Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Studio Sessions provide a more intimate concert experience, where individual instruments and artists can shine, and Studio Sessions 3 included works by Beethoven, Mozart, and Australian composer and violist Brett Dean.
The orchestra’s Principal Piccolo, Kate Lawson, introduced the concert, which showcased a “variety of orchestral colours”. The first piece was Dean’s Short Stories, a series of five short works composed in 2005 and played only by strings musicians. Each of these five brief works was distinct, and there didn’t seem to be a common thread weaving them together; the works were originally commissioned by the Australian Chamber Orchestra as interludes to be played between Vivaldi’s flute concertos. There was the buzzing Devotional, followed by the tempestuous Premonitions. The third piece, eerie and meditative Embers, was my personal favourite, evoking that timeless hypnosis of staring into a fire. The fourth short story, Komarov’s last words, was an otherworldly work inspired by the final contact with Soviet Cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov, the first person to die in space. Short Stories concluded with the evocative Arietta and I was particularly awed by violinist Natsuko Yoshimoto, especially at such close range.
Conductor Johannes Fritzsch spoke about the excerpts of Mozart’s The Magic Flute that the orchestra would perform, noting that this arrangement had never been played before in Brisbane, or in any Australian state other than Tasmania, despite The Magic Flute being one of the most widely and frequently performed operas. Played in a harmony arrangement that Fritzsch aptly described as “charming”, this arrangement by Mozart’s contemporary Carl Andreas Göpfert had been lost for ~200 years before being discovered again in a dusty library corner by an academic researcher. QSO played the Overture, Tamino Aria, Pamina/Papageno Duet, Queen of the Night Aria, and the Papageno Aria from this arrangement with brightness and buoyancy.
After a brief interval, the concert concluded with an energetic and emphatic performance of Beethoven’s second symphony. In the QPAC Concert Hall, which is the only other venue in which I’ve experienced a performance by Queensland Symphony Orchestra, the audience sits looking up from stalls, or down from the balconies, at the stage. In the studio setting, we were able to see the artistry of the musicians, and the intricacies of the music, more clearly – how the instruments spoke to each other, calling, responding, and overlapping, and the precision required from each part to create the harmonious whole.
Studio Sessions 3 was performed at the Queensland Symphony Orchestra Studio in South Bank on 24 June 2022.