SXS City of Lights- From Paris With Love
City of Lights - From Paris, With Love presented by the Southern Cross Soloists
QPAC Concert Hall
26th Feb 2023
Gluck Selections from Orfeo ed Euridice Wq.30 1774
Mozart Sonata No.8 in A minor, K.310
Debussy Beau soir L.84
Ravel Tzigane M.76
Debussy Préludes selections
Prokofiev Piano Concerto No.4 for left hand Op.53
Violin Soloist: Courtenay Cleary
Cello Soloist: Guillaume Wang
Flute Soloist: David Silva
Piano Soloist (Artist in Residence): Konstantin Shamray
The SXS reached for the stars with their preternatural portrayal of The City of Lights - From Paris, With Love, such a momentous performance will be difficult to supersede!
Dr Gemma Regan
What an incredible introduction to the Southern Cross Soloists' 2023 Season! The QPAC was brimming with 800 excited music lovers under the blue starry-night-themed Concert Hall. Gone are the days when the audience sat in reversed seats surrounding the stage, as now the musicians proudly perform to a sea of friendly faces. The City of Lights: from Paris, with love, was the theme of the first concert of a series of three. The program has been designed by the Southern Cross Soloists to musically journey across the globe by exploring a smorgasbord of sounds by hearing the influence each destination has had on compositions.
Paris has always been de rigueur for artists, musicians and Bohemians and was often the first stop on a Grand Tour for the gentry. The heart of the Parisian inspiration was and still is Montmartre, where artists create incredible music and art in a mountainous cafe scene environment. Each of the composers featured in the concert today wrote inspirational music with Paris acting as a catalyst for their genius.
Paris inspired Gluck to infuse Italian opera with French flair in Orfeo and Euridice in 1774, where the musician Orfeo desperately tries to retrieve his wife Euridice from the underworld. The Dance of the Furies and the contrasting Dance of the Blessed Spirits had Portuguese guest soloist David Silva fascinating the audience with his fantastical flute accompanied by the full complement of the SXS, including Daniel Le on the harpsichord.
Mozart’s Sonata No.8 was arranged from piano to a quintet for the SXS by the versatile Artistic Director, Tania Frazer. The young talented violin guest artist Courtenay Cleary, wove an incredible spell with SXS violist James Wannan. For such a young talent, she has already achieved more than most musicians, having played for the late Queen at Westminster Abbey and with a string of prestigious qualifications and awards. Cleary will be a world class titan with a glittering career ahead. There was also a glorious cello bass undercurrent from another skilled young Brisbane musician, Guillaume Wang. The three string instruments wove a tapestry of woe, as dissonance and the minor key mimicked Mozart’s despair of his mother’s demise, whilst the oboe and clarinet were delicate and tender.
Wang showcased his skills honed by seven years studying in Paris and Belgium with a trio of solos, starting with his delicate interpretations of Debussy’s Beau soir and Scriabin’s Romance. The tone of his cello was sumptuous and soft, like a velvety chocolate mousse.
The maestro Konstantin Shamray tenderly accompanied the first two pieces leaving Wang to contradict his classical training whilst playing Stonehenge by Pejtsik. His unusual fiddle technique with sliding fingers and frenetic fingering evoked a smoky jazz club in a basement in Montmartre. It was a highlight of the concert using a technique he hoped his classical teachers would not witness!
In the battle of the best in Brisbane by the two young maestros, Cleary hit back with an extraordinary showcase of talent in her rendition of Tzigane by Ravel. Accompanied by the SXS musicians, a jazzy cadenza followed with a bubbling Hookah from Frazer’s oboe leading to a phenomenal energetic solo by Cleary.
Despite the incredible talent on stage, Shamray’s left-handed Piano Concerto No.4 by Prokiev pipped the youngsters at the post. The unusual piece written to only use the left hand, was commissioned by pianist Paul Wittgenstein, who had lost his right arm in WWI but had insisted on continuing his career.
A gibbon-armed, grim-faced Shamray approached the piano, resigned to his daunting one-handed task. As he sat down he placed his right hand casually on his knee, as if it were natural to play solely with a left hand to gave a performance unlike any other!
His left hand, usually consigned to chords and ditties, flew over the keys as if possessed. The audience were stunned throughout the four movements, wondering if he had signed his soul over to the Devil to be capable of such an incredible feat. At one stage, his right hand unconsciously sneaked towards the keyboard desperate to participate, which he instantly reprimanded with a firm shake.
Shamray's fervent possession continued until abruptly he dropped his phantom-led hand and head in exhaustion. As the last notes faded into the starry night, the audience erupted into congratulatory applause, incredulous at witnessing such a supernatural skill, whilst Shamray bowed and stretched his tortured left hand with a smile of relief.
The Southern Cross Soloists certainly reached for the stars with their preternatural portrayal of The City of Lights - From Paris, With Love! Such a momentous performance will be difficult to supersede!
Perhaps they can reach further astral heights with their second concert, Central Europe: from Vienna to Budapest, in June and the third concert in October with America: The New World.