Long Live The Bard (Queensland Symphony Orchestra)
QPAC, Concert Hall
In commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, 2016 has seen many celebrations of his extraordinary contribution to world culture, including to music. Indeed, the incidental music composed to accompany his plays and the various operas and concert pieces created in their image could fill an entire season of programs, as was seen in The Royal Shakespeare Company’s “Shakespeare Live” star-studded celebration of his enduring influence on music, dance, opera, musical theatre and comedy. It is the idea, too, at the centre of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s “Long Live The Bard”.
Like Shakespeare’s plays themselves “Long Live the Bard” showcases a range of emotions through its selected compositions, from the romantic light touch of its opening of Mendelssohn’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” overture (composed when he was only 16) to the thrilling virtuosic energy of Handel’s sumptuous “Julius Caesar” and the menace and sinister strength of Verdi’s “Macbeth”.
As conductor, Opera Australia’s Tahu Matheson is vital, eliciting a sparkling take of Nicolai’s overture to “The Merry Wives of Windsor”, its sounds dancing about the Concert Hall and a highlight second number in Bellini’s ‘I Capuleti e i Montecchi’ overture, equally energetic and volatile in its tempo.
Numbers such as Korngold’s “Much Ado About Nothing” Overture, showcase the deliciously clean string sounds of the orchestra, creating a harmonic playfulness in tone and melody, yet also a warm lyricism in suggestion of the protagonists’ unconfessed love. And its rousing finale, of the symphonic poem, ‘Fantasy Overture’ from Tchaikovsky’s sweeping, layered “Romeo and Juliet” depicts a dynamic energy of forceful rhythm from the orchestra as a whole as it begins slowly before alternating brisk and leisurely sections, portraying character moods and melodies of serenity, sombreness and chaos rather than a chronology of events.
Certainly there a familiar melodies to many of the selections, such as Tchaikovsky’s soaring love them of Romeo and Juliet themselves, however, familiarity is not a prerequisite for appreciation or absorption into the show’s musical world… though, who wouldn’t recognise Leonard Bernstein’s score for “West Side Story”, widely regarded as one of the best ever written. Indeed, this characterised the richly imaginative and accessible program created by the Queensland Symphony Orchestra in celebration of Shakespeare’s musical legacy. The culmination is a triumph in its programming and its presentation, providing appreciative audiences a luxurious contrast of sounds and moods to accompany their Sunday mornings.