Queer Urban Orchestra (QUO) continued its season, with “Abracadabra! Experience Musical Magic” as its theme, with a rightfully ambitious and varied concert, on April 16 at Church of the Holy Apostles in Chelsea, billed as “Alakazam!,” led by Artistic Director Julie Desbordes, and featuring, as a notable highlight, James Adler’s piano concerto, with Adler as soloist. Preceding the concert was an informative panel discussion, moderated by Desbordes, with Adler and QUO Assistant Conductor and Principal Oboist Ian Shafer.
Adler’s demanding and winning Concerto in G for Piano and Orchestra, subtitled “A Walk Through an English Garden,” was inspired by his 1980 visit to Kent, nicknamed “The Garden of England.” Desbordes said that she heard a jazz influence in it, while Shafer, with an oboe solo in the second movement, detected hints of Ralph Vaughan Williams. The three movements were played without pause. With Adler at the Yamaha, the first movement Allegro vivo crisply and vividly conjured a formal garden, breathtakingly picturesque and peaceful, out of Masterpiece Theatre or Merchant Ivory. The second movement was suffused with nostalgic remembrance. The bustling Animato third movement brought the concerto to a joyously ringing conclusion.
The program began with Felix Mendelssohn’s "Zum Märchen von der Schönen Melusine" (The Fair Melusina overture), Opus 32, limning the legendary eponymous water sprite and her suspicious knight Reymund in highly Romantic, buoyant, then fiery and melancholy strains, its soaring and swelling possibly, ironically, influencing Richard Wagner in his later musical depiction of the River Rhine.
Desbordes guided QUO in an exuberant account, marked by Classical grace, of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Symphony Number Eight in F major, Opus 93, which, she noted, has a youthful sound, despite having been written late in the composer’s life.
Ending the evening was a four-movement suite, Opus 80, drawn from Gabriel Fauré’s incidental music for the London premiere of Maurice Maeterlinck’s play “Pelléas et Mélisande,” a fine tapestry, consisting of a Prélude, a Fileuse, a Sicilienne, and “La mort de Mélisande,” at times aptly ethereal and later resoundingly wrenching. The music was commissioned by Mrs. Patrick Campbell (Beatrice Stella Tanner), known as “Mrs. Pat,” the Mélisande, who later famously created the role of Eliza Doolittle in George Bernard Shaw’s “Pygmalion.”
Next on tap for QUO are its 10th QUOtets chamber concert, curated by Shafer, on May 14 at 8 p.m., and “Spellbound,” the Pride Gay-La, featuring the Melodia women’s choir, on June 25 at 8 p.m. The Church of the Holy Apostles is located at 296 Ninth Avenue at 28th Street. Visit www.queerurbanorchestra.org
for tickets and further information.