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Queensland Symphony Orchestra celebrates 75 years of music

75 years on the State’s orchestra is refreshingly real, quintessentially Queensland and powered, above all, by music

5 min read

On 26 March 1947, the 45-member Queensland Symphony Orchestra (QSO) performed its debut concert to 2,500 music enthusiasts in Brisbane City Hall under the baton of guest conductor Percy Code. This defining moment marked a new era of music making in Queensland.

QSO was founded by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, Queensland State Government and Brisbane City Council and in its first year performed 31 concerts. In the second, QSO inaugurated the longest land-based annual concert tour in the world at that time. The company has always believed in sharing the power of music, particularly in its home state.

Seventy-five years later, the Orchestra has played its way into the hearts of Queenslanders from Mount Isa to Mackay and Townsville to the Tweed, performing in town halls, on open air stages by the sea, in dusty main streets of the outback, school classrooms, remote communities and of course, on its home stage in our QPAC Concert Hall. Its members hold fond memories of their time with the company.

QSO Concertmaster Natsuko Yoshimoto QSO Concertmaster Natsuko Yoshimoto. Photo by Sarah Marshall.

“I still have a very vivid memory of our last Maestro concert of 2021, which was Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie, Debussy’s La Mer and Strauss’ Rosenkavalier Suite. I couldn’t get the Rosenkavalier out of my head for weeks afterwards. I haven’t been in the Orchestra for long at all so I’m still building up my list [of memorable moments]!” – Natsuko Yoshimoto, Concertmaster

“My three top memories of live performances are: the Bernstein at 100 gala in 2018, led by Alondra de la Parra celebrating this musical genius in some of his most special works; last year’s premiere performances of William Barton’s Apii Thatini Mu Murtu (to sing and carry a coolamon on country together), his first large-scale didgeridoo and full orchestra work; and being at our Community in Concert in Chinchilla in 2018, when over 130 local student and community musicians played alongside QSO musicians to a capacity audience – there was so much joy and energy in that space and the power of music was truly felt.” – Timothy Matthies, Director Artistic Planning

QSO Section Principal Percussion David Montgomery QSO Section Principal Percussion David Montgomery. Photo by Sarah Marshall.

“The Ferry Rd Chamber Series – 1990s. They were during my early years in the orchestra and there was such a sense of potential and excitement. I was involved in everything I could fit into my schedule, both in and outside the orchestra during those years. The chamber series was a wonderful intersection of these things.

“For a number of years, Paul Dean, Tom Coyle and myself ran a contemporary chamber series to explore some of the music and composers that weren’t really represented in the less adventurous programming of the regular chamber series. The core of that series was a trio (Paul, Tom and myself) with the somewhat oblique name of Two Complete Lunatics. We commissioned and performed more than 20 new works, often by local composers, over a three year period. The culmination of our ‘lunatic’ behaviour was shaving our heads in a live performance to raise money for charity.  We have joked about a repeat performance though there’s probably not enough hair between us to get through the piece. We may have to trim the music too.” – David Montgomery, Section Principal Percussion

Music is a result of collaboration, and QSO has always been a magnet for international artists. 2022 is no exception, with this year’s program featuring visiting soloists including Australian pianist Daniel de Borah, German cellist Daniel Müller-Schott, Uzbek pianist Behzod Abduraimov, UK violin master Jack Liebeck, one of the most sought-after young tenors in the world in Kang Wang, and, in a major coup, violinist/conductor Guy Braunstein, who was the youngest violinist ever appointed as concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic.

The 2022 program also pedestals Australian composers with 20 works to be performed over the year composer and QSO cellist Craig Allister Young’s 75th birthday celebration piece will be premiered in the Concert Hall and then featured on tour, Queensland composer Paul Dean’s concerto for double bass and orchestra written for QSO’s dynamic Section Principal Double Bass, Phoebe Russell, will premiere in November, and the Australian premiere of Brisbane-born, Berlin-based composer Cathy Milliken’s Piece 43 For Now takes place in August.

As always, the Orchestra is more than ready to share the magic of live music with their 2022 audiences. Here are just a few moments they are most looking forward to:

QSO Section Principal Percussion David Montgomery QSO Section Principal Clarinet Irit Silver. Photo by Sarah Marshall.

“Mozart’s Clarinet in April! I will be performing as soloist with the wonderful work. Although it is nerve-racking, it is always a pleasure to stand in front of our fantastic orchestra to play Mozart’s most loved concerto. Every time I play the concerto I try to find some new interest and nuance in it, which keeps it challenging and exciting. Next would be our other Mozart concert (sensing a theme here?!), Mozart’s Requiem in May. Playing with a choir is such an amazing feeling when we’re on stage, and also features the not often-heard basset horn. It’s a type of clarinet that sits between the clarinet and bass clarinet in size and is world renowned for its epic squeaking ability!” Irit Silver, Section Principal Clarinet

QSO Concertmaster Warwick Adeney QSO Concertmaster Warwick Adeney. Photo by Sarah Marshall.

“I’m looking forward to Guy Braunstein returning – he was concertmaster of Berlin Philharmonic and it was both great fun and great encouragement when he came last time. He’s doing two programs in October, and I know both Natsuko and I are very keen on his residence with us.– Warwick Adeney, Concertmaster

QSO Section Principal French Horn Malcolm Stewart QSO Section Principal French Horn Malcolm Stewart. Photo by Peter Wallis.

“My top three for the 2022 Season would be Strauss’ Alpine Symphony, Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 with Asher Fisch, and our fantastic regional tour across Queensland. I’m particularly looking forward to visiting Longreach this year.” – Malcolm Stuart, Section Principal French Horn

QSO Section Principal Flute Alison Mitchell QSO Section Principal Flute Alison Mitchell. Photo by Sarah Marshall.

There are so many wonderful highlights during this 75th birthday season... I guess I’m always looking out for great flute moments, I’m just a bit biased of course and this season QSO will be performing one of the most beautiful works that features the flute, Debussy’s L’Apres-midi d’un faun. This concert introduces our audiences to the American conductor Jonathan Stockhammer and this entire program, which includes Stravinsky’s Symphony of Wind Instruments and Mozart’s Requiem is a real highlight. Alison Mitchell, Section Principal Flute

As QSO celebrate their 75th birthday throughout this year, we hope Queenslanders continue to enjoy many more musical moments with our much-loved State Orchestra.


Acknowledgement of Traditional Custodians

We pay our respects to the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ancestors of this land, their spirits and their legacy. The foundations laid by these ancestors – our First Nations Peoples – gives strength, inspiration and courage to current and future generations, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, towards creating a better Queensland.