Why don't I start as I mean to end – I loved it, I loved it, I loved it.
And I wasn't certain that I would – because the QSO had (for the most part) gone right outside the same old, same old composers. Villa Lobos was the most familiar name – but all the others needed an introduction.
And an introduction is what we got. Our favourite conductor Alondra de la Parra (right up there with Vanessa Scammell and Guy Noble) gave us a background to each item just before we heard it – and she managed to be informative, engaging and witty – and to spontaneously respond in Spanish to support from excited audience members. Did you know, for instance, that Camargo Guarnieri (the composer, not to be confused with the Violin maker) was registered at birth as Mozart Guarnieri – and that he had brothers called Rossine and Verdi? "No pressure then" as Alondra said.
Something that Alondra and Vanessa have in common is that they seem to conduct with every inch of their body – you are left in no doubt as to what she wants from the orchestra – and for much of this performance, it was exuberance and joy.
Which also applies to the simply wonderful Brazilian guitarist Yamanda Costa. I have never heard a guitar played in quite this way – never. He is a showman to his finger-tips as he engages with other members of the orchestra and with the conductor and with the audience, while performing with stupendous virtuosity.
Here is flamboyance, delicacy, precision, and a performer palpably in love with his music and determined to help us share that love.
A bonus for your reviewer is that I happened to be sitting beside his French partner, Elodie Bouny, and their two delightful young children, and learned that she had orchestrated his music – to include (I think) elements of Celtic music, flamenco, dance, gunfire, melancholy, passion and joy. All of which were channelled by Alondra de la Parra – even including stamping her foot in time to the gun-shots.
Yamanda leapt to his feet at the end of his playing, to be greeted with applause which well deserves the cliché "thunderous". I wish I had timed it – because it surely was some kind of a record. And then came the encore – man and guitar at one improvising the seemingly impossible, as he whistled and sang to the music, and the members of the orchestra leaned forward, entranced by the skill and the beauty of the moment. The audience rose to their feet as one, in homage to an unforgettable performance by an incomparable musician. To hear or re-hear it, ABC Classic radio will be broadcasting it on the 8th November at 7 pm.
It was just as well that we had the interval, to help us process all of that, and to settle down for a delightful second half – without Yamanda but with our favourite conductor, and with largely unfamiliar Latin American music, played with joy and verve. We were joined by young musicians from Brisbane Girls Grammar School, who were clearly welcomed by the orchestra, and palpably loving the music.
After an unashamedly enthusiastic call for an encore, Alondra got us all on our feet, and demonstrated just how she would like us to clap – as well as encouraging us to do better. Then came Marquez's Danzon no 2, to which a capacity audience clapped along with massive enjoyment and unabashed enthusiasm.
What a wonderful evening.
I loved it, I loved it, I loved it
Conductor Alondra de la Parra
Soloist Yamandu Costa, guitar
Chávez Sinfonía india (Symphony No.2)
Costa Concerto Fronteira
Guarnieri Dança Brasileira
Guarnieri Dança Selvagem
Guarnieri Dança Negra
Villa-Lobos Bachianas Brasileiras No.7