REVIEW: Piano Power (Queensland Symphony Orchestra)

Where? Concert Hall, QPAC
When? February 17
Queensland Symphony Orchestra presented Piano Power, the first in their 2018 Maestro series, on Saturday night – a stunning collection of styles and sounds, featuring award-winning French classical pianist Jean-Efflam Bavouzet and conducted with passionate precision by young Scandinavian Daniel Blendulf.
A surprisingly interactive pre-concert talk, delivered with great charisma by Lachlan Snow, makes the performance easier to understand and appreciate for those of us who are not well-acquainted with symphonic theory or history.

The concert began with Glinka’s brief Overture to Ruslan and Ludmila, followed by the audience’s first taste of Bavouzet’s brilliant, seemingly effortless pianism with Debussy’s Fantaisie, which the composer never allowed to be performed in his lifetime.

Particularly impressive and unusual was Ravel’s Concerto in D for Piano (Left Hand) and Orchestra, commissioned by Austrian pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm in the First World War. Bavouzet did such a spectacular job that if I hadn’t seen his right arm resting away from the keys, I might not have believed that he was playing with only one hand.
The concert closed with Scriabin’s The Poem of Ecstasy. Lachlan informed us during the pre-concert talk that the symphony was based on a 300-line poem that Scriabin wrote, which he also based other works on, and was “a study in tension and release”, with two major climaxes in the work. It was certainly a spectacular journey, even for the musical layman such as myself.
I am always in awe of Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s precision, and Piano Power was no different – under the baton of highly-regarded young Scandinavian conductor Danial Blendulf, the orchestra move as one. Visually fascinating, on top of the magic that they create through their music.
The second Maestro series for the year is Epic Visions, coming up soon on March 8. Epic Visions promises to present its audiences with the immense and the intimate, featuring violinist Barnabás Kelemen and, a QSO exclusive, the Australian debut of Conductor Eduardo Strausser. Buy tickets here.

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