Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Mozart’s Clarinet Maestro concert brought together an interesting and varied program including a short work from an Australian composer, the titular clarinet concerto, and Bohuslav Martinů’s rollercoaster of a first symphony.
The concert opened with The Saqqara Bird, a short orchestral work composed by Melody Eötvös and inspired by the 1898 discovery of a bird-shaped artefact in Saqqara, Egypt. Made of sycamore wood, the function of the bird remains unknown although hypotheses included a ceremonial object, a child’s toy, and even rudimentary experiments in aviation. The piece began with an anxious rippling of strings, and the coordination of the large strings section was impressive as they built up to an ominous march. A piccolo solo was an interesting highlight, and the piece ended gently with a pattern of sound that reminded me of raindrops, and which recurred throughout the work.
Following The Saqqara Bird was Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Concerto in A major for Clarinet & Orchestra, showcasing the considerable skill of the soloist, QSO Section Principal Clarinet Irit Silver. The concerto was initially written to be played on the basset clarinet, an instrument with an extended range of lower notes, which was co-invented by Mozart’s friend Anton Stadler. Stadler is also attributed as the reason that the concerto’s original score did not survive, and is assumed to have either lost it, pawned it, or had it stolen from him. This concerto was the final instrumental work that Mozart completed before his death, and the score was posthumously adapted for the standard clarinet.
As the soloist in QSO’s performance of the concerto, Silver literally sparkled in a sequinned jacket and every note was clear, bright, and distinct. It was interesting to see her adjust her instrument and to have a clear view of her playing, as this level of detail is generally obscured by other sections of the orchestra. The concerto began with the bright and enchanting Allegro, supported by emphatic strings and woodwinds, into the soothing, peaceful Adagio and finally the speedier, uplifting Rondo: Allegro, finishing with a flurry of strings and a flourish. Silver’s playing was so precise, time seemed to stop for a moment, particularly in the Adagio.
Following an interval, the concert continued with Bohuslav Martinů’s Symphony No. 1. Commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky after Martinů, a Czech composer, had fled the Nazis and settled in America, the symphony is full of ever-changing colour and texture. Principal Conductor Johannes Fritzsch brought a grounded energy to the podium, his movements sharp but fluid, and a sense of genuine enjoyment especially in this symphony.
Martinů’s symphony began with the tense and filmic Moderato and the second movement, Allegro, was equally grand, with heavier brass and percussion reaching crashing heights. Largo, the third movement, was darkly dramatic, opening slow and ominous and building to a more hopeful finish, and the fourth and final movement was the triumphant and vigorous Allegro non troppo, an exuberant conclusion to both the symphony and the concert.
Mozart’s Clarinet was performed at the QPAC Concert Hall on 23 April 2022.