Queensland Conservatorium celebrates a blockbuster orchestral season

The Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University is launching a blockbuster orchestral season featuring a host of  high profile guest conductors, epic repertoire and a dazzling finale at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre.

The first concert will feature the fiendishly difficult Symphonie Fantastique by Hector Berlioz, conducted by Queensland Conservatorium Deputy Director Peter Luff.

Associate Professor Luff said it was one of the most famous and challenging pieces in the orchestral canon.

“It is a gigantic piece, with five movements – it takes the players and the audience on a rollercoaster ride,” he said.

“Technically it’s very difficult, and each movement is dramatically different.

“Leonard Bernstein described it as the first musical expedition into psychedelia, and it was said that Berlioz wrote some of it under the influence of opium.”

The piece also features two gigantic church bells, borrowed from the Western Australia Symphony Orchestra and weighing several hundred kilos.

Associate Professor Luff said they helped ensure the performance stayed as true to the composers vision as possible.

“The score calls for church bells in in G and C. These are often played by synthesizers or tubular bells, but nothing can replace the real thing,” he said.

“The weight of these bells has tested our stage crew – they are made from solid bronze and played with heavy metal mallets.

“The sound is phenomenal, so our percussionist will be wearing ear plugs!”

Concertmaster Clare Cooney and clarinettist Jarrad Linke said the orchestra relished the challenges presented by the piece.

“It is a long work and there are a lot of tricky technical elements, but what an amazing opportunity,” said Clare.

“There are so many different elements within this piece – you turn each page and there is something new to tackle, but it’s a lot of fun,” said Jarrad.

Both Clare and Jarrad moved interstate to attend the Queensland Conservatorium and join the renowned orchestral program.

“I moved here from the Blue Mountains to study because of the faculty and the outstanding orchestral program,” Clare said.

“Our ensembles are second to none, and being part of a season like this is amazing – it keeps your skills fresh.”

Jarrad said his experience at the Queensland Conservatorium had gone “above and beyond anything I hoped for”.

“I moved from Perth chasing the opportunity to work with Paul Dean and I haven’t looked back,” he said.

“We’re so lucky to be able to do this enormous repertoire in an orchestra made up of students.

“Some uni orchestras struggle to get the personnel and don’t ever get the chance to play these pieces.”

Later in the year, orchestral students will have the opportunity to work with renowned conductor Fabian Russell on Stravinsky’s PetrushkaQueensland Symphony Orchestra Music Director Alondra de la Parra, who will conduct Dvořák’s New World Symphony, and maestro Johannes Fritzsch, who will lead Mahler’s epic Eighth Symphony at QPAC, complete with guest soloists and massed choirs.

Queensland Conservatorium Director Professor Scott Harrison said the opportunity to work with high profile guest conductors prepared students for a successful orchestral career.

“We are lucky to have truly remarkable maestros mentor the orchestral students this year,” he said.

“These conductors have led some of the world’s most prestigious ensembles and the students are so excited to work with them.

“They have programmed amazing pieces that will challenge and inspire our students, and help them grow and mature as musicians.”

Tickets to the Queensland Conservatorium Symphony Orchestra concerts are available at qtix.  Symphonie Fantastique, 7:30pm, 27 April, Conservatorium Theatre, Queensland Conservatorium, South Bank.