Arts Review

From The Heartland: Vienna To Budapest

The Southern Cross Soloists Present From The Heartland: Vienna To Budapest

QPAC Concert Hall

Sunday June 18th, 2023


Mozart Horn Concerto No 4 K.495
Bartok Viola Concerto Sz. 120
Pavel Fischer Two Moravian Songs
Morrison/Williams New Work
Lutosławski Dance Preludes 1955
Liszt Totentanz: Paraphrase on Dies irae S.126
Monti Traditional Czardas


Guest composer and soloist James Morrison trumpet

Dr Gemma Regan 


The SXS, Williams and Morrison, the Antipodean Armstrong were in the zone with their World premiere of Co-incidence


Morrison and Williams stunned the audience when combining the flugelhorn and upturned Dizzy Gillespie-styled bent trumpet with the droning didgeridoo. The eclectic combination was smooth and jazzy and only one of many highlights from Southern Cross Soloist’s second concert of their 14th QPAC Concert Series, highlighting Middle-European folksongs from the old country.


The crowded concert hall rang with the fabulous fourth Horn Concerto from Mozart, with the energetic Rondo popularised as the soundtrack for the Fantastic Mr Fox movie. Nick Mooney’s French horn regally galloped amongst the frenetic fiddles as Mooney showed off his terrific tonguing technique. 


Pavel Fischer’s Two Moravian Songs had been re-arranged by the multi-talented SXS Artistic Director, Tania Frazer with the oboe replacing the vocals. The string quartet were folksy and frenzied whilst Frazer’s oboe charmed with the skill of a fakir.


Ashley Smith shone in his clarinet solo in the Polish Lutoslawski’s Dance Preludes of five short movements, originally composed for piano and clarinet, but instead utilising the full talents of the SXS with French horn, piano, oboe, flute, strings and percussion. The guest percussionist Quinn Ramsey was on form marking the unusual 11/16 and 13/16 time signatures, whilst Smith was masterful on the clarinet with his terrific technical skills.


Bartόk’s Viola Concerto was an impressive insight into James Wannan’s sympathetic interpretation of Bartόk’s unfinished work, re-interpreted with Frazer. Although it was well executed, it was too long, eating up the valuable concert time which would have been better focussing on guest-star James Morrison whose appearance had been the promotional focus for the concert yet, he ended up with only 10 minutes of playtime!


When he finally got on the stage an hour and a half into the scheduled one-and-a-half-hour concert, it was worth the long wait. Having played professionally in nightclubs from the age of 13, Morrison is the Antipodean Armstrong for the trumpet and a joy to watch and hear. He has played with many jazz legends, including Herbie Hancock and B.B. King and his professional polished pizazz showed. 


It was the World premiere of Co-incidence, a joint composition with SXS Didgeridoo Artist in Residence, Chris Williams. Composed as part of the SXS Didgeridoo Commissioning Project to commission three new works every year for ten years in the run-up to the Olympics in Brisbane in 2032. Morrison explained that the title was more of a collaboration between musicians with diverse instruments, styles and treatments in co-operation as a co-INCIDENCE, rather than rare events coinciding!


Williams was in the zone, rocking along with his didgeridoo producing the familiar drone as a good bass. Morrison showcased two trumpets: the Flugelhorn; and his signature bent trumpet. It was such a crime for him to have flown to Brisbane from Adelaide and be on stage, with only one short piece to play. 


Another concert highlight was Liszt’s Totentanz (Death Dance): Paraphrase on Dies Irae, with the Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) motif being dramatically used in many horror movies to evoke terror and dread, such as The Shining and The Exorcist. It is a four-note motif usually starting on F with a half-step down, a half-step up to the first note, then one-and-a-half steps down. 


SXS Artist in Residence 2023, Konstantin Shamray with his Nosferatian fingers was incredible. Ominously racing up and down scales and arpeggios as if the music was playing at double speed. The glossy Steinway piano lid enabled you to watch hundreds of hammers hitting the strings almost simultaneously. I saw audience members with their mouths open in wonder at Shamray’s fantastic feverish fingers. I can only hope when my macabre day of judgement comes, that I can hear his interpretation of the menacing octaves!


Fortunately, there was a surprise return of Morrison during the finale with the iconic famous Czardas by Vittorio Monti. The famous fusion of Hungarian folk music with melancholic jazz solos and energetic interludes, often popularised as accompaniments to Warner Brother’s cartoons was a spectacular way to end an eclectic concert by the SXS. Let’s hope they invite Morrison back to play for the whole concert next year!

Fortunately the concert was recorded for future airplay on ABC Classic FM. Tickets are still available for the brilliant Bangalow Chamber Music Festival, celebrating it's 20th year on 17th-20th August 2023.


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