Cinematic – Heroes and Heroines (Queensland Symphony Orchestra)
QPAC, Concert Hall
Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s annual “Cinematic” concert is always a highlight of the company’s performance calendar. The 2021 gathering of cosplay classical musicians on stage is an immediate reminder of this with superheros, storm troopers and even Scooby-Doo amongst those ready to be spotted from the stalls. And the range of costumes on stage is not the only instance where the audiences is spoiled by an aesthetic abundance, as given the manner in which so many film composers use the full might of a symphony orchestra, there are many classics from which to refine a program of performance numbers for this year’s focus on Heroes and Heroines.
After Spider-Man tunes the orchestra, the epic journey of a show begins under the baton (and lightsaber) of conductor Nicholas Buc with the great opening fanfare of the iconic main title Star Wars theme. Beyond the familiarity and resonance of the grand symphonic score, there is something exhilarating about its brilliant brass sounds, regardless of how many times you may have heard it at previous QSO shows. The drama then continues with ‘Gladiator (Suite)’, which builds percussively a bit like Bolero from a noble and majestic theme into the sounds of battle drama. These rousing works of John Williams and Hans Zimmer are fitting openers, not just due to the unique sound palettes the two have created for a vast repertoire of movies, but for the way in which this allows for explanation of how masterworks have inspired contemporary classics.
Just as the best pieces weave story and emotion together in their music, the program’s selections allow opportunity for all parts of the orchestra to be highlighted as part of their interplay. In its swinging ‘60s sounds Rod Goodwin’s ‘Miss Marple (Theme)’ highlights the vibrant violins with harpsichord punctuation, while Edvard Grieg’s ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’ (from the familiar Peer Gynt Suite N.1, op.46) sees the orhcestra’s larger strings creeping along quietly before ascending to an increasingly frenetic collision of passionate energy.
For those whose symphonic knowledge comes predominantly from the classical refrains of Looney Toons, ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ from Die Walküre, the second instalment of Wagner’s “Ring Cycle” set of four operas, not only takes audiences back to ‘Kill the Wabbit’ lyrics of “What’s Opera, Doc?”, but allows for showcase of low brass instrumentation, including from Caribbean pirates on trombones. And Paul Dukas’ ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ similarly takes many audience members back to the Walt Disney’s imaginative segment in the movie “Fantasia”, featuring Mickey Mouse as the apprentice, while also showcasing the sprightly sounds of the bassoon in representation of the broomstick the is brought to life by Mickey Mouse.
‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ also allows opportunity for Buc to explain (with orchestra demonstration) of the motifs that are paraphrased in “Star Wars”. Indeed, thesymphonic poem is a wonderful highlight, not only in its joyful musical ebb and flow, but also in the accompanying magical transformation of the Concert Hall’s through green illumination, which serves as a reminder of the venue’s spectacular, distinctive aesthetics and acoustics. This occurs also when themes from the Marvel universe are accompanied by a vibrant violet and red saturation in emphasis of their exciting scores.
QSO’s eclectic curation of classic and contemporary soundtracks certainly offers something for everyone, with Bruce Rowland’s joyously stirring ‘The Man From Snowy River’ (with additional ‘Waltzing Matilda’ tribute in its tail) providing an emotional and dramatic swell to sweep audience members of a certain vintage back to the wild ride down the hillside and the landscape shots and action sequences of the iconic 1982 movie. And while it would be easy to sit back with eyes closed to let the nostalgia of one of the most recognised examples of Australian film music wash over us, that would mean missing the delight of seeing The Joker’s sensitive double bass instrumentation.
The symphonic celebration of Queensland Symphony Orchestra’s “Cinematic – Heroes and Heroines” is certainly a spectacle which illustrates the power of music to transport audiences to other times and places. The fact that this is enhanced by an orchestra that includes Flintstones, fairies, the mad hatter and Harry Potter, means that there is much visual delight too, beyond just looking for a very visible front-and-centre Waldo. And the fact that that the audience includes so many younger members and first-time Cinematics, only makes it all the better.
Photos c/o – Peter Wallis