Camerata is a bold and fearless ensemble. All credit to Brendan Joyce for partnering with classical guitar in this concert. The guitar is still not always taken seriously in classical circles and orchestras are often wary of partnering with this instrument because of its relatively modest voice.

However, it does depend on the soloist and Karin Schauup is a superb player and a towering force in the guitar world. Program choices for this enjoyable celebration of strings and guitar featured a selection of music with a rich yet subtle palette of colours.

Composed in 1875, Serenade for Strings is one of Dvorak’s most popular works. There are five movements. Brendan Joyce announced at the beginning of the concert that rather than perform all of the movements as one piece, the program would function like a sandwich with pieces by different composers occurring after each of Serenade’s movements.

Arguably the program’s ordering could be considered as a kind of rondo form in which an important theme alternates with contrasting interludes. Either way, Dvorak’s work was a most suitable choice for Camerata to showcase its stunning lyricism, sleek tone, exhilarating energy and a formidable capacity to communicate a composer’s ideas.

In five short movements, Serenade was inspired by three-part song form. The work brims with lovely tunes imaginatively interspersed throughout the strings ensemble. Camerata expertly relayed how these themes are shared and matched and echoed between the instrumental voices. The spirited performance had an admirable spontaneity and eloquence and the Larghetto in particular was beautifully rendered.

Camerata and Schauup presented five of Mendelssohn’s Songs Without Words in an arrangement for guitar and strings by Sef Albertz. The first sounded uneasy with some balancing concerns between ensemble and guitar. But the performance became stronger and stronger with the double bass grounding the ensemble effectively. Schauup’s electrifying virtuosity had crystal clarity when she rose to the surface with a leading part. No. 5, in which Schauup delivered an authoritative solo, was the performance’s highlight.

Bronos Kentet, the four players are Schauup’s students, performed a classy interpretation of Frederick Hand’s 2012 Chorale for Guitar Quartet which was prompted by the composer’s keen interest in Renaissance and Baroque vocal music. In a languid, unhurried rendering, the quartet demonstrated a dovetailed precision, a dreamy tone and spaciousness.

Camerata and Schauup premiered a new arrangement of Carl Vine’s Endless for guitar and string orchestra accompaniment. This poignant elegy was commissioned by Kathryn Bennett for Musica Viva as a tribute to her daughter Jennifer who tragically died in a car accident.

The title reflects the Buddhist philosophy that all is interconnected. Vine’s compositional design artfully balances the guitar and larger ensemble and was the most appreciated performance because of it.

Representing the see-sawing emotions of grief, the performance of this moving work began as a mournful meditation. The over-arching guitar commentary, brilliantly conjured by Schauup, sailed across Camerata’s brooding string accompaniment and the work ultimately shifted into an uplifting salsa.  

An elegant concert which delighted the audience.

Gillian Wills is an author and arts writer who publishes with Australian Stage Online, InReview and Limelight. Big Music, her novel is to be published by Hawkeye Publishing. Her memoir Elvis and Me: how a world-weary musician and a broken racehorse rescued each other, Finch was released in 2016 in Australia, America, Canada, The UK and NZ. 

Event details

Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra & QPAC present
Camerata and Karin Schaupp

Venue: QPAC Concert Hall, QLD
Dates: 22 May 2024
Tickets: $69 - $99

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