Lixsania Fernandez @ The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra

Rebecca Varidel
1st Nov 2018

It's not in the program, but on return from interval the audience discovered some of the story of Lixsania Fernandez, related by the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra artistic director Paul Dyer.

Lixsania Fernandez is the visiting international soloist for Lixsania and the Labyrinth which opened last night at City Recital Hall.

At the outset of the evening she walks onto the empty stage and starts to play her viola da gamba, then one by one she is joined by musicians of the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra as they too each make their entrance and play their period instruments. It is a dramatic and contemporary start to the Folia Pasticcio and we are left no doubt who is the star of the evening. The exhubarance and presence of Lixsania Fernandez is all pervasive.

Then the rousing second piece, a violin concerto in D Major by Pietro Locatelli begs us to reconsider as Shaun Lee-Chen commands his challenging solo. Even Paul Dyer was stamping his foot in tribulation when it ended. The applause and shouts from the audience were fitting.

As the evening progressed we are reminded there are stars, but there are no stars, the magnificence of The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra is the sum of its parts and a shining night sky. There's the considered selection of music, so let's give a nod to both the composers, and to the curation. Then there are the period instruments and the mellowed patina that comes with hundreds of years. Staging, lighting and the direction such as the poised entrances of the opening number, that brings period music into the 21st century. And then, of course there are the musicians. All of them.

But tonight was indeed the night of the visitor to our shores. And the story? It was so deeply heart touching with the alchemy of the music I could hardly breathe and had to fight back the tears during the second half.

Forgive me any errors in the retelling but, Lixsania Fernandez was born in Cuba to a poor family. So poor although she really wanted to learn they couldn't afford an instrument. Lixsania pretended she had a viola but using a piece of wood. Then a fisherman added a fishing line. Her father died and she even lived on the street as a child. Until she somehow got to Spain as a teenager. That's where she met her husband, who was sitting in the City Recital Hall audience.

The evening continued and alongside Vivaldi, we were treated to a rare piece of period music by Johann Gottlieb Graun, Concerto For Viola Da Gama In G Major.

But perhaps the climax wasn't even the last Baroque piece where in the fourth movement two voila da gambas lead the orchestra in a ten minute tango and we are transported to the elegance of the early 20th century. That moment came in an encore, when Lixsania Fernandez played and sang a Cuban lullaby, the first song that she ever sang to her son.

The short Sydney season until 9 November 2018 is not to be missed.