Arts Review

​​​​​​​Queensland Symphony Orchestra present Ode to Joy Maestro Series

Queensland Symphony Orchestra present Ode to Joy Maestro Series

Concert Hall, QPAC

17-19th  February 2023 


Barton & Serret Kalkani (World Premiere)

Sculthorpe Earth Cry

Beethoven Symphony No.9 in D minor (Choral)


Umberto Clerici Chief Conductor

William Barton Didgeridoo

Véronique Serret Violin

Eleanor Lyons Soprano

Deborah Humble Mezzo soprano

Andrew Goodwin Tenor

Michael Honeyman Baritone

Brisbane Chamber Choir


Dr Gemma Regan


One of the most incredible performances in QSO history to farewell Concertmaster Warwick Adeney and welcome the new Chief Conductor Umberto Clerici


It was a QSO concert of polarities at the weekend with a joyous Maestro Series welcome to Umberto Clerici as the new Chief conductor of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Accompanied by a heartfelt adieu to Concertmaster Warwick Adeney who is leaving after 38 years, starting with the previously named Queensland Philharmonic. Adeney will be sadly missed by the QSO and audience alike. Some special memories from his QSO colleagues were highlighted in the program and on stage, including Adeney’s unique name for Swan Lake as Duck Ditch! 


In his speech, Adeney shared his first experience as an orchestral musician in the Gold Coast Youth Orchestra at the tender age of 6, where he had asked if he could go home now, halfway through the rehearsal! Adeney’s most treasured QSO memories were playing Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending as violin soloist in the Musical Landscapes concert, with Clerici conducting in 2021 and also the epic Handel’s Messiah concert in 2019. Violinist Joan Shih was also farewelled after 33 years with the QSO, starting with Adeney interviewing her on the audition panel way back in 1989!


Another juxtaposition was traditional and cultural fabulous with the first half dedicated to First Nations music including the World premiere of Barton and Serret’s Kalkani and Sculthorpe’s iconic Earth Cry. Beethoven’s epic Symphony No.9, complete with four soloists and a 78-strong Brisbane Chamber Choir was radically different and the more traditional classical music. Clerici explained that his eclectic choice was themed on humanity and friendship and that as musicians, they were providing a service to humanity by performing the works of the Genius composers, no matter what the era.


There was also a welcome change to the standard black tie QSO attire, with new First Nation-styled scarves and ties based upon a newly commissioned "Who we are" painting by acclaimed Kuku-Yalanji artist Jeremy Donovan. It was actually painted in the office of the QSO whilst the artist interacted with the members and musicians to help it reflect the energy and vibe of the group. The stunning bright triptych encapsulates a dreaming story of the magic and music of the QSO in a celebration of their 75 years.


Barton gave a heartfelt welcome to country, noting that his association with his musical family, the QSO goes back 20 years, describing how we all connect with music through “the lullaby of our eternal lives.”


The tender cry of Veronique Serret’s violin wafted from the organist's podium up high in the concert hall. Serret collaborated with Barton on the musical Heartland project as a message of peace and love carried by the eagle spirit. Kalkani means eagle in the Kalkadoon language of Barton’s Kalkadunga country, around Mount Isa in Queensland. Serret is a talented contemporary musician, composer and vocalist renowned for creating unique inclusive sound worlds.


The combination of the full QSO orchestra with Serret’s mournful singing and violin, and the guttural sounds of Barton on the didgeridoo was mesmerising, Evoking visions of the soaring eagle and the connection between sky and earth, and to each other. The Kalkadunga people believe the eagle protects us all as it soars overhead. It was a valuable illustration of how combining Western and First Nation instruments and styles embodies Australian culture and the true meaning of country.


The soft rhythm of the didgeridoo playing Earth Cry wafted across the audience from the back of the Concert Hall as the ARIA award-winning William Barton strode down past the audience without a pause in his circular breathing. The kookaburra called out as the Earth cried for balance whilst the brass and strings emulated the Aussie outback in a beautiful plea for us all to re-attune to the land. The primal bass sounds seemed to reverberate out of the concert hall and across the lands of the Yuggera and Turrbal people until the sun set within the reddened walls, welcomed with tremendous applause for such an evocative First Nation’s first half.


Clerici opened Beethoven’s epic by explaining that Beethoven’s Ninth represented both the apex of the classical period and the start of Romanticism and was a hymn to the humanist utopia of the equality of all humankind. It is “The most important symphony in the history of music and a concert of the ages!”


Despite the fourth movement, Ode to Joy being the most dramatic and popular part of the symphony, there are also lovely parts throughout the other three movements. The majesty of the symphony is more incredible considering that Beethoven was deaf by the time it was composed. 


The hushed creeping violins in the first movement were shattered by every musician playing fortissimo (very loudly) in unison, a sure way to startle the drowsy who thought they might grab a quick nap before the finale! The third movement tantalises the impatient with the repeating Ode to Joy motif. Finally, the booming solo from baritone Michael Barryman and the resounding Germanic strength of Friedrich Schiller’s 18th Century poetry, “Freude, schöner Götterfunken Tochter aus Elysium!” (Joy, beautiful spark of divinity, Daughter from Elysium) announced the finale.


The four soloists were incredible, projecting their voices so far that I’m surprised the Hamilton audience couldn’t hear it next door! The 76-strong Brisbane Chamber Choir were audacious and powerful whilst performing the world's boldest choral piece in history, with the men’s voices being particularly good when all were singing in unison. 


The QSO thrashed and lulled their way through the movement with perfected skill. As the soloists joined in for the finale, Clerici bounced and prodded his baton masterfully keeping all to task. With his final momentous leap it was all over and greeted with tumultuous applause. There was a firm two-handed shake and flowers for Adeney and a 5-minute-long standing ovation from an audience who had just witnessed one of the most incredible performances in QSO history. What can I say, but you had to be there! Fortunately, if you weren’t you can hear it replayed on the 26th of February on ABC Classic at 1 pm, don’t miss it! 

Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s Season 2023 promises to continue the eclectic ensemble of music with grand masterpieces, intimate chamber moments and World premieres featuring some of the greatest music in history including Don Quixote, The Planets and Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle, so buy your tickets now!


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