The Queensland Performing Arts Centre's Concert Hall was filled on Saturday (12 May) by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra for ‘Rachmaninov Symphonic Dances’.
Franz Schmidt (1874-1939) was a great pianist and teacher who suffered many personal tragedies and poor health. ‘Intermezzo’ is taken from his ‘Notre Dame’ opera (1904-06) and includes Hungarian folk styling in it alluding to the gypsy heroine Esmerelda.
Samuel Barber (1910-1981) was commissioned to write ‘Violin Concerto’ by Samuel Fels to be composed for violinist Iso Briselli. The piece was written at a difficult time and with much contention by all parties involved. Barber was noted for being a composer who did not compromise and so it was here. ‘Violin Concerto, Op. 14’ went on to become one of the most well regarded concertos ever.
Finally, Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) wrote ‘Symphonic Dances’ three years before his death and it his final piece. It is often regarded as a coda with Rachmaninov pulling out styles and sounds from his past almost in summation of his career and featuring themes of death and resurrection.
‘Intermezzo’ was a light romantic opening that kicked off the night before solo violinist Chad Hoopes came out on stage for ‘Concerto For Violin And Orchestra Op. 14’. The 23-year-old American has performed all around the world with many prestigious Orchestras including the Munich Symphony Orchestra who created the position of Artist in Residence first for him. This composition with three pieces was sweeping in the best sense and fans of movie scores may have heard some of what could have influenced Ennio Morricone here. At conclusion, Hoopes left the stage to applause that did not stop until he returned. Far from where he originally started learning in Minneapolis many years ago, he now stood on stage in Brisbane with sparkling shoes and his 1991 Samuel Zygmuntowicz ex Isaac Stern violin as he has on many other stages around the world and bowed before beginning his encore. How to follow Hoopes, whose command of the violin was something so special, was the next question.
Following interval, several more players had been brought on stage and the percussion section had been beefed up as we began ‘Symphonic Dances’. Conductor Stanley Dodds, who had been engaged and on point throughout, now seemed even more energetic and bold in his movements as he led the orchestra through their final piece. There is something special in hearing such pieces performed by that many musicians, who are that good. As the whole string section moved their bows in unison or the woodwind and brass joined their sounds before finally the pounding percussion climaxed everything.
The composers of these pieces were world-class and the music itself has stood the test of time. Whatever you know about classical music, you would have known without a doubt that over 80 musicians brought it to life on Saturday night... And they did it right.