Paul Nolan was born on the New South Wales North Coast. He has been involved with musical theatre and choral groups on the NSW North Coast and in Sydney.
Paul has had poetry published in various periodicals. He is trained in classical piano and has a Bachelor of Music from the UNSW.
Featured image: Puppeteers Michael Cullen, Shondelle Pratt and Julia Ohannessian with the sleeping Mothball.
Jackie French’s book Diary of a Wombat bounded boldly into Australian family life in 2002. It nestled itself with a unique exclamation into thousands of young Australians’ bedroom bookshelves. Who better exists in children’s theatre circles than director Eva Di Cesare and the insightful Monkey Baa team to respectfully transform this classic to the stage for the 3+age group?
In doing so the Monkey Baa creatives and assembled performers ensure this age group and the rest of us appreciate the possibilities of a live performance medium to portray this character rather than film or one of many modern electronic alternatives.
For children and adults making the trip to the Lendlease Darling Quarter Theatre, Mothball The Wombat’s innocence, flatulence, curiosity and daily insatiable urge for experimentation with human food are delightfully captured in the action. Through the use of 3D plush puppets manipulated by visible on-stage puppeteers, Bruce Whatley’s fine book illustrations of Mothball’s tirade are greatly enhanced. Continue reading MONKEY BAA BRINGS A CLASSIC AUSTRALIAN KIDS STORY VIVIDLY TO LIFE→
Featured image: Conductor Sarah-Grace Williams and The Metropolitan Orchestra.
This concert of two very well known ‘Masterworks’ brought TMO back to the stage in fine form for its first ‘Met Series’ concert of 2017. A warm and appreciative audience eagerly awaited the chance to hear Sibelius’ Concerto in D Minor for Violin and Orchestra followed by no less than Brahms’ mighty Symphony No 1 in C minor Op 68.
Joining TMO as soloist for the second year in a row was Anna Da Silva Chen. Her powerhouse performance was fresh and commanding in nature. Da Silva Chen is constantly developing as an athletic and thoughtful virtuoso.
The first movement reached out to us with a clean and crisp approach. TMO, as led by Sarah-Grace Williams, made the most of all opportunities to enhance rhythmic complexities, melodic development and successive levels of dramatic mood.
There was thankfully no over-interpretation nor self-indulgent over-playing from this soloist. Bravura passages added throughout the first movement by Sibelius to showcase the violin as much as possible were rendered with prodigious depth of strength but avoided awkward heaviness.
A delicate song-like restraint and no-nonsense rendition of the concerto’s famous opening was a real highlight. This approach was not fussy and immediately drew us towards the soloist and to the qualities of the featured instrument Sibelius was able to promote.
Da Silva Chen’s respect for a stable melodic architecture alongside dazzling and fluid virtuosity continued into the second movement. Here, a beautiful pursuance of line and intricate collaboration with the orchestra made for some fine moments.
The energy and character needed from soloist and orchestra to bring this concerto to a close was on offer during the final movement. A lithe, elevated display from Da Silva Chen and a gutsy, well punctuated dealing with Sibelius’ challenges from TMO earned both a standing ovation.
Following interval, TMO’s version of Symphony No 1 in C minor Opus 68 was interpreted with clear and direct Brahms like Romanticism
Conductor Sarah Grace Williams preserved momentum throughout the sprawling movements and the composer’s wish to present deep emotion on a large scale but not let unnecessary sentiment compromise the security of structure and direction in music.
Effective choice of tempi especially enhanced the flow of the opening and final movements. The iconic timpani part known by fans of this work was well performed here. Conductor Sarah-Grace Williams kept the reaching nature of the Andante sostenuto second movement at a level of gentle poise as Brahms’ shifting patterns of tone colours moved smoothly about. The result was a hushed, hypnotic, forward moving bulk of calm.
A highlight of this symphony’s agile interpretation was the sunny pastoral interlude which the third movement embodies. Fine playing from the winds, especially the clarinet theme, transported us to a gentle and well-balanced place.
Challenging rhythmic complexities and Brahms’ manipulations of orchestral textures were well-handled in this interpretation and they also rocketed the work to an exciting conclusion. The flow of developing ideas and changing colours were presented with easy eloquence in the final movement as it had been previously.
