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Review - QSO: The Bard and Beyond: Beauty and Power: a stunning concert

Violinist Arabella Steinbacher and conductor Carlos Kalmar

The Bard and Beyond: Beauty and Power

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Conductor Carlos Kalmar

Violin soloist Arabella Steinbacher

Concert Hall

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank


Performance: October 6, 2018

What a stunning concert this was. It had everything from beautiful storytelling, an exquisite violin concerto and the power and passion of William Walton’s Symphony Number 1 in B flat minor. Before the symphony began the conductor, Carlos Kalmar, told the audience that Walton’s work was not heard as often as it deserved. I could not agree more.

This was the first time I had watched a performance and it moved me to the core. It is a magnificent piece of orchestral work with four deeply moving and contrasting movements that recreated the raw emotions of the composer when he was writing it.

The time saw the acrimonious end of his first long love affair, with Imma von Doernberg, the young widow of a German baron. And so it is reported that the anger of the first two movements resulted from this break-up. And anger there is by the spadeful with thundering percussion and Wagnerian violence from the big brass section and screaming strings.

The second movement is more argument than emotion and then third, slow, movement still held that simmering anger. He started the work in 1931 and completed three movements by 1933. He did not however write the fourth movement until 1935 by which time he was gloriously in love again, this time with Alice, Viscountess Wimborne.

The movement is so different from the others and is so joyful and passionate it lifts the heartstrings.

I haven’t been so moved by the first hearing of an orchestral work since I heard Prokofiev’s third piano concerto for the first time.

The evening was off to a fantasy start with Felix Mendelssohn’s Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Opus 21). This showed what great form the orchestra was in with this very visual musical account of Shakespeare’s tale of magic, fairies, and confused lovers.

With the fluttering violins and heavy chords the piece took the audience immediately into the dark woods of the mighty Oberon and his queen, Titania, the mischief of Puck and the antics of the Rude Mechanicals with even a few “hee haws” from violin and clarinet as a tribute to Bottom, the donkey-headed actor.

This delightful piece was a great lead-in to Bruch’s Concerto Number 1 in G Minor for Violin and Orchestra (Opus 26).

This was where we got to see and hear the glamorous virtuoso Arabella Steinbacher with such sweet sounding instrument and an amazing technique. The concerto itself is a complex but engaging masterpiece and one of the most popular pieces of violin music - and listening to it with its many mood changes and lovely melodies it was easy to see why.

The result was a majestic pairing of soloist and orchestra, conducted by the powerful and so in control Carlos Kalmar.

Steinbacher’s playing was exquisite and the stretched the whole range of her instrument with power and supreme confidence in her work with the orchestra.

This was the Queensland Symphony Orchestra showing once again why it has such a fine international reputation.

It was definitely a night to remember.

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