In its third Maestro concert for 2022, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra presented two relatively unknown works alongside Mozart’s ever-popular Clarinet Concerto. The selected pieces performed surprisingly well, complementing each other in the overall program thanks in part to expert guidance and under the carefully controlled baton of Maestro Johannes Fritzsch, the orchestra’s current Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor, who ordered the evening from the start. .
The short work of Melody Eötvös The bird of Saqqara was commissioned by the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra in 2016, based on the archaeological discovery of a small bird-shaped wooden relic at Saqqara, Egypt, in 1898. Eötvös created a piece around various theories about the origins of the bird, imbuing a joyful energy in the work with a well-defined rhythm and a repetitive rhythmic melody. Representing the bird, Kate Lawson’s high-pitched solo piccolo was beautifully performed, skilfully accompanied by the flute. Additionally, the strength of the composition for brass and percussion, over shimmering strings that included a well-crafted violin solo, was impressive. Fritzsch kept the orchestra tight, helping to create an atmospheric soundscape.
Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, the last complete major piece he wrote, shows his musical maturity, clarinet and orchestra intertwining to produce a work of great beauty. It was also a welcome move to see talented members of the orchestra given the opportunity to shine in solo roles. QSO’s lead section clarinet, Irit Silver, certainly rose to the challenge with attention to detail and a top-notch technical delivery that did not disappoint.
the allegro The movement, with its soft opening theme, was well paced by Fritzsch, the liveliness and speed required matched by delicate string playing to bring out the shades of color in the orchestra. The clarinet solo took up the theme with welcome levity, Silver deftly showing the virtuosity of his instrument in all its range throughout the movement. The repetitive back and forth between orchestra and clarinetist were well controlled, sometimes quite casual, with some beautiful arpeggios from Silver.
the Adagio movement, one of Mozart’s finest, is particularly poignant and haunting. Silver started the movement with a slow, well-played clarinet, demonstrating excellent breath control and showing the beauty of the instrument. Fritzsch took up the movement at a stately yet languorous tempo, the strings quietly supporting the melodic clarinet which soared magnificently above the orchestra. It was a shame that Silver seemed to have technical problems with his instrument during this move, as it was an annoying distraction from the exquisite orchestral playing, though thankfully it did not affect his playing or the sounds produced.
The happy finale Rondo: Allegro movement began with a bright, airy clarinet, the orchestra strongly repeating the theme with varying results. The darker tones revisited in the percussion and brass of the first movement contrasted with the lightness and delicacy of the clarinet. It all wrapped up wonderfully in the final bars, as Irit Silver handled her role as soloist with great panache and skill. A beautiful interpretation of a classic work.
The four-movement Symphony No. 1 by Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů was composed in 1942, after he moved from Europe to America, demonstrating the multifaceted influences of his upbringing in Central Europe, with accents of French Impressionism as well as jazz American and musical theatre.
the Moderate – Poco piu mosso movement gave us a radical cinematic opening, full of flowing rhythms, melodic dissonances and textured sonic layers. Maestro Fritzsch was in his element here; the more difficult the music is to play or interpret, the more he seems to enjoy it and the more he motivates willing orchestral musicians. The orchestra responded by giving her a soundscape full of luscious colors that was as overwhelming as it was exciting.
the Scherzo Allegro – moderate poco was conducted very quickly and in rhythmic unison, with particular sonic intensity from the huge string section, brass and percussion. A slower section with clarinet and piano was well delivered with finely crafted and well-played woodwind solos for flute, clarinet and oboe. The slowest Largo The movement offered a brooding depth of sound with pulsing strings and powerful timpani and brass, leading to bright horns and lyrical sweetness in the woodwinds.
Finally, the Allegro non troppo was a lighthearted and spirited finale, one in which Fritzsch excelled, bringing out all of the score’s boisterous dance and jazz elements through strings, brass and percussion. With shifts in dynamics, the score moved into the rural bohemian landscape, where woodwinds took over with lyrical solos from oboe, clarinet and bassoon and some good flute obligatos. Finally, all the musical forces came together in an exhilarating but harmonious conclusion to the symphony and the evening.
It was a first-rate interpretation of an unusual, eclectic yet fascinating musical program, skilfully conducted with great pleasure from the podium by Maestro Johannes Fritzsch.
Find more information about the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s 2022 season on their website.