster Warwick Adeney, cellist Kathryn Close, oboist Huw Jones, and Lam, provided information on the pieces they were playing with funny anecdotes and of course, some light-hearted teasing of the viola section. The informative listening guides in the program coupled with the musicians’ own thoughts, feelings, and special memories of the pieces made those chats even more special and enjoyable.

Overall, the musicians’ skills were phenomenal and their performance under Lam’s conducting made for an extraordinary, highly detailed and emotional concert. The thrill of returning to the once empty Concert Hall with a full audience and well-chosen program provided a brilliant start to an incredible season.

To learn more about Queensland Symphony Orchestra and their upcoming concerts, visit QSO’s website.

Photography by Peter Wallis.

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