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Review – QSO: Soloists and Spontaneity

Conductor Alondra de la Parra and soloist Sergio Tiempo

Soloists and Spontaneity

Queensland Symphony Orchestra Maestro series

Conductor Alondra de la Parra

Concert Hall

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank


Concert performed on August 4

This was certainly a concert of wide range from Rachmaninov to Bartok with a lead in from Stravinsky and, unusually, a triple concerto program.

Stravinsky’s Concerto in E-flat, or Dumbarton Oaks, was a new experience for me. Although I am a fan of the composer, I have mainly been immersed in the bigger or ballet works. So it was surprise to see a chamber orchestra gathered centre stage around conductor Alondra de la Parra.

The concerto was named after the Dumbarton Oaks estate of the Bliss family in Washington, DC, who commissioned it for their thirtieth wedding anniversary and, as requested, it was set around Bach's Brandenburg Concertos. The piece is scored for flute, B♭ clarinet, bassoon, two horns, three violins, three violas, two cellos, and two double basses. The three movements, Tempo giusto, Allegretto, and Con moto.

I found the music fascinating, with undertones of Bach and strong overtones of pure Stravinsky with a lot of soaring brass and Rite of Spring style pizzicato from the strings topped by the pounding double bass.

It was a satisfying opening to a highly anticipated evening. But then we had “Rach 3” Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto Number 3 in D Minor. What feast that turned out to be with a soaring, attacking performance by soloist Argentinean Sergio Tiempo the orchestra’s 2018 Artist-in-Residence and the full orchestra on stage.

There is hardly a better piece to show of virtuosity with its changes of pace and mood in the first Allegro movement to the final triumphant chords and Tiempo didn’t miss a trick. To say he was the master of his instrument is an understatement. He is a fiery and passionate musician who feels every note.

Of course this is a concerto with a strong orchestral contribution and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra proved again why it is considered to be one of the best in the country.

Under the leadership of Concertmaster Warwick Adeney and the baton of Alondra de la Parra the orchestra matched, even enhanced Tiempo’s performance. It was the perfect blend of sound; and judging by the rapturous applause, the audience enjoyed it as much as I did. In fact the applause went on for so long that the concert ran 25 minutes over schedule.

After the interval it was time for Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra, an odd composition with five short movements. Bartok is an acquired taste (there were many empty seats after the interval) and my experience has mainly been with piano pieces, so I listened with an open mind.

I am not a musician; I am a listener and can only enjoy what appeals to my ear. Unfortunately this concerto did not. It seemed disjointed and formless with no story to tell. But that is just my musical taste.

However it did give me the chance to take a good look at the conductor and see what a marvellous baton holder she is. I could not see her work during the Rachmaninov for she was hidden by the piano. She is energetic has a complete feel for the tone and style of the music and obviously had the total respect of the orchestra.

Alondra de la Parra is indeed a maestro.