Beethoven 19 August 2017 (BRO)
by Jean Dartnall
No need for any fancy title for this concert. Three solid pieces by one of the best known classical composers could be announced simply by his name. What a feast it was for Beethoven lovers.
The BRO just seems to keep getting better. The works in this concert are very demanding in both technical skill and stamina and the musicians appeared to rise effortlessly to the requirements. Community orchestras, by their nature, find it hard to retain musicians for long periods. This is probably especially true in Townsville with its relatively high turnover of population. Despite this, the BRO seems to be able to present a formidable and coherent group of musicians for every occasion. Producing this coherence from ever shifting material must surely be largely due to living national treasure – oops I mean Concert Master – Stephen Frewen-Lord.
The Egmont Overture has become an ‘introductions to nothing’ since the play, Egmont, and the other incidental music that Beethoven wrote for it, are never heard. No matter, as a stand-alone piece it conjures up all the drama anyone could need. It was a splendid introduction to the pleasures to come.
Dr David Salisbury’s program notes remind us that some of Beethoven’s contemporaries considered his symphony no 7 to be a consequence of intoxication or a deranged mind. This is not only a reminder to reserve our opinions on new music, but also a prompt to listen to more familiar works with a fresh ear. Certainly this symphony expresses a full gamut of emotion but to modern listeners the composer seems to bring them into a meaningful whole. In this performance every section of the orchestra took advantage of their opportunities to shine.
The connection between the BRO and the Australian Concerto and Vocal Competition once again delivered us a special gift. James Dong, winner of the Instrumental Section in the 2016 Competition was wonderful. He seemed impressively calm and composed for such a young player. He even submitted to a brief on-stage interview from the conductor immediately before his performance. Once into the work, though, he was immersed in it and it would be difficult to find any fault in his technique or interpretation. The balance between the orchestra and the soloist seemed very good, a credit to conductor, orchestra and soloist.
Conductor Gyula Cseszkó (what a relief to know that he answers to Jules) clearly had the orchestra eating out of his hand and by the end of the concert the audience too. He provided interesting information about the pieces being played, enough and not too much, and showed his professional descent from John Hopkins in his generosity to the players. Even the audience got a thank you for being there. We will probably cherish the thought that music needs more listeners than musicians as we buy our next lot of concert tickets.