Queensland Youth Symphony

RITE OF SPRING

 

Saturday 20 August 2011 7pm
QPAC Concert Hall

Conductor: John Curro AM MBE

Cello Soloist: Dan Curro


Concert Program

Ottorino Respighi
Ancient Airs and Dances - Suite No. 3

Robert Schumann
Cello Concerto in A minor, Soloist: Dan Curro

Igor Stravinsky
The Rite of Spring

 

NEW: Review by Gary Thorpe

General Manager of 4MBS Classic FM

This was the final concert in the Queensland Youth Symphony’s 2011 concert season and what a great concert it was.

It started with a work for strings - Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances Suite No 3. This gave the QYS string section a chance to shine and they didn’t disappoint. Respighi’s music is always colorful and the Suite No 3 is no exception. It also requires great virtuosity from the players and the musicians of the QYS were up to the task under John Curro’s direction.

The concerto on the program was the Schumann Cello Concerto in A minor with soloist, Dan Curro. It is not a particularly showy piece - that was not Schumann’s intention - but it is, nevertheless, an important work in the cello repertoire. Dan is not a showy player - he doesn’t have to be. His skill was very evident in this major concerto - the performance came across as a very personal dialogue with the instrument. He acknowledged the excellent work of the orchestra accompanying him for the concerto in which, at times, the solo line integrates with the orchestra.

The second half of the program was The Rite of Spring - Stravinsky’s masterpiece premiered in 1913 but sounding as startling and powerful as if it was written today. That premiere in 1913 was the scene of a riot but, a year later, the score was presented in concert to great critical acclaim. The Queensland Youth Symphony, augmented with almost 30 extra players, gave us a raw, savage and thrilling performance. All sections of the orchestra acquitted themselves very well - especially the brass. John Curro controlled his forces with great precision giving us tremendous climaxes expertly executed. This was one of those performances when you wanted the music to keep going - I could have happily sat through the work again straight away, such was the sheer excitement created by these wonderful musicians.

A concert that again showed us what an asset the Queensland Youth Symphony is, not only to this State but to this nation.

 

NEW: Review by Patricia Kelly

 

PERFORMANCES of music by Italian composer Ottorino Respighi are all too rare in Brisbane. Few composers could match his virtuosic skill in creating exhilarating orchestral sonorities such as those he spun from melodies of times past for his  suites of Ancient Airs and Dances based on Italian and French music for the lute. The third suite began this concert.

Including music by Respighi in programs  for his Queensland Youth  Symphony concerts is just one of the reasons why Brisbane - Queensland - owes so much to conductor John Curro. Over the years, this orchestra has presented Respighi`s Fountains of Rome, Pines of Rome, Roman Festivals, the colorful images of  Church Windows andAdagio with variations for cello and orchestra, a formidable record. 

There is much more to the legacy of Respighi who was recognised both as an aesthetician and antiquarian scholar. These skills  resulted in  evocative tone poems and wonderful songs, many set to poems by Gabriele D`Annunzio whose verse I Pastori set to music by  Respighi`s compatriot Ildebrando Pizzetti`s is a gem in vocal repertoire, all music neglected in this country where Italian migration helped build the nation.

Respighi`s Ancient Airs and Dances suite three is scored for string ensemble. Its  graceful, expressive melodies unfold like spring blossoms  welcoming the season, a perfect opener to the program that culminated in the rather wild images of Stravinsky`s Rite of Spring to complete this three-part concert.

The moderate pace Curro chose for the opening movement, Italiana, allowed the  melodies to emerge with  light, airy strokes, just a brief moment before the lower strings announced Arie di Corte from a courtly ballet. Deeply sonorous tones in the lento section heralded sprightly dances and the modal andante. The third movement, Siciliana needed a bit more spring in its step. It lumbered a tad for a pastoral dance from Sicily, although the pace did give breathing space to the lower running figures scampering through its multi-layers of sound. The playing expanding into broad strokes of the Passacaglia produced  full-bodied sound with a big heart, bright and blazing, making a grand display in this final movement.

A slightly bigger orchestral combination that included  woodwind, trumpets and timpani took the stage for the centrepiece of the program, Schumann`s Cello Concerto in A minor opus 129. It was a proud moment for conductor John Curro as his son, Daniel Curro made his solo debut with the orchestra for which he had been cello section leader in his student days.

