Pictures at an Exhibition - Queensland Symphony Orchestra

‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ // Queensland Symphony Orchestra

‘Pictures at an Exhibition’ was intoxicating. 

Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s latest concert, ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’, brought together three pieces of music that were both captivating and entertaining. Although the production featured three separate composers, the works complimented each other and showcased the talents of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.

The Concert Hall at QPAC was the perfect venue for the concert. The orchestra warming up on entry set the mood for an enthralling night of music. The audience was advised that the performance was being recorded and would later be broadcast on ABC. This added to the audience’s excitement, knowing they were about to witness a moment of history – the debut performance of a concerto by composer Gordon Kerry.

The first work was ‘Overture to May Night from a little-known opera by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsavoc. Opening with dulcet tones from the woodwinds, the piece soon gained dynamic momentum. Switching from fast to slow, soft to loud, the orchestra buzzed with energy as conductor Benjamin Northey led the piece to a rousing end. The applause was well-deserved and the musicians exited the stage while it was set for the next work.

During this break, the conductor invited Gordon Kerry to the stage to discuss his concerto, ‘Sinfonia Concertante for flute, clarinet and orchestra’. Kerry explained how the work was commissioned by a dear friend and this concert was the first time it had ever been performed. The audience was then introduced to the soloists: Alison Mitchell on flute and Irit Silver on clarinet. The musicians returned to the stage and prepared to begin the piece. 

Opening with soft strings and low woodwind, the flute and clarinet played a spritely call and response motif that continued throughout the piece. The orchestra then turned, becoming dark and ominous, while the soloists continued with their melodic motifs. It conjured up imagery of birds darting through an enchanted and sometimes menacing forest. At times, the notes were frenetic and panicked. The flute and clarinet overlapping one another, adding to the drama of the piece. The work concluded to rapturous applause for the composer, soloists and orchestra. The audience was privileged to experience a debut performance of such an emotive piece of music, expertly played by Mitchell, Silver and the accompanying orchestra.

The final work of the night was the concert’s namesake: Modest Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures at an Exhibition’. The piece was divided into several movements, each with a different mood. The brass section of the orchestra was more prominent in this work, the tubas and trumpets sounding out confidently in the first movement. Though it would have been nice to have the paintings on which the work was based included in the program, it was clear from the conductor’s handling of the movements that each had a distinct and vivid motif. Striking musical techniques such as fast pizzicato made the concert visually, as well as aurally, captivating. Under Northey’s direction, the piece ended with perfectly balanced strings, woodwind, brass and percussion swelling to a triumphant finale.

At the conclusion of the concert, thunderous applause once again erupted in the Concert Hall. It was clear as the musicians took one final bow for the night that they have given everything to the performance. It was an honour for audiences to experience a dynamic and rousing concert, including a debut original composition, played by such talented and passionate musicians. Queensland Symphony Orchestra did not put a foot wrong in a concert that was captivating to the very last note.

To view Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s upcoming season visit the QSO website.

Images provided by Queensland Symphony Orchestra 

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