Queensland Youth Symphony
Conductor: John Curro AM MBE
Oboe Soloist: Diana Doherty
Serge Prokofiev: The Love for Three Oranges - Symphonic Suite
Allan Zavod: Oboe Concerto - World Premiere
Camille Saint- Saëns: Symphony No.3 - Organ Symphony
NEW: Concert Reviews
Review 1 - by Patricia Kelly
Serge Prokofiev`s The Love for Three Oranges, Allan Zavod`s Concerto for Oboe and Symphony No 3 in C minor: Organ Symphony by Camille Saint-Saëns formed an excellent program to open Queensland Youth Symphony`s 2011 season at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre Concert Hall in Brisbane.
Factor in two of Queensland`s most outstanding talents, Diana Doherty as soloist in the oboe concerto and organist Christopher Wrench in the Saint-Saëns, and a night of great music-making was assured.
Conductor John Curro knows his charges well enough to allay fears that for this first concert of the year, when at least one-third of the players are making their debut with the orchestra, something might go amiss with such a challenging program.
But they were all in fine form, probably one of the strongest `firsts` among the many over the years. Under Curro`s attentive direction, it was delivered in all its brilliant, vibrant musical color and contrasts as the novices playing slotted seamlessly into smooth orchestral textures.
The Prokofiev was a great starter, music full of dramatic narrative and orchestral colours that appeal both to audience and to the young players who seemed to respond intuitively to its firecracker imagery. It helped settle nerves before the Zavod concerto. This substantial piece, a new commission from QYS and dedicated “to the resilience of the people of Queensland during the 2011 floods,“ made demands of a different kind. It was a music creation one might expect from a composer who combines a background as jazz pianist with educational work as lecturer in classical-jazz fusion and as a Research Fellow at Monash University.
Its sharp rhythms were perfect for these musicians and they seemed to move into the groove with ease, in spite of the difficulties it presented in shaping the mercurial modes into a unity. The multilayered opening glistened with rippling sounds, a fitting setting for the restless energy bubbling under the surface layers. Those energies broke free when little hints of jazz began to bob here and there throughout the orchestra.
A piano sounded like it was all happening in a jazz bar. Woodwind followed suit. Solo oboe offered simple statements until it all burst into a moto perpetuo pastiche. Doherty slipped through intricate runs, fiendish scales with an insouciance that only a virtuoso of her calibre could deliver.
Then the oboe settled into the well-named tranquillo movement, a reverie of music beautifully written to establish the peace. It gave a flutter, a momentary buzz, before returning to rhapsodic mode, reflective, easy listening. If you were weary enough it would have been a lullaby.
Jazz and classical melded in the playful yet frantic third movement. Here Doherty again showed her mettle in an almost non-stop, breathtaking display of bravura playing. Extraordinary breath control supported the liquid flow of warm, bell-clear oboe tones.
She was fearless in the race as the orchestral momentum built, so cool, so suave, so jolly as she caught the snappy jazz beat pulsing relentlessly towards her dazzling cadenza and the notes that soared to a glowing grand finale.
It was a fitting middle course between the Prokofiev and the might of the Saint-Saëns. It has been claimed that Saint-Saëns lacked imaginative power and musical individuality, yet even if he is working over older forms, he makes those forms say new and wondrous things. No matter how often you hear this organ symphony, its intricacies never cease to thrill anew.
Christopher Wrench showed his mastery of this instrument, bringing a rich spectrum of sound colors from the Klais organ that were powerful and subtle in turn, whether in pulsating chords or triumphant edges to the combined orchestral power. When the organ enters with the deeply, throaty growl that paves the way for the mood of anticipation and the eeriness of the pizzicato figures in the strings, then rises to such heights of power in the finale, it becomes one of the grandest musical ascents in the canon. Wrench certainly achieved this great height.
Curro is a whiz at balancing the orchestral sections. Just as he never let the combined sound overwhelm the oboe in Zavod`s concerto, he kept a clear grip on this multi- faceted this work. Brass and woodwind sections were crisp and secure, and although strings have yet to acquire that mature, burnished glow that comes only with time and growth, the playing was fresh, precise and of one heart.
Through all the quivering images, its expressive phrasing breathed intelligently with carefully applied light and shade. QYS players had many musical stories to tell in this varied program and they told them all with engaging conviction. - Patricia Kelly
Review 2 - by Barbara Hebden
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- The Queensland Youth Symphony (QYS) may be young in years, but bears a mark of maturity, both in musicianship and artistry. The QYS can confidently claim to equal the world best of its kind. A few blemishes did nothing to detract from overall music-making.