The successful juxtaposition of two giant Romantic period works was a bold programming choice. It was one which definitely paid off, cementing TMO’s ‘tour de force’ status in the local music scene very early in this year’s musical calendar.
Above: Composer Ben Hoadley, whose Clarinet Quintet ‘Broken Songs’ was premiered in the concert. Featured Image : violinist Natsuko Yoshimoto.
The first Master Series concert for the Omega Ensemble this year was a standing-room-only event at the Sydney Opera House’s Utzon Room. ” The crowd was treated to exciting versions of masterpieces for string quartet and clarinet quintet, as well as the premiere of Ben Hoadley’s new clarinet quintet, Broken Songs. ” A capable backbone for all items on the programme was the assembled string quartet of Natsuko Yoshimoto, Ike See(violins),Neil Thompson(viola) and Paul Stender(cello)
In general across all works this quartet securely delivered playing of precision and sensible dramatic depth. We were given an introduction to newer works on the programme and rediscovered well-known ones. A scintillating blend of individual expression resulted from this quartet’s balanced playing. Continue reading OMEGA ENSEMBLE-HAYDN AND MOZART @ THE UTZON ROOM→
Featured Image : Ted Crosby as Benedick and Emma Wright as Beatrice. Above : Matthew Raven as Claudio and Johann Silva as Don Pedro. Photo credit : Grant Fraser.
“Man is a giddy thing” intones one of this play’s protagonists at its conclusion. Here Shakespeare’s battle of the sexes keenly depicts man to be proud, commitment-phobic, sexist, blinded by rank and easily led by villainy.
This is a microcosm of theatrical device, character types and action similar to many of his comedies and tragedies alike. The chance to flex the craft of this Genesian Theatre’s cast and production team is seized upon by director Deborah Mulhall, with the help of Assistant Director Mark G Nagle to create an accessible and entertaining event.
Mulhall’s multi-use set is warmly lit and effectively transforms one side of the Genesian Theatre proscenium into a well-placed balcony. The windows, lattices, curtained entrance and outsides and the rear of the stage allow for plenty of sites with which to conduct the gossip, planned overhearing and banter which is required of this tale of love as requited, unrequited, resisted and destroyed. Continue reading MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING @ THE GENESIAN THEATRE→
The Sydney Festival promises quality collaboration and a celebration of cutting-edge creativity. Nicole Lizée’s innovative program of manipulated image and music fulfils this promise several times over.
The Australian Art Orchestra (AAO) , which started under the leadership of Paul Grabowsky, is seen here obviously thrilled to work on stage with the award winning composer. In the two works it plays in, the orchestra boldy realises Lizee’s reworkings of sound and scenic fragments from popular TV, film and karaoke film clips.
For an event which champions the Canadian turntablist and composer’s clever manipulation of elements, the title is also tweaked from Steven Soderbergh’s popular 1989 comedy, Sex, Lies and Videotape to describe Lizee’s twentieth century influences.
During the opening Lynch’s Etudes, on a screen above the stage we see small excerpts from the TV and film classics of David Lynch. These are reworked through savage reiteration, visual scratching and dragging. Time and vocal pitch in scenes from Wild At Heart, Mulholland Drive and Twin Peaks are also warped heavily. Continue reading NICOLE LIZEE WITH THE AUSTRALIAN ART ORCHESTRA @ RECITAL HALL→
Above : Performer Gabriel Dharmoo. Featured Image: Gabriel Dharmoo in front of the Anthropologies Imaginaires screen. Photo credit Greg Locke.
This fifty-minute experience from French-Canadian Gabriel Dharmoo is a unique and highly entertaining one. It combines a one-man tour de force performance of singing and sound effect with voluptuous accompanying movements. A subtitled documentary-style commentary on a screen behind the performer matches the vocal gymnastics to language and behaviours of imaginary cultures.
