Heartland Classics presented by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra
Concert Hall, QPAC
13th-14th Oct, 2023
Conductor Otto Tausk
Violin Sergey Khachatryan
Zoltán Kodály Dances of Galánta
Felix Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in E minor
Antonín Dvořák Symphony No.7
Dr Gemma Regan
A heartfelt performance and farewell to Brynley White after 36 years with the QSO
Heartland Classics had a smaller audience than usual, possibly because it was a Saturday afternoon amidst the chaos of the voting day for the referendum for the Voice. A tribute from three composers to the Heartland of Europe was explored musically throughout the concert with Zoltán's Kodály Dances of Galanta, Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor and Dvořák’s dramatic Symphony No. 7.
The guest violin soloist was the talented Armenian-born Sergey Khachatryan, who has performed all over the USA and Europe. His musical talent was evident early on, becoming the youngest winner of the Jean Sibelius Competition in 2000 in Helsinki.
Keeping with the European theme, Dutch Guest Conductor Otto Tausk was at the helm, who is in his sixth season as the Music Director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO).
It was also a sad farewell to violinist Brynley White after 36 years with the QSO in a heartfelt goodbye speech from fellow violinist Sonia Wilson. She recalled seeing Brynley play with the QSO as a child and was so excited to be seated next to him at one of her first rehearsals with the QSO that she got moved away from him for talking, like a naughty schoolgirl! She ended the speech by saying his replacement has big hair to fill (rather than shoes), referring to his old blonde curly mop.
The three pieces were by composers inspired by their folk and gypsy traditions. Most focused on one particular instrument to recreate the heart of their country. Zoltán Kodály’s syncopated Dances of Galánta featured some fiendish cadenzas from Brian Catchlove on the clarinet, with the Gypsy dance music from the 1800s from Galánta on the border of Austria and Hungary as the inspiration.
The piece was eclectic, with large crescendos and big-band rhythm and sound, each time becoming more frantic as the maelstrom whirled. It perfectly encapsulated the folk music and Zoltán’s love for the heartland of Hungary.
Mendelssohn’s Concerto in E minor for Violin and Orchestra is in three superb movements and was a synergistic accompaniment to Khachatryan’s solos. The first movement, the Allegro molto apassionato has an unmistakeable motif resembling Oh My Darling Clementine, which is fun to hear. Mendelssohn wrote the movements to run seamlessly from one to the next to avoid annoying clapping, with a long bassoon note from David Mitchell suspending the bridge between the first and second movements.
The last movement was very Puk-like, with nods to Mendelssohn’s Midsummer Night’s Dream Overture and hints of the Russian Dance from The Nutcracker, with flirtatious flutes and Khachatryan’s cheeky violin. He seemed almost tormented whilst playing with long breath intakes before each solo, which added to the drama.
The vibrancy from the QSO continued through the four movements of Dvorák’s Symphony No. 7. Tausk was a vibrant conductor, thrashing and stamping with the whirling beat. The chocolate box assortment of styles were crammed into four movements, all heavily influenced by Bohemian folk music and composed by Dvořák as a love letter to his homeland and a prayer to the peace of the soul when the stormy strings finished with a fabulous flourish.
The heartfelt concert was recorded for future airplay on ABC Classic FM.