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Review: QSO Plays Dvořák

Nemanja Radulović

Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Nemanja Radulovic is a gypsy-styled wizard of the violin.

Saturday night’s Queensland Symphony Orchestra program at QPAC was just as much a theatrical event as it was a concert. A heart-warming, some might say, indulgent selection of works by Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Dvorak was the official fare. Yet, as well as celebrating juggernauts by adored ‘dead’ giants, there was the surprise of an orchestral snapshot, by a ‘living,’ Brisbane-based composer Robert Davidson.

The chorale-like opening of Tchaikovsky’s overture-fantasy Romeo and Juliet can sound flat, but this was not the case under the exacting conductor Jaime Martin who created sharp contrasts, foreboding and a gathering panoramic sweep towards the yearning love theme. A romantic theme which is forever pilfered by the film industry as in The Three Musketeers, The Jazz Singer and Moonraker to mention but three of the many film scores featuring the tragic lover’s tune. Arguably, Romeo and Juliet is a tricky piece to pull off because of its over familiarity, yet Martin commanded an accomplished version with refreshed detail.

Anyone who witnessed Nemanja Radulovic’s unforgettable performance in Prokofiev’s Second Violin Concerto will want to hear this confronting, wild-eyed, gypsy-styled wizard of the violin again. He won everyone’s attention before he played the first note, and when he did, the violinist’s solo, folksy opener was riveting.

Radulovic’s amazing facility and capacity as a violinist storyteller – his personality-plus, stage pizazz combined with an eye-grabber look of long black-laced boots, tight black trousers and jacket and cloud of big fizzy hair, which danced and bounced along, especially in the Spanish flavoured third movement – stunned the audience.

Prokofiev’s Second Concerto for Violin features the soloist as a highly active, virtuosically blitzing colourist rather than a showy star performer, and a deeply immersed, Radulovic responded to the orchestra with sensitivity and wickedly willful soloing.

Radulovic’s encore, an idiosyncratic version of Paganini’s Theme and Variations, a notorious bow teaser, was a show stopper, with outrageously pulled around rhythm and phenomenal challenges acquitted with ferocious savagery. Because of Radulovic’s mastery, the piece seemed to beg for mercy. All too often it can be the other way round. And, as a crowd-pleasing extra, the violinist had enough spare focus to smile into the crowd. In Rebel Wilson, the Aussie actress’ parlance, ‘Radulovic crushed it'.

Davidson’s Lost in Light; an appealing, cinematic reflection on I am Not Yours, a poem by Sara Teasdale tugged at the heart. Tuneful, with sparkling rhythm and vivid contrasts across the orchestra, the exuberant music is an elated rush of ‘in- love-ness,’ until a shadowy spoiler revealed by subdued harmony and flattened rhythm – snuffs out the joy.

There was nothing ‘light’ about Martin’s direction of a really enjoyable concert of convincing performances. Even the concerto, so often galloped through in rehearsal, sounded polished. And Dvorak’s Eight Symphony had impressive coherence, authenticity, glorious tone, stylish soloing and at times, a rewardingly whispered sound, as much as the orchestra roared to capacity when required.

QSO PLAYS DVOŘÁK
Conductor Jaime Martin
Violin Nemanja Radulović

Tchaikovsky Romeo and Juliet Overture-fantasy
Prokofiev Violin Concerto No.2
Dvořák Symphony No.8

Reviewed by Gillian Wills for ArtsHub