Fri 26 Oct – The Planets
I just half wrote a review - but I lost it. :(
Anyway, I'll try again.The Queensland Orchestra
's "The Hebrides
's "Rückert lieder
and finally Holst
's The Planets
An amazing night, one that I won't forget any time soon. I was so privileged to be able to see two of my favourite orchestral works performed on the one night - "The Hebrides" and "The Planets". I have been waiting for years to see "The Planets" performed live.
The first half of the performance consisted of "The Hebrides" and "Rückert Lieder". The second I had not heard before. Featuring the beautiful Mezzo Soprano Pamela Helen Stephen - I thoroughly enjoyed it. Two highlights for me in this piece was of course the singing (I really liked the 5th movement) and the delicious Cor Anglais. "The Hebrides" went off without a hitch and was very lovely to hear.
The highlight, though was definately "The Planets". Mind blowing. "Mars - The Bringer of War" Blew you out of your seats. It was very tight and is not an easy piece to perform - but TQO did an admiral job. Only qualm was the entrance of the brass in a few sections, the tubas had some enteries that were a little fluffed. Can't have it all though.
"Venus, The Bring of Peace" was sublime, no issues. Infact there were no real issues - and all I can think of are the positives for all of them. "Mercury - The Winged Messenger" was a highlight - they really brought this movement alive - and it was wonderful to hear the main theme jump all over the orchestra - just something about it you can't appreciate when on a recording.
"Jupiter, The Bringer of Jollity" - WOW. Just, WOW. I actually got a tear to my eye in the middle section that is also known as "I Vow To Thee My Country" - such rich emotion.
This work was written WAY before it's time. Next to nothing was known about the Planets back in 1914, when Holst started composing this epic, yet he captures the mood of each planet or the general feeling and vastness of space. Jupiter with it's roiling atmosphere and Guardian of our solar system to the grandness and majesty of Saturn's rings, to the topsy-turvy lie of Uranus and finally the distant, crystalline Neptune at out solar system's edge.
The bold brass and long arches that encompass "Saturn, The Bring of Old Age" were awe-inspiring. To hear this live is something else. Broad sweeps of chords eminate from the orchestra in this movement. Maybe the 'angry' interruptions towards the end could have been more dominant - but I'm not complaining. I had chills, I still do. The end of some of the movements were amazing - the conductor letting the sound escape into the upper reaches of the Concert Hall was fantastic.
The brash and upstartedness of "Uranus, The Magician" was welcomed after the stoicness of Saturn. WOW They had the pipe-organ cranked and ready for the run up to the end of "Uranus". First time I've seen it in action - personally! The principal violin's solos in this movement were sublime as well. Infact extreme kudos goes to the Queensland Orchestra's string section. An astounding job. Principal cello's solo was delightful too. And again the Cor Anglais was a highlight. What is also amazing and brilliant about "The Planets" is how Holst gives solos or delightful passages of music to some of the lesser 'highlighted' members of the orchestra. Double Basses did a great job, they really did I had no idea they played such a cruical part in the "melody" of these work, while at the same time being the skeleton of the orchestra like in "Mars".
I must also acknowledge the harps - two in this piece, they also play a very integral part to this work. In places it was these instruments that held sections together - which is very unusual - well to me at least. Wonderfully played!
Then we move onto "Neptune, The Mystic". Wow. All I can say. Simply beautiful. Where are the voices coming from? Where are they!?! Where is the choir?? I finally realised - they were outside. In the wings - with the doors shut. In this piece no instrument - rises above pianissimo, yet there are some who have incredibly important and complex parts in this movement. So the voices - well when it was performed either initially or in earlier days - I can't remember - the choir also stood off stage and to have them drift off while the rest of the orchestra had finished - i think there is an indication for the a door to be gradually shut. What and experience! I THINK from what I could tell - the choir stood in the wings with the doors to the stage shut. Then I THINK they walked away out the back of the stage and down the hall - because they gradually got softer and then you could hear the voices in the very distance... the conductor still with his baton raised until their voices simply floated off into the void of... space? :) Scintillating stuff! That was worth the entire thing. Such an understated movement with such a complex execution.
I wish I could see it again - and maybe in the future I will. I wanted to give them a standing ovation - but I don't like to be the only one standing.
Thanks TQO! Keep up the fantastic work.
P.S. I hope somebody read this far - if at all because I really want to convey how awesome the performance was.
P.P.S. If anyone can find me a link to a recording of this concert - supposedly it was simulcast on ABC classic FM - I'd be very appreciative.