This event could be described as the Umbilical Brothers meet a deceptively satirical SBS. This performance’s subtle start is quite believable and resembles the canon of anthropological films on non-fictional tribes. However, as the show progresses the tongue in cheek comedy around the validity of commenting on a single aspect or practice by an ‘other’ culture becomes increasingly obvious. Continue reading SYDNEY FESTIVAL : ANTHROPOLOGIES IMAGINAIRES @ SEYMOUR CENTRE→
Featured image: Artistic Director Sarah-Grace Williams conducts TMO.
The final concert in TMO’s Met Series for 2016 was as diverse and rich in entertainment value as all others this year. Two exquisite and challenging orchestral favourites were programmed alongside a recent Australian work featuring TMO’s Andrew Doyle as basset clarinet soloist.
Acacia Quartet’s most recent concert, Harbour Light, flowed with luminous success around an appreciative audience in the Utzon Room space. The audience were given no less than two commissioned world premiere works by Australian composers. The concert’s title work, Harbour Light, was performed for the first time in a shiny new intimate guise for string quartet, pared down from its original orchestration for larger string ensemble.
The innate skill of Acacia Quartet to create and convey layered atmosphere came to the fore to unify the programme of six diverse works. The sprawling concert sequence evolved with successive and separate styles of light. Works with extra-musical hues and unique structures were finely wrought by the quartet. Regardless of compositional character, the communication to the audience was clear, beautifully balanced and evocative.
On a daylight-savings evening so close to our beloved Sydney Harbour, Australian composer Nick Wales’Harbour Light was a textural treat linking us to our immediate surroundings with which to start. As we listened, sitting close to the water, the piece shimmered, shone, moved fluidly and offered much in the way of colour and compact sentiment. In the guardianship of Acacia Quartet, it did not suffer in the process of reduction from larger forces.
Compact sentiment and exquisite minimalist rendering followed in the quartet’s interpretation of Philip Glass’ String Quartet No 2‘Company’. Well nuanced and never overplayed, it was an accurate salute to Glass’ aesthetic and intricacies of revolving thematic minutiae.
Prior to interval, we heard Acacia Quartet present two very distinct voices in contemporary Australian composition. The world premieres of two Australian compositions were effectively juxtaposed with the individuality of Philip Glass. The new works were as arresting for their sonic effect as well as the impact on a concert environment in the way Glass introduced listeners to a new concert experience.
A highlight of the evening was the premiere of Sally Whitwell’s String Quartet No 1, the rewarding local soundscape with the subtitle ‘Face to the Sun’. Each of the four movements sketches aspects of Australian flora. Time periods which once inspired emblematic transfer of these qualities to people’s names, such as in the time of Whitwell’s grandmother, named Beryl Boronia, are celebrated via this fine musical illustration.
This clever writing draws on a legacy of lush quartet sound from yesteryear as well as effects from the very modern arsenal of string playing. Both styles of playing were capably offered up by Acacia Quartet, as the shapes and character of banksias, boronias, everlasting daisies and gumnuts were brought to life via charming and exciting vignettes from shifting time periods.
In a real shift of character prior to interval, the second premiere work was by the Australian-born Joe Twist. It was an exciting caricature and romp through stock standard musical styles. Spongebob’s Romantic Adventure continued the crescendo in boldness and momentum of colour which this concert programme’s first half was providing. Melodrama, stylistic tongue-in-cheek proximity and ultimately an hilarious hoedown variation of the Spongebob TV theme were played vibrantly, ensuring the work’s impact in a formal audience setting. The piece has many future performance possibilities for the quartet. Families and children would love it.
Following interval, larger works from American composers brought the listening experience into a new dimension with evocative music from Gershwin and film score composer Bernard Hermann. These sustained works were a satisfying way to conclude the evening’s diversity. Lullaby (1919) by George Gershwin goes a long way past its original purpose as an exercise in harmony for the student.
From its opening, the challenging and delicate exchange between quartet members created a seamless fabric under a high but hushed first violin. The inclusion of this piece was an extension of the calibre of string quartet blend and atmosphere heard in the rest of the concert. It also introduced the beautiful work and Gershwin’s output in this genre to many.
