The Queer Urban Orchestra (QUO) featured two new works in its May 5 “We Are One” concert, at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Chelsea, as well as a rare tone poem, composed by a woman, and a symphony by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with Artistic Director Julie Desbordes and Assistant Conductor Ian Shafer at the podium.
The first premiere, led by Desbordes, was “Quicksand,” by QUO principal trumpeter Ron Nahass. “Quicksand” begins with a slow opening, heated, eerie, and sinuous, with high instruments and low ones vying for power and dominance, before a rollicking Eastern-sounding dance takes over.
The “Antinous and Hadrian” Suite, conducted by Shafer and written by young Clint Borzoni, winner of QUO’s composition contest, was inspired by the composer’s own opera “Antinous and Hadrian,” about the love between Roman Emperor Hadrian and Antinous. A romantic work, exploring a gay relationship in antiquity, the suite vividly limns Hadrian and Antinous’ passionate relationship and makes one long to hear the full opera.
Augusta Holmès (1847-1903) was French born and of Irish descent and, in “Irlande” (1882), under Desbordes’ baton, Holmès paid tribute to her ancestral land. After an opening country dance, “Irlande” takes us bounding through the verdant countryside. The pipes call; there’s a solemn, heart-breaking funeral march; and the final anthem and fanfare depict a proud uprising of the oppressed people. Principal clarinetist Fran Novak had a prominent solo here,
With Desbordes presiding, Mozart’s Symphony Number 39 in E-flat Major, one of the three symphonies that date from the end of Mozart’s life, brought the concert to a close. Its ambiguities periodically brought to mind music of the more or less tragic characters that anchor his comic operas. The first movement, Adagio; Allegro, gives us a grand statement, followed by a lively one, with serious undertones. A courtly second movement Andante con moto is punctuated by some soaring figures and some dark ones. The third movement Menuetto (Allegretto) is more robust, then sweeping, than delicately graceful. A rousing Allegro is the fleet, but formidable finale.
QUO’s season at Holy Apostles, at 296 Ninth Avenue at 28th Street, concludes on June 16 at 8 pm, with its third annual Pride Gay-La. Visit www.QueerUrbanOrchestra.org
for more information.