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Review - QSO: Simone Young and Ray Chen mysterious and surreal

Right: Ray Chen and Simone Young.

Simone Young and Ray Chen

Morning Masterpiece Concert

Paganini and Holst.

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank


Wild applause for Ray Chen, Simone Young and the Queensland Symphny Orchestra.

This concert was something special with Ray Chen’s incredible violin playing and a mysteriously surreal Gustav Holst’s The Planets played by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra conducted superbly by Simone Young.

This is the first Morning Masterpiece Concert I have attended and the concept is terrific. It mirrors the full evening performance but is tailored to run for just over an hour without an interval. It is a concept that brings in busloads of seniors music lovers.

We heard the entire suite from Holst but just the first movement of the fiendish First Violin Concerto from Paganini. And what a movement it is, a full 20 minutes of amazing string sounds from a bouncing bow to almost silent notes and deft pizzicato passages. The audience heard ethereal sounds not usually associated with the violin.

Chen is indeed a true virtuoso. His fingers blurred at times as they sped over the strings and blended with some powerful and dominant orchestral sounds. It was good to see a smile of satisfaction cross his face as he played those amazing notes.

He was applauded wildly and well deserved it.

The Planets is one of my favourite pieces. I have heard it many times before, live and on CD, but never quite like Simone Young’s interpretation.

The opening, Mars Bringer of War, the most well known piece, was just as exciting and fearful as it always is, with the strident brass and percussion and the overpowering feeling of menace.

I always used to think that it should be played as the finale because it was so much stronger than the other sections, but not this time. Young impregnated each segment with its own power and the music had a more unearthly feel to it; the sound of the distant universe rather than our earthly satellites.

This was underscored by strings, harps, tinkling percussion and keyboard sounds and enforced by deep brass and thundering timpani and bass drumming.

So the gentle and lyrical Venus instead of being just sweet and peaceful was inviting us to venture further into unexplored space and the mighty Jupiter more than held its own with Mars.

But the final voyage into outer space came from Neptune the Mystic as the disembodied sounds of The Australian Voices, directed by Gordon Hamilton, soared over the muted strings to create siren sounds that might lure future astronauts to their doom. It was an eerie, magical sound.

Simone Young is a magician with the baton and it was clear at the end that the orchestra loved her as much as the audience did.

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