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Review - QSO’s Romeo and Juliet: an unforgettable performance

Above: Diego Matheuz and Marie-Pierre Langlamet. Below: Natsuko Yoshimoto

Romeo and Juliet

Maestro Concert

Queensland Symphony Orchestra

Concert Hall

Queensland Performing Arts Centre

South Bank


Concert performed on March 16

To misquote Shakespeare: “For never was a story of more wow! than this of Juliet and her Romeo.”

The Queensland Symphony Orchestra under the masterful baton of fireball conductor Diego Matheuz created Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet Suite with passion, power and pathos. From the opening section of the menace and confrontation with the arrival of the Montagues and Capulets to the crash and thunder of the death of Tybalt and the heart-rending sadness of Juliet’s death it was a full frontal attack on the senses.

Prokofiev was a master of descriptive music and used the strength of the brass and bass instruments to imbue confrontation scenes with anger and menace, and his woodwinds echoed the short joyfulness of Juliet and Romeo’s love for each other.

All this was projected by a top quality orchestra at its best under a highly respected conductor that was able to create the excitement the score demanded. It had a sparkling guest Concertmaster too - Natsuko Yoshimoto from Adelaide Symphony.

She led the orchestra with her million dollar violin which is 266-years-old and built by legendary Italian, Giovanni Battista Guadagnini.

It was fascinating to hear the music from the stage without the dancers but they were there ghostly images in the mind created by Prokofiev’s music. It was an unforgettable performance.

As the program said: “tragedy never sounded so beautiful.”

But we knew we were in for a splendid night when the first gentle notes of Rossini’s William Tell Overture floated from the stage. The soft strings of a morning melody were leading, we knew, to one of the most well-known themes in music - da de dum da de dum da de dum dum dum! For many it is still better known as the introductory theme to the old TV series The Lone Ranger.

And we quickly learned of the respect the orchestra had for the conductor as he led the musicians expressively though the gathering storm, the aftermath and then, with a rousing trumpet fanfare on to the fabulous march that had feet tapping and hands clapping in time.

It had us ready to cheer at the end as the smiling musicians lay down their instruments. They knew it had the audience in the palm of their collective hands.

It was the perfect beginning to a concert night.

This was followed by a new experience for me – the Concerto for Harp and Orchestra by Alberto Ginastera. The harp in my mind has always been at the back of the orchestra; a specialist instrument. However I have been intrigued by the harp as a solo since I first watched Harpo Marx from the Marx Brothers play around for three or four minutes with Franz Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody Number Two, one of my favourite piano pieces. (Check it out on YouTube)

I wondered how the gentle instrument would cope with the full orchestra behind it.

Well, French virtuoso Marie-Pierre Langlamet, who has been playing the instrument wince she was eight years old soon showed how it could compete, even with the brassy 20th century American style of orchestral music from the Argentinian co composer.

The first movement was gentle and the harp was soft, but in the second and third movements the music fired up and Marie-Pierre Langlamet showed that the harp could compete and indeed and in the third movement was fast and furious and the harp was played like I had never heard it played before.

It was stunning and refreshingly different.

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