‘Firebird’ was animated.
The Queensland Symphony Orchestra (QSO) once again graced the stage of the Concert Hall at QPAC on a rainy Saturday night to entertain a large audience of classical music enthusiasts with ‘Firebird’. The concert was also live-streamed to multiple locations in regional Queensland, an endeavour QSO is very passionate about.
Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, conductor Elena Schwarz was unable to conduct this concert, leaving renowned Italian conductor Umberto Clerici to take the podium. Clerici, who made his debut with the QSO in February, absolutely delighted the audience with his enthusiasm at this opportunity. The soloist for the evening, Australian pianist Simon Tedeschi, stepped in for pianist Piers Lane, who was also unable to travel.
The first piece of the evening was Weber’s overture to his opera ‘Der Freischütz’. This opera delves into good versus evil and is inspired by the German ghost story of the same name written by Johann August Apel. The clashing themes, both haunting and jovial, were foreshadowed in the overture and admirably balanced by the orchestra. The large dynamic and mood changes throughout the piece were handled expertly by Clerici.
The second piece was Mozart’s ‘Piano Concerto No.19 in F major, K. 459’ with Tedeschi at the grand piano. The orchestra was reduced to half its size with half the usual string section, flute, two oboes, two bassoons, and two French horns. This piece was a wonderful example of the musicians’ ability to play both in a full symphony orchestra and in a smaller ensemble setting. Their balance, with each other and with the pianist, was handled well under the baton of Clerici. Tedeschi’s performance was nothing short of brilliant and his remarkably accurate classical technique was flawless. The incredible communication between soloist, conductor, and orchestra allowed for impeccable cues and timing, as well as the melodic and harmonic similarities between the solo piano and accompanying instruments.
After generous applause, Tedeschi returned to the piano to play a couple of the variations and his own jazzy interpretation of Mozart’s “Twelve Variations on ‘Ah vous dirai-je, Maman’’’ (which translates to “Oh! Shall I tell you, Mama”) – better known to us today as ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’. This delighted the audience, who broke into another great round of applause.
The last piece was Igor Stravinsky’s Suite from ‘The Firebird’ (1919 version). ‘The Firebird’ was originally written as a ballet inspired by the Slavic mythological creature and the Russian folklore of Koschei the Deathless. In 1911, 1919, and 1945, Stravinsky arranged three concert suites of the ballet. The 1919 suite consists of the ‘Introduction – the Firebird and its Dance’, ‘The Firebird’s Variation’, ‘The Princesses’ Khorovod’, ‘Infernal Dance of King Kashchei’, ‘Berceuse’ (Lullaby), and ‘Finale’. The chaos of the beginning of the piece while introducing the story led beautifully into the princesses’ dance with a lush interpretation. The highlight was definitely the ‘Infernal Dance of King Kashchei’ with its loud start, shocking the audience after a peaceful end to the princesses’ dance. The strength and power of the brass section coupled with the pizzicato (plucked strings) in the strings was amazing. The ‘Finale’ was also dazzling, with the majesty of Stravinsky’s composing and Clerici’s conducting.
The audience eagerly and wholeheartedly welcomed the presence of Clerici and Tedeschi and showed support by cheering and clapping loudly. The varied program of classical, romantic, and contemporary music in different styles had the audience intrigued and entranced by the skill of the orchestra, Tedeschi and Clerici.
To find out more about the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and their upcoming concerts, visit QSO’ website.
Photography Peter Wallis.