Fritzsch Grand Finale - 29 November 2014

Review ·

Mahler a fitting finale to Fritzsch’s glittering term. 

Queensland Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Johannes Fritzsch
Fritzsch Grand Finale: Mahler 3. Concert Hall, QPAC, Brisbane.
November 29

IT’S a measure of the man that Johannes Fritzsch has judged the timing of his departure as QSO’s chief conductor to perfection.

At seven years, he’s stayed long enough to implement dramatic musical improvements, overseen a staggering 25 new appointments, increased player selfbelief, and added dignity, gravitas and joy to an orchestra that, when he arrived with stunning performances of Richard Strauss, was enduring too much offstage colour and movement.

This most courageous yet humble of musicians now leaves before any hint of the seven-year itch that so often affects orchestras and their once-admired leaders has set in. Not that he’s going far. He’ll be back to conduct the first Maestro Series concert next year, bearing the newly-bestowed title of Conductor Laureate, which he shares with his predecessor Muhai Tang. And whether through coincidence or design, in his farewell concert Fritzsch conducted a work that his Chinese predecessor made his own, Mahler’s Third Symphony, whose majestic performances in 1998 and 2008 left QSO audiences a blubbering, awestruck mess.

The tributes from politicians and administrators were appropriate, but as he stood listening to his many accomplishments being enumerated, no one looked keener to get on with the music than Fritzsch himself.

After a performance of roaring tuttis and finely-detailed phrasing, perhaps the most eloquent testimony to Fritzsch’s achievements came in the finale, where his appointments Irit Silver (clarinet), Alexis Kenny (flute) and Sarah Wilson (trumpet) shone. There, and in the equally empowered first movement heroics of more experienced principals Jason Redman (trombone) and David Montgomery (percussion), was Fritzsch’s legacy for all to hear.

We will miss his warmth, his authority, his industriousness, his ability to “turn it on” during performance. But most of all, we will miss his common human decency, which infuses every note performed by the artist possessing it, and which sets the greats of music above the merely accomplished.

MARTIN BUZACOTT

The Australian, December 1, 2014