Arts Review

QSO Dance Around the World

The Queensland Symphony Orchestra presents Dance Around the World 

Concert Hall, QPAC

Sunday, 12th Feb 2022


Chief Conductor Umberto Clerici
Soloist Natsuko Yoshimoto, violin


Gounod Ballet Music from Faust III. Antique Dance

Offenbach Overture to Orpheus in the Underworld Can-Can

Falla Suite No.1, from Three-Cornered Hat [Dance of the Miller's Wife (Fandango)]

J Strauss Jr. Voices of Spring, Op.410

Mozart German Dances, K.571 [No.6 D major]

Brahms Hungarian Dances No. 3, No.5, No.10 (arr. Brahms)

Bartók Rhapsody No. 2 for Violin and Orchestra II. Friss

Smetana Three Dances from The Bartered Bride [Polka]

Tchaikovsky Suite from Swan Lake, Op.20a 2. Valse

Sdraulig Vortex

Grieg Norwegian Dances, Op.35 I. Allegro marcato

Sibelius Valse triste from Kuolema (Death), Op.44, No.1

Copland Hoe Down, from Rodeo

Abreu Tico-tico no fubá


A Terrific Terpsichorean Trip 


Dr Gemma Regan


Umberto Clerici waltzed into his first Music on Sundays concert as the new Chief Conductor of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra with his toes tapping and body swaying for their Dance Around the World concert. He had made a fabulous double act with host Guy Noble in the Musical Landscapes concert in 2021 and we were looking forward to an encore but unfortunately, there was no sign or mention of Noble, who has hosted the series for 18 years. However, the comedic conductor Clerici more than made up for the omission. The Italian gifted cellist is a great host and entertainer, with his irrepressible latin flamboyance and humour and now is a much sought-after conductor after his debut with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in 2018.  


A sinister meander with Mephistopheles opened the concert at the gates of hell with Gonoud’s Antique Dance from the ballet of Faust. It was part of three vastly contrasting dances as the QSO then can-canned with Orpheus in the Underworld and fandangoed with the Miller’s wife! 


Clerici’s head bobbed and his hands flailed as the QSO revealed their skills instead of their knickers and raced into the fandango on the terpsichorean journey. The famed fandango clash of time signatures had a frantic Clerici imploring the violins to give it more welly with a shaking his raised fist. David Mitchell on the bassoon interrupted the swelling strings with a pompous parp as the flutes flowed amongst chiming bells.


Clerici then greeted the QPAC audience for the first time as Chief Conductor with a Bonjourno! He was excited about working with such an incredible orchestra and promised a flying carpet treat from Mediterranean silliness to Germanic grooves boarding in ten minutes!


Waltzes from Strauss and the Hungarian dances of Brahms and a snake charming oboe from Sarah Meagher swayed the audience into one of the highlights of the concert with a violin solo from Concertmaster Natsuko Yoshimoto with Bartók’s Rhapsody No. 2. 


The fast Friss had Yoshimoto frantically bowing like a woman possessed, she had exclaimed beforehand that the piece seemed to overcome and overwhelm her. The bobbing audience were also enchanted, each weaving under Yoshimoto’s powerful mellifluous spell. As the final notes from the fiddle died, the spell was shattered with an excited hug from Clerici, returning the maestro and the audience back from the underworld.


Young Melbourne composer Sdraulig whirled the audience back to Australia with his haunting Vortex. Sdraulig describes it as “maintaining an unrelenting pace and energy across its brief span, beginning with bubbling activity before descending into a veritable whirlpool. In the final bars, the full power of the orchestra careens into the vortex.” Described as the double macchiato of music, the intermittent brass with swirling strings seemed to be dragging the orchestra deep into the abyss. The pulchritudinous Clerici deliberately circled his baton with the musical rise and swell of the waves, as they crashed in and out of the chasm.


Sibelius’ Valse triste from Kuolema was another haunting dance where a dying mother hears a knock from her departed husband as slow, deliberate plucks from the strings. He whisks her off for one incredible final waltz. She finally realises that she has danced with the grim reaper as the music fades into oblivion. Clerici masterfully maintained the momentous silence with a raised baton until finally, after what seemed like minutes, he released the applause.

After the turbulence was a welcoming Copland hoe-down and cake walk in the cane fields from the America’s finishing with the highlight of the concert, the infectious Abreu Tico-tico no fubá composed in 1917, and translates as the sparrow’s in the cornmeal. It topped the charts in 1944, with a recording by the Andrews Sisters, but has also been performed by an eclectic mix of organist Ethel Smith, Daniel Barenboim, Charlie Parker, Paco de Lucia and even Carmen Miranda! Chief Conductor Clerici and the Queensland Symphony Orchestra truly tripped the light fantastic to open 2023 with the fabulous Tico-tico no fubá for a syncopated conga to the finish line.


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