In a morning of playtime, delight and fun (27 October), the Queensland Symphony Orchestra (QSO) enchanted audiences with their latest Music On Sundays event, ‘Toys And Puppets’.
Aptly themed for the young at heart, the 70-minute concert explored music about toys from around the globe. With pieces about Russian dolls, puppets, ballets dancers, Pixar robots and whatever else you might find in your toybox, the performance charmed the inner child of audience members while showcasing the wonderful musicians within our sunshine state.
Hosted by QSO’s revered presenter, Guy Noble, the event was filled with light-hearted pleasure and entertaining commentary. Guy, himself, bounded on stage with juvenile vigour, dressed as a toy Thunderbird, saluting his peers at the start of the show. This type of easy-going rapport has come to be expected of the amusing and musically-experienced MC.
Led by established Conductor Alondra de la Parra, the orchestra played through a springing selection of melodic classics that wound the audience up in all the right ways. Big crescendos opened the concert, with 'Mazurka' from the Leo Delibes ballet ‘Coppelia’. Also featured from this gothic tale were contrastingly soft and tiptoe-like pieces 'Czardas' and 'Nocturne'.
Rarely presented at the front of the orchestra are the percussion section, but ‘Toys And Puppets’ allowed them to shine in a kooky-sounding presentation of Mozart’s ‘Toy Symphony’. Although the music piece has been contested and attributed to several various composers, it made an appropriate selection for this concert and inspired much laughter from the audience. The work featured toy trumpets, rattles, triangles, and bird warblers imitating the cuckoo and nightingale, which aided the comical zest in the air. A great moment within this piece was how the rest of the orchestra, although not deeply involved, joined in by popping party poppers and making their own type of percussion noise.
Another ‘Toys and Puppets’ highlight was its performance by double bass soloist and section principal, Phoebe Russell, with Giovanni Bottesini’s ‘Double Bass Concerto’, 'Allegro moderato'. Once again, this provided a rare opportunity for the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument to move downstage, where it was showcased in full view. Phoebe played the instrument with gusto, dropping her body over the bass and moving as one, in a marathon of technical capabilities. It was really a magical moment that was impressive and deserved the adoring audience response.
Rounding out the rest of the performance was many other nuanced pieces, including 18th century composer, Igor Stravinsky, and his Commedia dell’arte-inspired work ‘Suite From Pulcinella’ and puppet ballet, ‘Petrushka’. Also played was Claude Debussy’s six piano enthused ‘Children’s Corner’ with sections from 'Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum' and 'Golliwogg’s Cake-Walk'.
In a grand finale, QSO performed Randy Newman’s ‘Toy Story Suite’ with loving familiarity, which most fans would recognise from Pixar’s popular cartoon, ‘Toy Story’. Guy spoke of his encounters with the musician and impressive screen composer, coyly telling of their chance-like unforgettable conversations. Randy is best-known for his Oscar-nominated theme song, 'You’ve Got A Friend In Me'. Worth the wait, the bouncing score moved as toys do.
Throughout the enjoyable production, Alondra handled the orchestra with professionalism and glee, and looked like a ballerina in a music box herself, standing centre stage and energetically addressing each instrumental section. Later in the show, she spoke of her outgoing term as QSO’s Music Director. Having led the company for the past years, Alondra will return to Tonhalle Orchester Zurich, to Staatsoper Berlin, and to the Royal Opera House in June 2020.
‘Toys And Puppets’ breathed new life into orchestral pieces some may have forgotten. In a fine musical offering, QSO has presented another fun opportunity for a Sunday session of music. While a child’s toy is known for its vibrant history, it was shown that classical pieces, such as the ones witnessed, will live and play on forever.