The sprawling and fantastic Echoes for string quartet by Bernard Herrmann led us through filmic, intense and purely beautiful soundscapes which filled the Utzon Room space. The complex and segmented work with shifting inflection and mood was well negotiated by Acacia Quartet.
The excited reception of this and all works from the audience was proof of Acacia Quartet’s effective gifting on this night to us of delicate narratives, intensities, colours and shapes found in compositions for the string quartet from last century to now.
Jane Stanley, composer of Cerulean Orbits, which is receiving its world premiere performances during this Musica Viva International Concert Season Tour.
Musica Viva’s International Concert Season for 2017 continued this past week with a stunning concert by Benjamin Beilman and Andrew Tyson, a violin and piano duo from the United States. This weekend concert in Sydney continued the tour which had already taken the pair to Perth, Coffs Harbour, Armidale, Adelaide, Newcastle as well as Sydney earlier in the week.
The chosen programme was a solid vehicle with which to demonstrate Beilman and Tyson as individual virtuosi as well as an exciting duo. The performances of interesting and evocative works were always intensely emotional and absorbed in their mindset as well as their physical execution.
Attention to changing musical detail across styles from 1787 through to 2016 was always keen and works were articulated with an appropriate flair fitting their four distinct time periods. Intricacies of conversation from this skilled pair showcased the blend of their two instruments when used by various composers as an expressive chamber music force.
The Jerusalem Quartet: Kyril Zlotnikov-cello, Sergei Bresler-violin, Alexander Pavlovsky-violin and Ori Kam-viola
This string quartet concert dazzled with smooth synergy and clean unity of attack whilst preserving spontaneity in the performance. The opening work in the programme, String Quartet Op 64 No 5 ‘The Lark’ (1792) by Haydn was a fine example of this.
Seamless Haydn is a test of any string quartet’s proficiency. The test was passed with flying colours by the Jerusalem Quartet. This work unfolded with clear intensities of structure. Balance shifts across and between the individual strings ensured engaging conversations were always present.
This Haydn quartet’s opening movement themes were freshly defined. The tension and resolution of the melodies in later development unfolded with finesse and fine interplay. The remainder of the work’s narrative continued in this capable vein. From the eloquent adagio second movement to the bristling final vivace, this work was an entertaining start to the concert event. Continue reading MUSICA VIVA PRESENTS THE JERUSALEM QUARTET@ CITY RECITAL HALL→
Above: Shunske Sato in rehearsal with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra. Featured image: Sato in concert with the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra. Photo credit: Kitt Photography
SATO AND THE ROMANTICS is a perfect example of how a concert following historically informed performance (HIP) guidelines can both thrill and train the audience at once. In this latest Australian Brandenburg Orchestra’s tour of Sydney and Melbourne the listener’s pleasure and education comes from hearing historical instruments play 19th century works imbued with Romantic ideals by Mendelssohn, Grieg and Paganini.
Guest violin virtuoso Shunske Sato leads the Brandenburg in Mendelssohn’s String Symphony No 3 in E minor MWV N 3 (1821) to open the concert. The first movement starts with crisp and arresting unison. The warm drama of the gut-stringed instruments is matched by intricate, well-articulated sensitivity as fugal tensions are intelligently resolved. Shunske Sato’s energetic, clear and commanding direction of the string group from his place in the first violins is rewarding to witness. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN BRANDENBURG ORCHESTRA PRESENTS ‘SATO AND THE ROMANTICS’ @ ANGEL PLACE→
Above: Cello soloist Teije Hylkema. Featured image: Omega Ensemble perform Elgar’s Cello Concerto with Teije Hylkema. Photo credit: David Vagg Photography.
The latest concert in Omega Ensemble’s 2016 Virtuoso Series, ELGAR’S CELLO CONCERTO was a diverse, accessible and entertaining event. City Recital Hall’s resident ensemble showcased exciting repertoire for their mixed-instrument format.
Above: Violin soloist Glenn Christensen played Beethoven’s Violin Concerto with TMO. Featured image: The Metropolitan Orchestra and Chief Conductor Sarah-Grace Williams. Photo credit: John B Chen.
The fourth concert in TMO’s 2016 season, ‘The Great’ was a substantial undertaking. Its exciting programme consisted of two very well-known works regarded as being great due to their inspiration, structure and impact.