Although it is not a huge orchestral score, the Schumann work is no pushover. It challenges the soloist with some feisty passages scaling the fingerboard at breakneck pace as the orchestra takes a back seat, as it were, emphasising phrases from the solo cello with a little comment here, supporting and cheering there, yet never impinging on the soloist`s role.

Curro`s intense and sensitive playing was tinged with a visible nervousness which seemed unnecessary given his adept hand at the technical demands of the piece as it proceeded in an unbroken line from a beautifully calm opening, through the expressive subject of the slow section, phrases in double stopping for the solo instrument, and the accelerating solo passage casting it into the lively third movement. Unlike later concertos of the romantic era (thinking particularly of Dvorak and Elgar), Schumann`s  work is not rich in melodic development, so the soloist has to be the more assertive in projecting its voice. Curro`s playing was well articulated but he needed to bring more assurance and command to the task to give it a firm, definitive edge. 

It is always thrilling to see how  these young players take to music such as Stravinsky`s Rite of Spring. It is a rich brew abounding in all manner of musical figures of harmony and discord, haunting and barbaric in turn, from its quiet announcement of spring from bassoon,  to its explosive, dramatic end.

These musicians  revel in such  imagery with its growing complexity, its shimmering surfaces, its startling cacophony, blatant savagery and bold musical games. And that was for starters.  In the second part, set in the evening when human sacrifice is demanded, the music takes an earnest turn. It is the dance of death, eerie and ominous, with lush, yet portentous lower strings sounding against shivers  in the top strings and french horns, a bitter calm before the sacrificial storm ushered in by thundering percussion, the foreboding caught brilliantly in the evocative rhythms  from the timpani.

A good old fashioned fairground blast almost made you forget this deadly scene. Everyone loves a yarn, and this is a great one, in music as in words or visual representations. Of course, it was written as a ballet and with playing such as QYS delivered here, its  narrative related in shattering discords, volatile rhythms and splashing soundscapes,  it was brought to vivid, pulsing life.    -  Patricia Kelly

 

 

About the Program

The Queensland Youth Symphony proudly presents one of the defining masterworks of the 20th century, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. This extraordinary ballet music describes a solemn rite in which a young girl dances herself to death to appease the god of spring. QYS gave the first Queensland concert performance of the Rite of Spring in 1991.

Opening the concert is Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances Suite No. 3, featuring Respighi’s stunning settings for strings of songs and dances from the Renaissance and Baroque periods.

Schumann’s concerto is one of the great treasures of the cello repertoire and a flawless example of refined Romanticism.  It will be performed with QYS by Daniel Curro, former principal cellist of QYS and well known for his historically informed approach to music of the 18th and 19th centuries.     

 

More information

Respighi’s Ancient Airs and Dances Suite No. 3: On Wikipedia, recordings on YouTube

Schumann’s Cello concerto: On Wikipedia, recordings on YouTube

Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring: On Wikipedia, recordings on YouTube

 

Cello Soloist Dan Curro

Dan Curro studied the cello first with Helen Holt and later with Matthew Farrell, Roseanne Hunt and Howard Penny. For seven years Dan was a member of one of the world’s most acclaimed youth orchestras, the Queensland Youth Symphony. Dan was principal cello of this orchestra for four years and toured with them to Japan, Korea, Austria, Germany and Italy. Dan’s musical interests are eclectic and his activities diverse.

At the Queensland Conservatorium he studied contemporary improvisation under John Rogers and Ken Edie. He has recorded two EPs with his contemporary vocal group, Plub, and reviewers described him as a “star performer” for a concert he gave with avante-garde/electronic musician Oxford Parker, in which he improvised on 6-string fretless bass guitar and completed Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Entertainment System, projected onto a screen for the audience in approximately six minutes. He has also played baroque cello in many groups including the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and the Badinerie Players.

In 2005 Dan was invited to play in the Sydney Festival’s 12 Angry Cellos concert in which he performed alongside some of the country’s most highly regarded cellists. Dan has also worked extensively with the Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra and The Queensland Orchestra.

In 2007 Dan was contracted to play full-time with The Queensland Orchestra and in that year also made his debut as principal cellist with that orchestra.

In 2009, Dan elected to return to his freelance former lifestyle in the hopes of expanding his repertoire and capabilities through whatever varied experiences he is fortunate enough to be involved in. His mercenary utilitarianism occupies him to the present day.

 

 

 

Tickets: phone QTIX 136 246 or buy tickets online here