Romance and Revolution with Queensland Symphony Orchestra - 4ZZZ

Dr Gemma Regan

Review ·

The Concert Hall was buzzing in anticipation to hear the internationally reputed English pianist, Paul Lewis’ rendition of Beethoven’s Third Concerto, as part of the annual Brisbane Festival. Famous for his cycles of piano works by Beethoven and Schubert, the Liverpudlian has won numerous awards including the Royal Philharmonic Society’s Instrumentalist of the Year, two Edison awards and three Gramophone awards, not to mention his appointment by the Queen to CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 2016. Paul is the 2019 Artist-in-Residence supported by the University of Queensland.

Australian Carl Vine’s V: An Orchestral Fanfare, opened the evening concert with Guest Conductor Joseph Swensen at the helm of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra. Swensen is the Artistic Director of the NFM Leopoldinum Orchestra Wroclaw, Conductor Emeritus of the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, and Principal Guest Conductor of the Orquesta Ciudad de Granada. Vine titled the work as V to represent the Roman numeral for five, exclaiming that “Five minutes of music, even for orchestra, doesn’t seem to warrant a much longer title”. The piece started with a dissonant brass and sounded to be Gershwin influenced, where each part of the orchestra takes a leading role and a pervasive percussion. The movie theme sound of V was indicative of Vine’s countless musical compositions for film, television, and theatre, ending with an epic big band finale.

Lewis’ interpretation of the Beethoven’s Third Piano Concerto was flawless. The piano solo embraced the theme after a lively introduction from the QSO. Beethoven embraced the piano to create drama and tension throughout the Concerto. His development of the themes and motifs used ornamentation, powerful scales and harmonies to create emotive textures and rhythms throughout. Originally Beethoven improvised the feverish cadenza during his performances premiering in 1803, but finally wrote the music in 1809 for the use of other soloists. Lewis made full use of his long gibbon-like arms and hands to recreate the solos penned by Beethoven, adding his own flair and stylish interpretation he brought the house down with rapturous applause. After three encores he resettled at the piano to treat the audience to an encore solo performance.

The rousing Fifth Symphony premiered in Moscow in 1945, to the sounds of cannon-fire as the Germans invaded, evoking Russian power and pride under the stresses of war. However, Prokofiev had concussion from a fall afterwards and also fell out of favour after the war, resulting in it being the last work he ever conducted. The QSO emulated Prokoviev’s last performance perfectly, opening with the bassoon and flute into a melody that is re-quoted in the finale using divided cellos. His use of dissonance helps to develop the Symphony with a fast paced, yet uneasy finale.

The virtuoso pianist Paul Lewis and the QSO delighted the audience with a musical exploration of romance and revolution. Fortunately, you can re-live the Romance and Revolution concert on ABC Classic on 18 September 2019 at 1pm and 19 January 2020 at 1pm (AEDT).