One of my favourite concerts in any year is the QSO Favourites concert. It’s the first concert of the year and usually contains many songs that are familiar to me. On the 12th of February, in its 75th year, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra treated the very first 2022 audience to all our favourites and some special numbers to mark the occasion. The concert was magical, familiar and surprisingly funny with several witty members of the orchestra introducing parts of the program. Conducted by the warm and gentlemanly, Johannes Fritzsch, it was clear to see that the orchestra were thrilled to be back performing on stage once again.
An elegant , Welcome to Country, from Aunty Raelene Baker opened the concert. After being greeted by Concertmaster, Warwick Adeney, the familiar ‘Dun-dun-dun-dun‘ heralded the arrival of perennial crowd favourite, Ludwig Van Beethoven’s Symphony No.5 in C minor. It was a rousing rendition which made us all sit up and take notice. It had been the most requested symphony from the audience and we waited to see which tune had come second.
We were in for a big surprise as it was one that had not been voted on but was the merry, Hungarian March, by Berlioz. This piece had been performed by QSO at its first concert, seventy five years ago. It was a fitting homage to players of yore, with its brassy military call followed by piccolo, flute and clarinet. It’s staccato beat gave the piece its disciplined feel.
My favourite piece of the first half was Rimsky – Korsakov’s Scheherazade with the orchestra showcasing the gentle third movement sharing the young love of the Prince and Princess. The beautiful opening string melody carried all the innocence of young love before a gorgeous clarinet solo hinted at that flutter of the first kiss.
The lilting Adagietto – Symphony No.5 created by Mahler was next. This piece expresses Mahler’s love for his new wife, Alma Schindler and is full of lilting strings with a touch of harp. Camille Saint Saens – Symphony No.3 in C minor was a majestic piece which touched my heart and incorporated the magnificent concert hall organ. Featuring guest organist, Andrej Kouznetsov, the music lifted up the room before interval sending shivers down this writer’s spine. I love hearing the orchestra in full flight and it is difficult to know where to look as cymbals clash, violinists reach their crescendo and the organist is lit up beautifully high above you.This was a truly powerful piece of music and we certainly needed the interval to catch our breath.
Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s, multi talented Craig Allister Young , was asked to write a new work in celebration of 75 years. His first thought was to write a lilting melody to showcase ‘ a fabulosity of cellists’ , which is his section of the orchestra. He finally decided to include his percussion friends and what better way to celebrate than with a fanfare. Craig’s work entitled Fanfare for the Seventy – Fifth Birthday of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra was a striking piece that had it all. With the rhythm of ‘QSO 75’ running through it, the piece featured solos for oboe and horn, and a slow section sharing the lush textures of the cello section. It was magnificent and a fitting tribute, which rose like the sun soaring to majestic heights in parts, before quieting to share the joy of individual instruments.
As Craig was introducing this piece I had a feeling I’d seen him before and later I found out that he was a contestant on Masterchef. He also creates music for children of all ages, with the talented Donna Dyson and their award winning Spotty Kites, which is beloved by children and parents alike.
Another beautiful piece was Profokiev’s Suite No.2 from Romeo and Juliet. It was easy to hear the dissonance between the warring Montagues and Capulets. This brooding dance piece both frightened and provoked compassion. More dance music followed with On the Beautiful Blue Danube making you feel you were bathed in a beautiful gown and waltzing the night away at a regal ball. Swan Lake was next and the whole audience followed in the dance with the strings section coming into their own once again. Percussion gave shivers and the lively Danse des Cygnes made us smile. Danse napolitaine delighted with its recognisable trumpet solo. Thanks to my little conductor in training two rows from the front who entertained by waving his imaginary baton like a pro in time to the music. It was delightful to see one so young being moved by the music.
I had not heard of composer Gustav Holst but I certainly recognised his music. QSO featured a piece from his famous work The Planets, with Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity. Rugby fans, like me, know it as the ‘ World in Union’ music from the Rugby World Cup. The twinkling triangle sounds like stardust, the brass instruments are the vastness of space, the soaring violins reach the stars and the distant piano echoes our experience of being so far away from the stars. It gives me goosebumps every … single.. time I hear it and I wanted to cry as it provoked such gorgeous memories of special times with my family. Listen to the Dame Kiri Te Kanawa version to see what I mean.
The full orchestra came to life in the finale with the cinematic piece, the main title from Star Wars. Written by John Williams, this epic theme draws from a rich history of classical music to weave an original space opera. There’s a reason this piece is performed in concert halls around the world. It takes the very best of our favourite composers and takes us on an epic symphonic journey. The audience was buoyed as we left the concert and all agreed it was eclectic and varied with something for everyone.
I really enjoyed hearing snippets of my favourite music, as well as some new and new to me works. It’s a great introduction to the Queensland Symphony Orchestra season which had me brimming with emotion and some nostalgia in parts. I also enjoyed getting to know some of the personalities in the orchestra. They made us laugh out loud at times and it’s easy to see they are thriving under the steady baton of the warm Johannes Fritzsch. Next week you can visit the first Maestro concert of the year Soaring Heights featuring pianist, Daniel de Borah or on February 27 Dance Around the World with your favourite can cans and waltzes. This year be Powered by Music with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra.
Freelance writer, wife and mother of three sons, occasional supply teacher and aspiring romance author, Michelle Beesley can be most often found in a coffee shop chatting with friends or beside a rugby field cheering on her favourite teams.
Michelle is a prolific—albeit reluctant—traveller, keen walker, bookworm and yoga enthusiast who loves anything pink or sparkly (including champagne!).