The Queensland Symphony Orchestra has announced its 2020 season. With Alondra de la Parra’s three-year contract as Music Director coming to a close at the end this year, QSO joins the Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide Symphony orchestras in operating without a permanent artistic leader lined up.
“We’re in a slow search mode,” the orchestra’s Director of Artistic Planning, Timothy Matthies, tells Limelight. “It’s something that the management and the board are working with the orchestra on – it’s going to be a couple of years.”
In the interim, De la Parra has left her mark on the QSO. “One of the things that she’s really brought is a diversity of programming and types of conductors and soloists to the orchestra, and we thought that was really important to continue,” Matthies says.
The QSO, like all the major orchestras, is getting in on the Beethoven birthday celebrations. For Matthies, it was about “fresh voices” and that approach is typified by the orchestra’s season opener, which features a performance of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto by “three outstanding young Australian musicians”.
“Emily Sun, the 2018 young performer of the year, working with Aura Go, who is one of Musica Viva’s Futuremakers, and Caleb Wong, who is one of the stars coming out of ANAM – how are they going to approach the Beethoven?” Matthies says.
“Later in the year we have Piano Concerto No 4 with Jan Lisiecki,” he says. “And then in the final Maestro concert of the year, Behzod Abduraimov, in No 5. So two pianists in their 20s really beginning to explore this composer – that was really important to us, to have these fresh voices approaching Beethoven.”
Another young star featured on the 2020 program is violinist Grace Clifford, who makes her QSO debut with the Sibelius Violin Concerto in July.
Ray Chen, photo by Sophie Zhai
The 2020 season will see the return of several conductors who have performed with the orchestra in recent years: Giancarlo Guerrero, who conducts Beethoven, Haydn, Tchaikovsky and Strauss in June, Simone Young, who conducts Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in August, and Conductor Laureate Johannes Fritzsch, who conducts Sibelius’ Second Symphony in November.
Also returning are Daniel Blendulf, who conducts Beethoven’s Fifth in October, Alexander Prior, who conducts the season opener, and Eduardo Strausser, who will conduct returning Queensland violinist Ray Chen in Saint-Saëns’ Third Violin Concerto, as well as former Berlin Philharmonic Concertmaster Guy Braunstein, who will direct the orchestra and perform as soloist in Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in May, alongside Dvořák’s Seventh Symphony .
Elena Schwarz. Photo © Axel Saxe
There will also be several conductors making their QSO debuts. “Giordano Bellincampi – who’s coming over from Auckland – André de Ridder and Alexandre Bloch,” Matthies says. Bellincampi conducts Grace Clifford in July, Ridder will be conducting saxophonist Amy Dickson in her own arrangement of Philip Glass’s Violin Concerto in May, while Bloch will conduct soprano Emma Pearson in Britten’s song cycle Les Illuminations. “And we’re really excited that Elena Schwarz is coming to QSO for the first time to do one of our Music on Sundays programs,” Matthies says.
While the Queensland Symphony Orchestra shot to the top of Ian Whitney’s analysis of Australian content performed by the major Australian orchestras in its 2019 season, this year sees a drop, with five works by Australian composers performed across the year. Two, however, are premieres. The QSO will perform newly commissioned works by Bernard Hoey (who is also a QSO violist) and Melody Eötvös, who already has a commission on the books next year for the Australian Chamber Orchestra. The orchestra also performs Kay Abbott’s The Peasant Prince, the first movement, þingvellir, from Cathy Milliken’s Earth Plays and Natalie Williams’ Fourth Alarm.
Added to the composers above, Cécile Chaminade’s Concertino, performed by flautist Alison Mitchell in June’s Last Night of the Proms concert, also brings the number of pieces written by women up to five – two more than in 2019.
The QPAC organ will also feature prominently on the 2020 season. “We’ve got a great organ here, and our audience is very keen to hear it,” Matthies says. “We’ve got the Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony earlier in the year with Ben Northey and then in October Joseph Nolan from Perth will play the Poulenc Organ Concerto, which is a wonderful piece.”
Alongside the Organ Symphony, Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and Milliken’s Earth Plays, Northey’s concert in March will also feature Strauss’s Horn Concerto No 1, with the Principal Horn of the Berlin Philharmonic Stefan Dohr as soloist.
“We’ve got a real diversity of voices across the season,” Matthies says.