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  • Helen Gramotnev


The final weekend of the Brisbane Music Festival finished the year with a bang. Orpheus was a theatrical visual and musical treat, featuring three piano pieces accompanied by some stunning visuals. With visual artworks by Eljo Agenbach and lighting design by Lachlan van der Kreek creating the beautiful backdrop for this show, Alex Raineri at the piano completed the immersive atmosphere of this feast for the senses.

Inspired by the Orpheus poem and his journey through the Underworld, the performance is accompanied by three new works by Australian composers, Natalie Nicolas, Samantha Wolf, and Jane Sheldon. The snippets of Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetry appearing on the screen added the literary depth to this already rich performance. “From silence” begins the first piece. “Sound carves a path through the earth” aptly describes Samantha Wolf’s composition Life on Earth.

An octave of muted piano strings of the second piece, Natalie Nicolas’s Descent, created the illusion of another instrument playing with the piano. Perhaps it was the lyre: “Orpheus plays his lyre with Ceberus to bargain with Hades.” As in the poem, Orpheus bargains for his wife’s life, so did Nicolas’ music flow with conversation – the lyre seemed to negotiate with the piano, alternating and intertwining elegantly.

The final piece, Jane Sheldon’s Ascent: soft, uncertain, and without impatience, combined synthetically made wind tunnel with the classic piano sound. Like a magician, Raineri created a whole array of sounds on the grand piano, both inside and outside the instrument, much like the duality of inside and outside that is referenced in the poem which inspired this composition: “And thought not of the man, who walked ahead, and not of the path, which ascended into life. She was in herself.” This show was designed for theatre lovers as much as for music lovers, bringing together contemporary composition, art and theatrical atmosphere with the sensitivity and the skill that have become synonymous with Brisbane Music Festival.

It has been such a fantastic program all throughout 2022, and we cannot wait to see what the festival will bring next year!


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