REVIEW: Beethoven's Heroic Symphony (Queensland Symphony Orchestra)

Edicson Ruiz plays in the world premiere of Oscher's  Double Bass Concerto with
Queensland Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Alondra de la Parra. Imagery via Kath Rose & Associates.

Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s final Maestro concert of the year presented a world premiere from Efrain Oscher, Mozart's Paris Symphony, and Beethoven's Heroic Symphony for an epic evening of music featuring guest double bass soloist Edicson Ruiz and conducted by Music Director Alondra de la Parra.

The pre-concert talk for Beethoven’s Heroic Symphony was especially engaging as Edicson Ruiz joined host Dr Simon Perry to discuss the Concerto for Double Bass he would perform as a soloist later in the evening.

It was incredibly interesting to hear Ruiz speak about the collaborative process of creating the concerto, from influences as varied as Michael Jackson, Carlos Santana, Ricky Martin, and Paco de Lucia, and the relationship between composer and musician in the creation of this work. Ruiz added that this concerto is the first time in history that a double bass can represent and play Latin American music as a real protagonist. He spoke about the cultural history and influences in the concerto, and the tuning required for it on his double bass, an 18th century instrument born two years before Mozart. The Viennese tuning of the double bass specified for the concerto is the musical equivalent of a dead language, Ruiz said.


Alondra de la Parra conducts Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Imagery provided by Kath Rose & Associates.

The concert began with Mozart’s Paris Symphony, the biggest and most ambitious symphony he had written at the time. The bows of QSO’s strings section swayed back and forward as one in the slower, sighing second movement before the third movement returned to the noise and vigour of the first.


It was a privilege to witness the birth of a new work with the world premiere of Efrain Oscher’s Concerto for Double Bass and Orchestra, played with compelling intensity by QSO and guest double bass soloist Edicson Ruiz and conducted by Alondra de la Parra. This work was unlike anything I have heard Queensland Symphony Orchestra play so far, and the different influences of the Western classical music cannon and the Latin American folk music shone through clearly at different moments. I’ve never heard a symphonic piece I wanted to dance to before.

The first movement featured rhythmic percussion and melodic woodwinds, emphasised by the brass and ending abruptly. The second movement evoked feelings of frustrated loneliness through a low strings section, and the third movement opened with a cadenza, a polyrhythmic portion of the work that gives the impression that more than one instrument is playing (I honestly had to look at the other instruments to confirm that it was only Ruiz playing – it was amazing to watch and hear). As the movement progressed the orchestra seemed to be echoing Ruiz’s playing back to him, finishing with a flourish, and the final movement brought all the different threads of style and music together again with the main tune of Soledad, a word meaning ‘loneliness’ or ‘solitude’ in Spanish and meaningful to Ruiz as the name of his mother and grandmother.  

Imagery provided by Kath Rose & Associates

Skill and speed met emotional intensity in Edicson Ruiz’s playing as he leaned over the instrument and almost melded with it. Alongside him, Alondra conducted with characteristic fluidity, grace, and sureness – combined with the rhythmic nature of the concerto, the playing and the conducting began to seem like a dance.

The evening closed with Beethoven’s epic symphony Eroica, and Queensland Symphony Orchestra demonstrated their versatility with the rising and falling of tension and the variance of speed, volume, and emotion, from slow and sombre to lively and bright.

Under the baton of Alondra de la Parra, Queensland Symphony Orchestra and Edicson Ruiz delivered a thrilling world premiere, sandwiched between two significant symphonies, performing with exceptional synchronicity and skill for an exciting and spectacular evening of music.