The concert, part of QSO's popular Maestro series, was conducted by Australian-born Stanley Dodds, himself an internationally renowned violinist with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, and featured one of the world's most vaunted young violinists, American Chad Hoopes. The program included Schmidt's Intermezzo from Notre Dame, Barber's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra and Rachmaninov's Symphonic Dances. While the focus of the evening was definitely on the strings the varied program allowed plenty of opportunities for other sections of the orchestra to shine.
Franz Schmidt (1874 - 1939) - Intermezzo from Notre Dame
The concert began with this piece, which comes from Schmidt's opera, loosely based on the famous novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo.
It began with lush strings that were joined by the orchestra in majestic flight, developing a delightful melody with gypsy undertones, reflecting the heroine of Hugo's story, the beautiful gypsy girl, Esmerelda. This is only a very short piece, but its lyrical harmonies were beautifully realised by the orchestra, under the gentle sweeping direction of Dodds. This was a very promising start to the evening.
Barber's concerto was the feature vehicle for the incredible talents of violinist, Hoopes, who himself describes this as probably the greatest American violin concerto. Hoopes appeared on stage in basic black, but with his own take on the magical ruby slippers worn by Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. While his were a more subdued — but very sparkly — black, the magic was on display in every perfectly emotional note that he elicited from his violin, which was once owned and played by Isaac Stern.
The violin has always seemed to me the most emotional of instruments, and in the assured hands of Hoopes, it was everything from poignant to perky, supported by the orchestra's beautiful strings, horns, winds and percussion. The 2nd movement was elegantly moving, with lovely playing by oboeist, Sarah Meagher, a feature. Hoopes' playing in this movement demonstrated deep emotional intensity, but his dexterity and touch in the final frantic movement were simply breathtaking.
It was an all-consuming and mesmerising performance by Hoopes that received sustained ovations by the delighted crowd, and also from the members of the orchestra themselves, who stamped their feet in appreciation. His short encore performance of Telemann's Fantasie No. 9 displayed the power and beauty of the violin stripped bare and unadorned.
Sergei Rachmaninov (1873 - 1943) - Symphonic Dances, Op.45
Symphonic Dances is Rachmaninov's last composition, written in New York in 1940. It was originally entitled Fantastic Dances with its movements called Noon, Twilight and Midnight.
Violins, then woodwind and strings leapt into action and the repeating 3 note motif was taken up by various sections, with oboe and saxophone solos in the first movement. The slower second waltz movement showcased flutes, clarinets, violin and cor Anglais. The third movement was time for percussion to feature strongly, notably glockenspiel and tambourine. This was energetic and the ending triumphant.
Conductor, Stanley Dodds with orchestra - image from QSO Facebook page.
One of the great pleasures of a live orchestral performance is being able to see the work of the conductor, and, if Hoopes was the Dorothy of the evening, then conductor Dodds was the Wizard. His taut figure was a ball of energy, his arms sweeping and flying. His whole body was involved; at times he looked like he would leap into the air. There was an obvious mutual admiration between Dodds and the orchestra, and the audience clearly agreed, providing rousing ovations for both.
The QSO is a very fine orchestra and this was a very fine performance. The concert was recorded for ABC Classic FM, and you can listen to the entire concert, with the added bonus of interviews with Chad Hoopes and Stanley Dodds, here.
You can find out about what the QSO has in store for the rest of the 2018 season here.
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
QPAC Concert Hall - orchestra warming up. Image by writer.