These works were written by two composers considered amongst the greatest of their era and of all time. TMO admirably met the challenge of presenting early nineteenth century works by Beethoven and Schubert in fresh and captivating interpretations.
To begin this concert’s juxtaposition of two great works, TMO collaborated with violinist Glenn Christensen in a performance of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Major Opus 61. At all times throughout this work TMO supported the soloist well.
The essence of Beethoven’s uniquely direct rhetoric was delivered through clear realisation of thematic material. Full orchestral textures were satisfyingly blended and Beethoven’s burgeoning Romantic leanings were evident in striking declamations from the orchestra alone.
Violinist Glenn Christensen presented an extremely sensitive and elegant opening movement to this work. Without the hectic bravura often heard, the structure of the violin solo utterances was expressively and at times uniquely outlined. The building blocks of this famous movement were laid down successfully with considerable grace and unhurried reverence.
This work’s slow movement demands an interpretation from soloist and orchestra which maintains beauty and lyricism over a difficult and prolonged expanse. The attempt on this occasion was successful in this regard. It also was the best balanced playing between violin soloist and TMO heard in the work.
The performance of this movement yielded a steady thread of exquisite cantabile voice and an exemplary rendering of authentic Beethoven expansive slow movement fare. As in the remainder of the work, Christensen’s moments reaching to the very high register were gentle yet stunning in their precision.
TMO and Christensen launched themselves out of the central movement’s stillness and into the final rondo movement with instant and great contrast. The theme was joyously characterised and we were treated to some energetic fireworks in the violin elaboration.
Following interval Schubert’s profound Symphony No 9 in C major D944 ‘The Great’ was played with great drama, great control and great respect for Schubert’s architectural and dramatic ambition. The creative concepts and textural variety of the composer’s vision were well promoted. We heard this work’s intricacies and climaxes being well articulated despite the large forces assembled.
From the symphony’s outset and introduction from the horn section there was an air of noble restraint. This continued particularly in TMO’s winds whenever needed throughout. Oboe lines were nicely drawn and held above the rest of the orchestral colour. The oboe parts which feature in the second movement were also steadfast and captivating.
The contrasts in the third movement Scherzo and Trio were superbly handled, making this section of the symphonic journey a crisp, buoyant and satisfying event. TMO showcased themselves and Schubert as progressive artisans in this movement, a highlight of the performance.
At the conclusion of this symphony and the concert TMO showed no cracks in their stamina or artistry. This was yet another satisfying Met Series Concert. The final Met Concert for 2016 at the ABC Centre takes place on November 12. It features TMO’s principal clarinettist in a work by Elena Kats-Chernin. The programme will also include Beethoven’s loved Symphony No 7.
Above image : Sam Moran and Bella Thomas as The Cat in the Hat and Jojo. Featured image- Ensemble members from Birdie Productions. Production photography by Grant Leslie Photography.
Birdie Productions brings professional talent and performers from open auditions to South West Sydney in this excitingly refreshed version of SEUSSICAL. The resulting ensemble is a cast with immense energy, range of experience and an attractive skill set. The depicted Seuss characters as assembled in the musical by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Aherns here showcase Dr Seuss’ genius whilst preserving his keen commentary on good and bad behaviour.
The audience follows Horton the Elephant’s quest to survive mockery, help friends and save the small inhabitants of Whoville as they drift to possible peril on a speck of dust. A scrim at the start of the musical confronts the audience with a quote which motivates us to accept the responsibility to help others. Newspaper clippings about children in detention then appear, providing a sobering reminder about need in our contemporary life. Continue reading BIRDIE PRODUCTIONS PRESENT SEUSSICAL @ BRYAN BROWN THEATRE BANKSTOWN→
Maria Lindsay performs Tommy Tycho’s Concerto For Violin and String Orchestra. Images by Geoff Sirmai.
The new venue for this orchestra is the performing space at the Actors Centre in Leichhardt’s Italian forum. The space and its full, true acoustic nicely accommodated this orchestra and the diversity of style within the event’s programme.