Under John Curro’s disciplined direction, the QYS opened its second concert this year with Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges Symphonic Suite, a challenge to any orchestra. Since he founded QYS 45 years ago, John Curro has guided this young ensemble to its present high standard.
A highlight of this performance was the exciting, vital playing of soloist Diana Doherty in Allan Zavod’s Oboe Concerto, dedicated to the resilience of the people of Queensland during 2011 floods. This work is a challenge to both orchestra and soloist. Doherty’s splendid performance combined eloquently tranquil passages with rhythmic buoyancy that captures the many moods of this imaginative work. This demanding program concluded with the Saint-Saëns Symphony No.3 (Organ Symphony), allowing soloist Chrisopher Wrench the opportunity to exploit the huge range of registration in which he excels.
I believe this to be one of the best concerts the QYS has given, and every opportunity must be provided for maestro Curro and his orchestra to travel to Europe next year.
Review 3 - by Margaret McNamara
The excitement of a QYS concert starts well before the music begins. There is a different feel in the foyer as an audience of younger brothers and sisters of Youth Symphony members, their parents, young friends and grandparents mingle with the many music lovers who wouldn’t miss a chance to hear QYS play in the Concert Hall.
On Saturday night there was a triple treat in store. The concert began with Prokofiev’s ballet suite of The Love for Three Oranges, the major orchestral work was Symphony No 3, the Organ Symphony by Saint-Saëns, and, between these two, the absolute highlight of a world premiere of Allan Zavod’s Oboe Concerto performed by Diana Doherty, the special guest whom the orchestra had invited to play with them for their first 2011 concert.
When the orchestra began playing the Prokofiev it signalled that it was well and truly up to the challenge of this hyperactive, often raucous music (in Parts 1 & 2). Prokofiev’s opera, from which he compiled this suite, was meant to send up grand opera and its absurd burlesque-style story fits the spiky tunes, the cheeky March (3) and the frantic Scherzo and Flight (4&6). The orchestra seemed to relish all this, but it also easily produced, as a contrast in the fifth part, the plaintive notes and dreamy violins for Le Prince et La Princesse.
Next, the audience was treated not only to a world premiere, but also to a world standard performance from the remarkable Diana Doherty. Allan Zavod has written a Concerto for Oboe, titled Resilient Spirit and dedicated it to the people of Queensland during the 2011 floods. Most appropriate then that it was this great Queensland musician, herself once a member of Queensland Youth Orchestras, who performed the work written specially for her and the QYS. Allan Zavod is both composer and educator in the field of Classical-Jazz Fusion so the work is a challenge for both soloist and orchestra, combining the classical and jazz worlds. Some phrases from the composer’s program notes may help describe the experience. In the first movement the oboe soloist introduces “the heroic main theme”, “embarks on many adventures, playing with and against the orchestra and conversing with various families and individual members”. In fact at times Diana seems to morph before the audience’s eyes into the solo oboe in a jazz quartet with “the jazz rhythm section of piano, bass and drums”. The second movement “sets a tranquil scene immersed in melodic and harmonic beauty” with “challenging moments for the oboe to create smooth-flowing phrasing” – all this “over an impassioned dynamic range of crescendos and decrescendos in the orchestra”. An understatement is that the Scherzo “rollicks along from start to finish”! “At a relentless pace” it is nimble notes all the way, including the amazing solo cadenza, returning towards the end to “the heroic main theme”. There certainly was a triumphant fanfare to end the piece and after it the applause and standing ovation said it all. The audience had seen and heard a soloist of exceptional skill and the composition also revealed the talents of all sections of the orchestra.
After interval there came another chance to admire and appreciate the young musicians and their conductor. Sustained concentration and physical energy lasting for forty minutes is required for the Symphony, and only towards the end of the Adagio was there a suspicion of their being a little ‘out of sync’. The Organ Symphony is on a grand scale, with the organ being used as an orchestral, not as a solo, instrument. So the organist Christopher Wrench appeared as an augmenting player in the orchestra list, but his presence added to the occasion. It is known that Saint-Saëns was influenced by the innovative compositional techniques of Liszt to whose memory he dedicated this symphony. Audiences respond to this work, with its range of moods, from the beginning; in the first half recognising the familiar basic theme, then enjoying the beautiful Adagio where quiet organ tones support the lyrical strings. The Scherzo which begins the second half is lively again, incorporating piano sequences; and then in the Presto/ Maestoso the organ’s full voice comes in with triumphant chords played against the orchestra, various sections and soloists featuring. What an optimistic way to end the concert!
The next concert in the QYS series is to be held in QPAC Concert Hall on Saturday 28 May.
Recommended highly! - Margaret McNamara