The Bard and Beyond

The Bard and Beyond
Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Carlos Kalmar. Violin: Arabella Steinbacher. Concert Hall, QPAC. 6 October 2018

German violinist Arabella Steinbacher was the undoubted star of this very eclectic Queensland Symphony Orchestra concert, delivering an impassioned account of Bruch’s Concerto No. 1 in G Minor. One of the most popular works for orchestra and violin in the classical music repertoire it has been a favourite with solo artists ever since it was written 150 years ago. A highly romantic piece full of sweeping melody and Hungarian folk dance themes, Ms. Steinbacher’s performance was nothing short of a tour de force. From her dazzling rapid runs to some impossible dramatic leaps, she was so at ease with her command of the instrument that she made it seem like a walk in the park. And the tone she elicited from her 1716 Stradivari, especially on the low notes, was simply orgiastic.

Before Ms Steinbacher’s concerto, the orchestra had a grand time amongst the nymphs and the fairies in Felix Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the only work in the concert that was directly related to the Bard. Written when Mendelssohn was still a teenager at 17, and although it’s a stand-alone concert-piece, I can never get the ballet out of my head whenever I hear it and last night was no exception. Marvellous images of fairies scampering about in a forest glade came to mind the moment we heard the agitated violins which were replaced with the regal pomposity of the court fanfares eulogised brilliantly by the brass.

Closing the concert with what has been called one of the great twentieth-century symphonies was also a grand idea. William Walton’s tortured, sensuous, and very personal Symphony No. 1 in B Flat Minor was a wonderful showcase for the orchestra, with its nods to Sibelius, Hollywood and jazz. A brilliant evocation of love found and lost, the work was impressively played and impressively realised. The concert was one in the QSO’s Maestro seriesand Montevidean-born conductor Carlos Kalmar elicited a Maestro performance from them especially in the fourth movement of the Walton which was full of marvellous bombast and fury.

Peter Pinne

To keep up with the latest news and reviews at Stage Whispers, click here to like us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.