Review – Bohemian Classics on 12th March 2017

The early start to this concert saw many true followers of the Barrier Reef Orchestra prepare for a night of musical delights by wining and dining at the theatre. A diverse crowd of parents and player relatives, along with regular and new music lovers, confirmed the Bohemian Classics as one of the BRO’s largest audiences. The Civic Theatre was alive with an enthusiastic crowd.

Conductor Mark Shiell set the tone for a lively evening by bouncing onto the stage and with no hesitation but baton armed and aimed, he leapt onto the podium to launch the grand opening tune of the most popular of Dvořák ‘s Slavonic dances: his 8th. Although there is a hefty dose of repetition in this short piece, the fast tune enlivened the audience with that glorious opening tune finishing the dance as brilliantly as it began.
Mark’s informal manner of interacting with the audience between programmed pieces added a light-hearted dimension to this concert mix of music celebrating peasant dancing, rhapsody, and student drinking so Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture, despite being a fun-filled student booze-up, combined enough orchestral forces to bring the jolly student songs to life. With each one blending and finally merging into the glorious Overture, Gaudeamus Igitur, the acclamation from a delighted audience was more like a celebration. What a top performance from our musicians under the baton of an outstanding conductor.

Bélla Bartók’s Romanian Folk Dances testify to their folk tune derivatives and the short pieces brought to mind much ethnic colour and merrymaking. We might wish that Bartok had gone on a bit longer with each dance in the light of this colourful and utterly infectious foot-stomping material. The skilful attention given by the orchestra to these dances conveyed a sense of further unbridled celebration.
Enescu’s Rhapsody again immersed us in the gypsy folk element of fast and slow. We can imagine hardworking Balkan peasants turning to drinking and dancing as entertainment (no TV or Facebook) with whistling, stomping, and whooping accompanying the increasing inebriation. Every kind of music seemed included. One dance early in this rhapsody sounded like a Viennese waltz. Others had the exotic sounds of influences left from centuries of Turkish rule.

The programmed concert concluded with Dvořák’s 8th Symphony, still in the mode of Bohemian folk tradition but its powerful opening was characterised by some big stuff from the timpani. Moving through tranquil landscapes to storms in the second movement with occasional dramatic outburst of brass and timpani (both excellent), the music was cheerful and optimistic (melancholy waltz in the third movement not counted). Audience appreciation was loud and long.

To top that we had a repeat of the Dvořák 8th Slavonic Dance as encore. Don’t we just love to hear OUR orchestra perform!
Our guest conductor (and we have him for the whole season: luck has come our way) certainly drew top performances from our musicians. His obvious love of community music was evident in producing this big team display. He also scored more than a few Brownie points from the audience too, with those chats between each piece on the program. His engaging manner will be a drawcard for audiences to the remainder of the orchestra’s season.
Our musicians gave us a night of delights of the Bohemian kind. Yes, every concert is different and this concert was a one of excellence from BRO musicians. We may not have heard their best yet. This is just the start of the season. There is more good music to come so pencil in BRO for August.


Oh, and the new ties weren’t too bad also. BSR