It also preserved the interactive, intimate sharing of music and enthusiasm for the orchestral repertoire which have always been key features of Balmain Sinfonia concerts.
The 5pm afternoon concert began with Beethoven’s Leonora Overture No 3 (1806). A direct, genuine reading of this piece from the opera Fidelio was imbued with considerable atmosphere, colour and drama. It was a very decent introduction to the contrasts of the concert to follow. Continue reading BALMAIN SINFONIA PERFORM @ THE ITALIAN FORUM→
Above: Composer of ‘Law Of The Tongue’, Nicholas Vines.
Featured image: The Acacia Quartet (left to right) Anna Martin-Scrase, cello, Stefan Duwe-viola, Lisa Stewart- violin, Myee Clohessy-violin
The latest Acacia Quartet concert celebrated imagination and ingenuity. lt showcased this ensemble’s communicative skill and the creativity of composers when reacting to their physical, political and historical surroundings.
Daniel Yeadon played Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C major with AHE
This was a special night for the Australian Haydn Ensemble (AHE) and a special treat for the audience. ‘Haydn and Mozart’, the Ensemble’s substantial third programme in its 2016 season, consisted of two symphonies and two concerti. This event coincided with the group’s City Recital Hall debut and the release of their first recording for ABC Classics.
Above: the debut CD from the Australian Haydn Ensemble
AHE took command of the Angel Place space with passionate and committed interpretations of works by Michael Haydn, Mozart and Josef Haydn. It was at all times an assured combination of charisma, clarity and refined communication. Expressive leadership was once more provided by Erin Helyard. This concert saw Dr Helyard direct the Ensemble and provide eloquent fortepiano continuo on the replica Walter piano of the time.
Central to the programme were two key instrumental concerti of the eighteenth century, both of which continue to be concert hall favourite into this century. Mozart’s Keyboard Concerto No 14 in E flat K.449 enjoyed an authentic presentation on the fortepiano with Erin Helyard as soloist. After interval Daniel Yeadon presented a fresh version of Joseph Haydn’s Cello Concerto in C Major. Hob.VIIB/1.
It was a timely coincidence with the Sydney International Piano Competition, during which Mozart concerti are often chosen by finalists to negotiate on the modern piano. Mozart’s E flat major concerto was a work commissioned in 1784 by Herr von Ployer for his wife Babette, a promising student of Mozart’s. It was the first of six concerti written by Mozart in this year.
Erin Helyard delivered the drama and lyricism of this work with fluid display and cadenzas which were as exciting as they were refined in their contemplation. There was a fine balance between the Australian Haydn Ensemble and soloist. The plaintive subtlety of the early piano was securely projected in this venue’s acoustic.
Daniel Yeadon’s presentation of the well-known Haydn Cello Concerto was enhanced with a new expressive approach. Flexibility of tempo and rhythmic passage work combined with a new approach to vibrato assisted the uniqueness of his dazzling interpretation as well as emphasising Haydn’s progressive style. This version is a worthy opening to AHE’s first recording, The Haydn Album.
To open the concert and to precede the Mozart concerto, we heard the Symphony No. 25 in G Major, MH 334 by Michael Haydn. With the authorship debate of this work over, it was included as a symphony by the younger Haydn brother, its slow prelude added later by Mozart. Positioned chronologically in this concert order, the symphony emerged just one year before Mozart E flat concerto.
The solemnity and Mozartean drama required for theintroduction to this colourful work was commandingly handled by AHE. The symphony continued in broad strokes and with the crisp clarity as well as the elegant articulation we are always assured of from this group.
Music from Joseph Haydn continued the concert’s second half, and concluded the programme. From the year following Mozart’s Viennese piano concerto in E flat major, Haydn’s Symphony No 83 Hob I:83 (“La Poule”).
This vibrant work, known as “The Hen” due to effects in its opening movement further showcased AHE’s power of realising Classical Period gesture and colour. In particular the uniqueness of Joseph Haydn’s motivic and programmatic development within established formats was well celebrated and brought to life befor us.
This symphony’s stormy beginning was captivatingly played. Its joyous final Vivace and conclusion to this concert left us wanting more. Lucky for us there is now an AHE recording.
