Ray Chen Returns with Queensland Symphony Orchestra - 4ZZZ

By Dr Gemma Regan

Review ·

An endearing, exquisite and poignant concert from Queensland’s own violin virtuoso

Queenslander’s were treated to two spectacular concerts from Queensland Symphony Orchestra featuring Queensland’s own violin virtuoso and exceptional musician, Ray Chen, returning from his world-wide concert engagements. Although born in Taiwan, Ray’s informative musical training was here in Brisbane, where he completed the 10 levels of the Suzuki Music Education system in only five years and even played solo violin with the Queensland Philharmonic Orchestra (the former name of the QSO) at the age of eight! At fifteen, Chen studied music at the Curtis Institute and went on to win the Yehudi Menuhin (2008) and Queen Elizabeth (2009) music competitions. Since then he has been carrying the flag for Queensland and is even listed on the Forbes list of the “30 most influential Asians under 30”.

The Morning concert opened with Bach’s Orchestral Suite No.4 in D minor, which was a triumphant start to the concert, highlighting the woodwind, brass and string sections individually throughout the five movements. Intermittently the harpsichord gave a lilting accompaniment at the front of the stage, played by the Australian conductor and distinguished piano and harpsichord musician, Erin Helyard who was simultaneously conducting the QSO! Helyard transitioned between conducting and crouching over the harpsichord, to deliver delightful delicate ditties with ease and grace.

The Theorbo, a long necked lute with a second pegbox, played commonly in Europe during the Baroque period. It was a favourable addition, giving an anachronistic insight to the genuine sound of the Bach era, and was played skilfully by Simon Martin-Ellis. Mendelssohn’s Sinfonia No.10 in B minor for strings followed on with the delightful Baroque-styled textures. The sinfonia in only one movement was only re-discovered in the late 1950s and remarkably was composed by the child prodigy at the tender age of twelve.

Finally, Ray Chen took command of the stage for the finale with Mendelssohn’s Concerto in E minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op.64, in three superb movements. Queensland Symphony Orchestra were on top form and were a synergistic accompaniment to Chen’s solo’s. It was a spectacular finale, running seamlessly from one movement to the next, with a long bassoon note suspending the bridge between the first and second movements. Chen’s expressive technique was reminiscent of Nigel Kennedy, as his vibrant energy flowed into the bow. As expected, the presentation was flawless with the incomparable tone of the 1715 “Joachim” Stradivarius violin on loan from the Nippon Music Foundation.

Despite his accolades and recording contracts, Chen was very personable commenting “oh if you insist,” after the audience demanded an encore amidst a storm of applause at the close of the concert. He then played a sparkling frenetic rendition of Vivaldi’s Summer from the Four Seasons, which was outstanding and my favourite of the concert. The audience’s need for more, shown by foot stamping and frenetic continuous clapping, was finally satiated with an endearing, exquisite and poignant solo of Waltzing Matilda, chosen by Chen because he “likes to take a hint of Australia with him wherever he goes”.

It was a faultless and spectacular concert with an unsurpassable encore from Ray Chen, bringing a proud tear to every Queenslander’s eye. The concert was broadcast live on ABC Classic and you can hear the concert repeated on Thursday 5 December at 12pm, don’t miss the opportunity to hear it!