Perfumes of the East

Perfumes of the East
Presented by Southern Cross Soloists and QPAC. QPAC Concert Hall, Brisbane. 2nd June, 2024

SXS's welcome return to the stage again demonstrated a selection of diverse compositions and arrangements from a group of talented and passionate artists. The concert began with a short, eloquent demonstration of the didgeridoo from Artist in Residence and Queenslander Chris Williams who has made a remarkable name for himself as an exponent of the instrument internationally whilst additionally collaborating with established composers to commission new works for the instrument over the next ten years. His performance in both works with the 'didge' for this concert was indeed an 'ear-opener': an artist well deserving his popularity and following.

After a short verbal introduction of interest, he joined the SXS and guest artists for the world premiere performance of composer Stephen Leek's addition to the SXS Didgeridoo Commissioning Project entitled Juwoon, Tu, Ngyin'anga (Country, Heart, Life), using a unique blend of sounds from the group and guest soprano Nina Korbe. This is indeed an intriguing work full of imagination and artistry and a worthy contribution to Australia's list of growing and exploratory contemporary works.

Unfortunately there was a last minute change of program due to illness and changes had to be made, Mozart (one of Acting Artistic Director Ashley Smith's favourite composers as described in one of his heart-warming introductions) being on the menu as replacement. So, in addition, we had 'Perfumes-from-the-West' with an arrangement of Mozart's overture from his opera Don Giovanni and the famous sublime Clarinet Quintet in A.

The program also included works by Vivaldi, with a frenzied but passionate performance by violist James Wannan performing on an historic instrument, and two relatively unknown works by Ravel, all elegantly performed, again with soloist Nina Korbe.

What is entrancing about this group is their ability to perform whilst standing, cello and piano an exception of course, so there is additional invigorating and expressive choreography to the performances to view, well capturing the phrasing and personal interpretation of the music at hand, and with body!

It was indeed a shame to miss Konstantin Shamry's performance of Saint-Saens Piano Concerto no 5 due to illness (I am a fan of both composer and performer) and I'm sure audiences hope to see him back, as with the group, on the concert stage soon.

Brian Adamson

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