Above: Annie (Caitlin Frazer) and Daddy Warbucks (Simon Militano) with ensemble. Featured image: Miss Hannigan (Susie Blackwell) and orphans.
At the centre of ANNIE the musical is a great big heart, a fully dressed smile and bucketloads of energetic optimism. Mosman Musical Society’s recent production, as directed by Jody Rose, stays true to these required features.
Principal cast members and the versatile ensemble preserve the traditional caricatures within this tale. The reactions of individuals and the group in this production clearly outline the tone of 1930’s New York in need of a ‘New Deal’ and a better life.
Above: Artistic Director and Chief Conductor of The Metropolitan Orchestra, Sarah-Grace Williams.
With its Met Concert 3 for 2016, TMO continues to be consistently thrilling. The concert’s first half engaged the listener with commanding gestures and precision phrasing imbued with suitable expression.
In world premiere we first heard Fantasy on a Theme of Mendelssohn by Sean O’Boyle AM. This eclectic and clever work commissioned by TMO and conductor Sarah Grace Williams was highly accessible whilst remaining innovative and unique in design.
TMO led by Sarah-Grace Williams excelled in portraying O’Boyle’s jaunty and episodic elaborations. The beautiful Mendelssohn theme from On Wings of Song was subjected to short but lush orchestral iterations and duly developed.
Concluding this Met Concert’s first half was Richard Strauss’ Horn Concerto No 1 in E flat Op 11. Principal Horn of player TMO, Michael Wray, produced very agreeable cantabile tone and fine manipulation of expansive melodies in both the first and second movement.
Wray’s playing across registers made for an exciting display in this concerto. Sympathetic, supportive and crisp accompaniment was yet again supplied by TMO for the featured soloist, as has been the case in other Met Series concerts.
This concert’s second half showcased TMO sans soloist. TMO’s ability to create distinct worlds for each orchestral work, composer or musical period was well displayed. It was almost tempting to deny convention and crave a future concert with works explored by TMO alone without an interlude for concerto soloist.
That comment aside, Met Concert 3 would not have been the dazzling success it was without the chance to hear the Horn Concerto No 1 by Strauss with a TMO principal featured. Also, the upcoming programme on August 20 includes the sublime Beethoven Violin Concerto in D major Op 61, to be played by Glenn Christensen.
The interpretation of the Beethoven Opus 61 is eagerly anticipated following this concert’s delivery of Beethoven’s Coriolan Overture. This work was true overture fare. The orchestral unison from its attention-grabbing opening right to its functional, hushed, and curtain-raising conclusion always had measured authenticity and a decent sense of drama.
With crystal clear delineation of structure, the expressive and thematic directness was revived with appropriate Beethoven branded emphasis throughout.
Mendelssohn’s Symphony No 4 Op 90 ‘Italian’, concluded this event and celebrated TMO’s seventh birthday year. This Symphony was heard in their very first concert. TMO in its current level of maturity and birthday year generously gifted us with a bright, glistening performance of the Italian Symphony.
The final Presto movement brought the finely articulated work and concert to a stunning close with well-contained, bristling energy. Continuing the success of earlier movements to efficiently evoke atmosphere, develop motives and meet the challenges of Mendelssohn’s intricate orchestral writing, TMO’s gift to us of this work from their repertoire was an entertaining and notable example of nineteenth century orchestral style.
To assist in maintaining TMO’s notable place in our performing environment, we can in turn offer TMO a gift during their current end of financial year fundraising drive. A link to this website area can be found at: www.chuffed.org/project/tmo2016
The Ensō Quartet: Maureen Nelson, violin, Ken Hamao, violin, Richard Belcher, cello and Melissa Reardon, viola.
Musica Viva’s International Concert Season for 2016 continues with first-time visitors from New York, the Ensō String Quartet. In programmes of considerable diversity, this quartet demonstrates fine interpretative and ensemble skills. Its members communicate as a unified expressive dynamo across music from various cultures and periods.
The first time we hear this quartet perform, the programme opens with a world premiere of a commission work written for Musica Viva by the Australian composer Brenton Broadstock. Safe Haven (2016) is an imaginitive three movement set of variations on a Hungarian nursery song.
