Review: A Feast of Classics on 12th March 2022

by Billie Saint Rang

The Covid regulations saw a dormancy in live orchestral performances. With those regulations now relaxed, a Saturday night outing to the BRO March concert was a welcome jaunt – and a jaunt worth taking; to a concert that lived up to its title. Under the baton of Patrick Pickett, the orchestra and guest soloist treated the audience to a lavish banquet of some masterpieces in the classical genre.

Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture: said to be reminiscent of 4 Beer Hall Songs (not quite what was expected by the Breslau University dignitaries) is one of the most popular pieces to open a concert. From the first movement which was majestically and powerfully delivered, to the rousing conclusion with full orchestral blazing brass, the performance showed us the vitality in all sections of the orchestra.

We were fortunate in having Ruby Luck return to Townsville following the cancellation of her appearance last year when she was unwell. The Grieg Piano concerto has been tackled by many great pianists but not all of them strike the right balance between technique and zest as did Ruby Luck. Her dramatic top- of- the- keyboard entry following the big drum roll was the beginning of a display of great virtuosity.

The sensitive interplay between pianist and orchestra managed to capture some of Grieg at his lyrical best especially in the much-loved 2nd movement. She maintained both vitality (and stamina) in the musical flow right up to the grand concerto ending, as it began, with a mighty drum roll. Great praise to soloist and the Barrier Reef Orchestra for an astonishing achievement.

Mendelssohn’s 4th “Italian” Symphony, reflective of the composer’s travels, enjoys popular acclaim, yet it has been too long since Townsville audiences tasted its delights. Mendelssohn at his jolliest was a perfect way to end a concert. The orchestra tore with gusto into an exuberant opening with the guidance of a veteran conductor. Under his baton, the players were bold to show off their ensemble work, capturing the energy and depth of the symphony. From that exuberant opening to a breathless closing; Patrick Pickett and the BRO delivered a joyful musical experience which drew enthusiastic audience ovation.

An unexpected but perfectly timed addition to the concert was the orchestra’s playing of the Ukrainian National Anthem in support for that besieged country. There was a total house response from the audience; it brought them to their feet.

This night was a rich musical feast from the BRO table. Concerts of this calibre illustrate that the orchestra not only gives great music; it also attracts the interest of established conductors.