REVIEW: Soloists and Spontaneity (Queensland Symphony Orchestra)

Alondra de la Parra conducts the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, photographed by Peter Wallis.

Queensland Symphony Orchestra, Music Director Alondra de la Parra, and 2018 Artist in Residence Sergio Tiempo thrilled audiences with their incredible passion and artistry in Soloists and Spontaneity, part of QSO’s Maestro series.

Dr Simon Perry of the University of Queensland gave the pre-concert talk, a great help to classical music newbies like me. He spoke about the classic structure of a concerto in three movements with one instrumental soloist, as well as the various meanings of the word ‘concerto’ and the inconsistencies that appear in its origins – is a concerto cooperative, or combative? Is it a dialogue, or a struggle?

Alondra de la Parra conducts the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, photographed by Peter Wallis.

The first piece of the evening was Stravinsky’s Dumbarton Oaks, named after the Washington manor residence of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss, who commissioned the work for their 30th wedding anniversary. With its sudden changes of pace and irregular metre, it was an exciting and energetic opening to the concert.

Sergio Tiempo performs with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, photographed by Peter Wallis.

The second piece was undeniably the standout – Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto to No. 3 in D minor with Artist in Residence Sergio Tiempo on the piano in his final performance for that role. With a reputation as one of the most technically challenging piano concertos in the standard classical repertoire, it was truly mesmerising to see Tiempo’s fingers flying fluidly across the keys as he performed the technically and interpretively demanding concerto. His smooth intensity was accompanied visually by the sweeping movements of Alondra de la Parra at the helm, and the undulating bows of the large strings section moving as one.

Describing his time as Artist in Residence as “one of the most beautiful things” following the conclusion of the piece to a standing ovation and an emotional embrace with de la Parra, Tiempo played an encore consolation that brought many listeners back to their feet, before taking many bows to continuing applause.

Sergio Tiempo and Alondra de la Parra, photographed by Peter Wallis.

The final piece of the evening was Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, which takes an unconventional approach to the classic concerto in showing off many instrumental soloists rather than only one and being performed in five movements. Commissioned for the Boston Symphony Orchestra during Bartók’s years of refuge in the US from homeland of Hungary during WWII, this concerto was influenced heavily by Eastern European folk music; the programme notes states that Bartók had access to Yugoslav epic poetry through his engagement by Columbia University, in addition to his own Romanian and Turkish materials.

It was interesting to experience the showcasing of each section of the orchestra, particularly prominent in the second movement Giuoco delle coppie (game of the couples). Alondra de la Parra’s conducting was passionate and expressive, throughout the concert but particularly in this finale. Bartók’s concerto, and the concert, finished in spectacular fashion with the grand intensity of the brass section and the full force of the orchestra on display.

The next concert in Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Maestro series is Beethoven’s 7th Symphony on Thursday, September 6. Visit the QSO website for ticketing and further information.  

Queensland Symphony Orchestra, photographed by Peter Wallis.