Where? Concert Hall, QPAC
When? March 8, 2018
Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s second Maestro concert for 2018, Epic Visions, featured the triumphant return of Hungarian violinist Barnábas Kelemen and the QSO-exclusive Australian debut of conductor Eduardo Strausser.
QSO’s principal tuba player Thomas Allely gave the pre-concert talk – I can’t recommend this enough if you are a newbie to orchestral music, like I am. It’s always a joy to listen to people speaking about things they are passionate about, and it really helps to contextualise the work you are about to hear.
The first work of the evening was Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, inspired by the natural feature Fingal’s Cave on the uninhabited island of Staffa in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland. Mendelssohn visited the location in 1829 and was inspired to write a piece that expressed the feeling of loneliness and overawe by nature, and being in a place that makes you feel small by comparison.
The second work of the evening, and truly a highlight, was Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4 in D. After playing Brahms’ Violin Concerto with QSO last November, Barnábas Kelemen proved himself to be an entertainer as well as an artist with his highly expressive performance, despite a brief interlude to retune and a broken bow string. Passionate, precise, and playful – it was incredible to watch the speed of his fingers dancing along the neck of the instrument, and sometimes hard to believe there was only one musician playing. Kelemen had great rapport with Strausser as conductor, and performed two encores to thunderous applause.
The third and final work of the concert was Bruckner’s 4th symphony, Romantic – the only symphony to which Bruckner himself gave a name. Of his many symphonies, Thomas Allely said in the pre-concert talk, this one is probably the most accessible. “It is certainly the most poetic of them,” Allely said. He also read an excerpt from a poem by American conductor Kenneth Woods, If I were to play trombone in a Bruckner symphony. “Low brass players have an almost spiritual relationship with Bruckner,” Allely opined. “The way we play his music is almost a religious experience for us.”
A big strings section, and heavy brass presence – this is the only Bruckner symphony using more than two trumpets – makes for an ‘epic’ musical experience indeed. The orchestra moves with the lightest touch, rising from silence and barely audible as the first movement begins, and I enjoyed the motif of horns calling throughout.
The QSO musicians created quite the epic vision themselves under the baton of Strausser and his sharp, very physical conducting. Overall, a captivating musical adventure that, as promised, allowed audiences to experience the immense and the intimate.
The next Maestro concert, An Emotional Rollercoaster, will be on April 14 and feature works from Debussy, Ginastera, and Brahms, conducted by Alexander Prior and with 2018 Artist-in-Residence Sergio Tiempo at the piano. Buy tickets here.