Review: Queensland’s Finest (Queensland Symphony Orchestra & Brisbane Festival)

Dane Lam conducts Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Photographed by Peter Wallis.

Queensland Symphony Orchestra and Brisbane Festival brought together three brilliant Queensland musicians for their recent concert, aptly named Queensland’s Finest: conductor Dane Lam, who grew up in Brisbane and is now nationally and internationally acclaimed; award-winning pianist Jayson Gillham, raised in Dalby and now performing with the world’s leading orchestras; and composer Sebastian Lingane, a multi-instrumentalist and talented young Brisbane composer who was the recipient of QSO’s 2019 Compose Project Award, and whose new composition Illuminating Paradise made its world premiere at the concert.

Dane Lam conducts Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Photographed by Peter Wallis.

The audience was welcomed by Concertmaster & violinist Natsuko Yoshimoto, who was recently appointed to the role alongside Warwick Adeney, and the concert began with the world premiere of Sebastian Lingane’s composition Illuminating Paradise. Commissioned by Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Illuminating Paradise was inspired by the period of change and progress surrounding the turn of the 20th century, as well as by the esoteric religion of Theosophy which many composers and artists followed. Lingane’s piece was an exciting and atmospheric listening journey, with an eerie, slithering melody giving way to larger, more dramatic moments. The music moved like an unfinished thought, drawing back or suddenly changing direction, and cycling back on itself like the symbol of the ouroboros (a snake devouring its own tail) that Lingane drew inspiration from. Joining conductor Dane Lam onstage to much applause after the premiere performance concluded, Lingane said they had wanted to feature individual sections and performers with this piece, and had used French notations as an homage to the language of the artists who had inspired them.

Sebastian Lingane takes the stage following the world premiere of their composition Illuminating Paradise. Photographed by Peter Wallis.

The second piece performed as part of Queensland’s Finest was Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, with Jayson Gillham as the featured soloist. The concerto begins with only the soloist, highly unusual when it was premiered in 1807, and evolves to include the full force of the orchestra, an uplifting and enchanting listening experience. Gillham performed with intensity and precision, his fingers rippling as the notes ran from them like water, up and down the instrument- it was mesmerising to watch his virtuosic movement throughout the piece. Even with his fingers off the keys Gillham seemed lost in the moment, swaying and nodding with eyes closed as the orchestra played around him.

Jayson Gillham plays Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4 with Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Photographed by Peter Wallis.

The concert concluded with a performance of Richard Strauss’ lively tone poem Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks, telling the story of the mischievous titular character from German folklore as he commits a number of pranks and ultimately meets a gory end. A piece of storytelling music, Till Eulenspiegel evoked strong imagery in each episode of Till’s pranks or misadventures, separated from the other ‘episodes’ by a refrain. Even with the dramatic end that Till eventually met, this was a light-hearted note on which to end the concert.

Dane Lam conducts Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Photographed by Peter Wallis.

The physicality and cohesion of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra is always impressive, and Dane Lam conducted with passion and precision, using swift, sharp movements. Queensland’s Finest was certainly a display of significant local talent, and an enjoyable evening of bright and lively music.

Find out about QSO’s upcoming concerts on their website

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