Illuminations | Camerata, Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra
Thursday 7 July, 2022, QLD Performing Arts Centre
Camerata’s programming is always thoughtful and inspired, often coming from a place of emotion. Illuminations was no exception – a sentimental journey for Artistic Director Brendan Joyce whose memories of playing the Elgar Serenade for Strings in E minor in the early iteration of Camerata formed the basis of the concert.
First on the program, Serenade dates from 1892. It highlights Elgar’s command of the possibilities of strings and his mastery of passionate expression. Though an earlier work, it has great maturity, highlighting the composer’s particular love for the strings. It was among Elgar’s most popular works, the brief three movement structure perfectly conveying a clear musical idea.
Elgar believed that musical ideas could not be separated from sound. The idea of the piece was translated with great skill and mastery by the artists, the expressive theme conveying heartfelt emotion and profound longing before reaching a gentler conclusion. The audience was swept away by the many delicate shades and depths of feeling – it was exquisite.
Second on the bill was Debussy’s String Quartet, Op. 10 as arranged by Gail Aitken. One of the most beloved pieces in Debussy’s repertoire, it delivered a rich variety of textures and a sensual beauty reminiscent of Turner, the composer’s favourite painter. The energy and passion of the artists was palpable throughout, particularly in the first movement, ending with a furiously brilliant version of the motto theme in double notes. It was an inspired arrangement of a heroic piece interpreted with great sensitivity and bravado by the artists.
Les Illuminations was the standout highlight of the evening. Showcasing the extraordinary voice of guest artist, soprano, Sofia Troncoso, Les Illuminations was an astonishing melding of Benjamin Britten’s crystalline score and the obscure words of controversial 19th century poet, Arthur Rimbaud. Rimbaud’s mysterious, often cryptic works explored dark and troubled landscapes that are open to interpretation but perhaps could only be truly understood by the poet himself. Local Brisbane actor Morgan Francis took to the stage to read the works, translated from the French, before Sofia Troncoso. It was a beautiful reading, Francis bringing a lightness of touch that elevated the elegiac pieces out of their dark spaces.
Troncoso was superb, delivering a wide emotional range, opening on Fanfare with high drama and showing a multitude of expressive depths throughout the song cycle. Rimbaud’s works translated beautifully and quite unexpectedly into song. Rimbaud thought of himself as a seer, and, as much, his work was often surreal and shrouded in mystery. It’s not a natural match with Britten’s precision so I was surprised by how effortlessly it all came together.
Troncoso’s embodiment of the short poetic pieces was sweeping and wild in places, more nuanced in others, but always rich and evocative, reflecting Rimbaud’s tormented life and work. Britten’s score was perfect for a soprano and strings. It counterbalanced the emotionality of Rimbaud’s work with a brilliant clarity, interpreted with great feeling by the artists. It was a fitting end to a magnificent and uplifting evening of music and song.
Don’t miss Camerata’s upcoming 2022 season performances. As part of Brisbane Festival, they will perform with acclaimed Australian singer songwriter Lior in September and will showcase Mozart’s Jupiter in November. Tickets are on sale – so book now.
Photo Credit – Alex Jamieson