Review: Souvenir by the Camerata

Charlene Li

Camerata's Souvenir is a fine sample of world class, home-grown talent.
Review: Souvenir by the Camerata

The Camerata  via Camerata QSO.

The Camerata's Souvenir is a an aptly named selection of works that showcase the capabilities of a string ensemble stretching itself (Strung-out if you will) to its limits, pushing boundaries of all kinds – whether it be technical, expressive, or artistic. There's a noticeable balance in the programming with a short introductory piece and two of the longer works being musical pieces evoking mood and imagery, time and place; the other two are 'show pieces' – designed to entertain and show-off.

Opening the concert is the Cançoneta for Solo Violin and String Orchestra from Spanish composer Joaquín Rodrigo, a warm and impressionistic piece inspired by the composer's heritage. The delicate lines for the solo violin were played with finesse by Camerata's Brendon Joyce, and supported buoyantly by the ensemble.

In sharp contrast to the mellow opening, Strung-out from Australian composer Roger Smalley is an energetic contemporary piece designed to entertain and impress rather than romance. It explores the inconceivably wide range of textures, colours, and moods the instruments that comprise the ensemble are capable of producing – individually and together – with tempo changes and full use of the palette of bowing techniques. While the technically demanding nature of the piece is impressive, more striking is the fine level of coordination between the players required to execute this piece. Each part unfurls into the next with clockwork intricacy, and the chemistry among the players as they performed was palpable. With the Camerata's note-perfect delivery Strung-out was thrilling, eye-opening, and had the audience on the edge of their seats.

Cornucopia is the original composition of the 'mystery guest artist' of the night, reknown Australian flamenco guitarist and composer Anthony Garcia – whose identity was revealed only moments before he stepped on stage. Inspired by the Glasshouse Mountains on the Sunshine Coast, it's a lush piece that evokes images of blue skies and wide open spaces with breezy, ethereal notes. Garcia performed his work with warmth and tender affection, supported by the Camerata with a sense of community.

Violloncelles, Vibrez! (which translates to 'Cellos, vibrate!') by cellist and composer Giovanni Sollima continues in a similar virtuousic vein to Strung-out, with the focus this time on the two main cello parts played by guest artists Meta Weiss and Patrick Murphy. There's an element of playfulness as the two lines of the cello weave, interplay, and play against each other as they explore the range of sounds and qualities their instruments can produce. The piece shifts from dreamy and sedate to fast and frenetic canvassing territories in between, finishing on a triumphant note. Meta Weiss and Patrick Murphy form a cohesive duo on stage as they jointly execute Violloncelles, Vibrez with aplomb.

Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence is a musical memoir of the composer's travels in Italy, conjuring up scenes of piazzas, vineyards, and all things quintessentially Italian. While much of the work is recognisably Tchaikovsky, it borrows from the canon of Italian Classical Music and parts of the second movement (appropriately titled Adagio cantabile, e con moto) strongly intimate Italian Opera. The Camerata plays Souvenir de Florence with robust flair, producing the grandiose sound of a full orchestra.

Common throughout Souvenir in each of the works was an overarching sense of community and collaboration, of artists co-creating and lifting each other up. With Souvenir, The Camerata shows that you don't need to look very far for world-class talent.

Rating: ★★★★☆


The Camerata
Guest Artists: Anthony Garcia, Meta Weiss, Patrick Murphy

What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Charlene Li is an arts junkie with a few too many interests. She thinks the Brisbane arts scene is Australia's best kept secret.