The Great Symphony – Simone Young Returns at QPAC

July 30, 2019

Last Saturday night my husband and I went to a concert entitled The Great Symphony – Simone Young Returns at QPAC.

Under the Baton of Simone Young the programme featured the Australian premiere of Brett Dean’s Notturno inquieto, Béla Bartók’s Viola Concerto, and Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 9 in C Major. The first two pieces focus on the viola section, in fact, German-based Nils Mőnkemeyer was the soloist for the Bartók’s piece.

We listened to the pre-concert talk, which is always very informative and provides valuable insights. For example, Dean is the only composer to have witnessed the performance of his own composition; Bartók and Schubert died before the premiere of their works. The speaker also pointed out that the programme encompassed the works of a 19th, 20th, and 21th century composer. This comparison raised our curiosity.

The concert was well attended. Before the concert hall doors open, I always enjoy sitting into foyer perusing the, at times, lavish outfits of concert goers. These attires can be, not totally Viennese 19th century ball gowns, but imaginatively close to it. I dressed modestly in black. Once seated inside the concert hall, it is interesting to see the musicians file on to the stage as they prepare for their performance. There were quite a few children scattered amongst the audience. I admire parents who introduce their children to classical music at an early age by bringing them along.

Brett’s work contained sounds that seemed quite unusual and I envisaged the first hesitant emergence of nocturnal animals that eventually formed into an army sweeping the landscape. In between I thought I detected a faint didgeridoo sound, but I need to hear it again to be certain. It was great to witness the Australian premiere here in Brisbane.

Mőnkemeyer mastered the rhythmic challenges of Bartók’s viola concerto with ease and virtuosity. I look forward to seeing and hearing more of this young violist.

After the interval, we listened to the four movements of Schubert’s powerful and dramatic Great C Major Symphony. The work’s themes convey to me tragedy and yet a triumphant optimism that leaves me with lingering pondering about what life is all about.

It was such a treat to see Simone Young conducting. She delivers with dynamism and yet ultra-sensitivity, swaying like a graceful dancer, bending her knees, silently stamping her feet for emphasis, leading the orchestra into tune and rhythm. She is fantastic, no wonder she was, apart from having received many awards, voted Conductor of the Year (2006) by Opernwelt. The Queensland Symphony Orchestra responded to her direction and gave a wonderful rendition on the night.

If you missed this concert, you can listen to it on ABC Classic on 30 July at 8 pm and on 6 November at 7 pm. I know what I will do that Tuesday night!

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