Beethoven 5 Gala Return Concert – Queensland Symphony Orchestra

October 22, 2020

Photograph © Peter Wallis


It’s Spring here in Queensland, the jacarandas are in bloom and I feel so privileged to be able to head along to QPAC for live performances again. I am grateful every day and am making the most of my time in the sun. What better way to spend a Friday than listening to beautiful tunes from Beethoven, strolling through South Bank and enjoying lunch at the fabulous Spaghetti House restaurant? 

SheSociety were invited as guests of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and Kath Rose to attend their Gala Return Concert: Beethoven 5 at the magnificent Concert Hall. Once again I was blown away by our world class Queensland Symphony Orchestra and the beautiful space in which they are able to perform. 

Today our Conductor was an enthusiastic Johannes Fritzsch who conducted with gusto, bringing us a repertoire of R. Strauss Don JuanTrV 156, op.20, before our piece de resistance Beethoven Symphony No.5 in C minor, op.67. It’s the celebration of 250 years since the birth of Beethoven and it was fitting that we enjoyed his most familiar piece of work. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve heard it, from those first few notes you feel a tingle down your spine. 

Johannes explained that Beethoven had written this piece in his thirties, when he himself had been in self isolation. Beethoven’s hearing had been deteriorating since his 20’s and he was so depressed by this eventuality that he became reclusive. It was during this sad time that he wrote some of his best work.

Beethoven’s work begins in a melancholy tone before becoming almost triumphal at the end. A soldier once described it as, ‘ truly the symphony of war – The introductory measures in fortissimo are the mobilisation orders. Then the measures in piano reflect the tremendous events ahead. Then the crescendo and fortissimo reflect overcoming the sheer terror and summoning courage and unity, rising to a unified victory…’ I loved this poignant description and the piece certainly makes you feel the whole range of emotions. 

Richard Strauss wrote the first cheeky piece we were treated to, Don Juan, when he was 24. Before writing this piece he had been heading down a more conventional composing path. Don Juan represents his breaking away from family and the influence of his father and creating his own identity.This piece is classed as a tone poem and is filled with energy and virility.

The whole orchestra leads us in without break into an energetic theme announced by violins. Love scenes are signalled by beautiful violin and oboe solos. Four horns played in unison signify a new theme further associated with our adventurous hero. However, things do not end well for our hero who thrusts himself on the sword of an enemy. It was so moving to have a story told entirely through instruments and the Orchestra worked beautifully together to engage the excited audience. 

Symphony goers had their choice of three concerts on Friday and Saturday to hear this most familiar of Maestro works. All were sold out. More Maestro performances are planned for November with Beethoven’s Emperor being played in two concerts on November 21st. Johannes Fritzsch will be conducting.

As we made our way out of the Concert Hall we felt we’d been spirited away for just a while. For my fellow columnist, Nanny Babe, it had been her first taste of a live performance since March. The emotion was etched all over her face. It’s true to say the Queensland Symphony Orchestra are back doing what they love with renewed vigour and the whole audience were moved by the power of their music. The compositions of Beethoven feel 250 years young in the year that is 2020 and remind us that some things do stay the same. 

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