Above: Cellist Paul Stender. Featured image: Clarinettist David Rowden-Artistic Director of the Omega Ensemble.
Omega Ensemble delighted the capacity crowd at the Sydney Opera House’s Utzon Room with works by master composers Bach, Beethoven and Brahms. They also delivered a commissioned work by composer Ben Hoadley in world premiere. The ensemble’s 2016 Master Series continues with exquisitely articulated and tasteful performances. The formidable balance and expertly-nuanced empathy from each musician were highlights of this chamber music event.
The concert began with Bach, as cellist Paul Stender gave us the chance to hear live the complete Cello Suite No 1 in G major BWV 1007. This performance worked well in the intimate space. It was effectively voiced and nicely paced. The characters of each movement were presented sincerely both as single entities and a cumulative whole. Continue reading OMEGA ENSEMBLE @ THE UTZON ROOM SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE→
Above: Jessie Wilson in the role of Night. Featured Image: The Cast of Con Opera’s The Fairy Queen. Photos by Prudence Upton
The keen delivery of dramatic and musical elements in Con Opera’s current production of THE FAIRY QUEEN by Henry Purcell elegantly enlivens this work for us. It is a fine showcase for the current students of opera at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.
The seventeenth-century masques which originally entertained royalty by elaborating aspects of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream here maintain effective individual and collective character. There is a re-ordering of the material which works well as we are caught up in a satisfying swoop towards the final happiness of Purcell’s semi-opera.
This production is a visual treat with memorable tableaux and colourful, well-crafted action sequences. Within the three walls of an evocative composite set alluding to natural and indoor objects, stylish simplicity meets lush detail. The supernatural identities amongst the cast are suitably swathed in glittering gowns and innovatively patterned suits.
These successful costume designs by Isabella Andronos complement her set design which blends the enchanted wood with a salon turned upside down as supernatural beings get close to the mortals. Headpieces, costume fabrics and props successfully magnify the essence of each being onstage, whether they are fairies or gods.
Director Elsie Edgerton-Till ensures we are exposed to pleasing, self-contained characterisations and some spellbinding scenes. Vibrant exchanges and impressive entrances are features of each themed masque. Group scenes are fluid and never crowded in their blocking.
The orchestra is in the experienced hands of Associate Professor Neal Peres da Costa, chair of Sydney Conservatorium’s Historical Performance Unit. Purcell’s varied score is brought entertainingly to life.
The composer’s use of fanfare-like chorus declamations both before us and offstage are well realised. They successfully punctuate the opera with clarity and a joyous tone. Music for choreographer Daniella Lacob’s revival of period dance and other stage frivolities is effectively paced to assist the movement.
The shifts to moments of measured, intimate music are nicely executed. Relatively hushed but solid accompaniments such as the music beneath Titiana’s O Let Me Weep and Night’s See,See Even Night HerselfIs Here create a rich tapestry over which the soprano voices can further weave expressive magic.
The sixteen characters presented in Purcell’s semi-opera are portrayed with continued individuality, colour, focus and energy. The students exhibit significant stage presence and calibre of acting as the masques unfold with agreeable momentum and interactions.
Chris Bryg’s Oberon is an excellent example of such exuberance. He makes full use of the stage and dramatic opportunities. Decked out in a shiny gold suit, he communicates always with a penetrating voice. Thomas Marshall’s Phoebus also exhibits impressive pomp as he moves with resolve around many parts of the set. He sings with poise and with a promising tenor tone.
True operatic highlights come from sopranos Imogen Malfitano (as Titiana) and Jessie Wilson (as Night). Their gentle moments of controlled vocal line and mood are exquisitely executed. Malfitano’s vocal control and dramatic sensibilities make the expression of Oh Let Me Weep following her character’s loss of mortal affection a memorable part of this production.
Jessie Wilson delivers a commanding and confident performance as Night, especially when singing See, See Even Night Herself is Here, which follows an eye-catching entrance in night-themed gown and spectacular headpiece. She is arguably one of the most polished and watchable rising opera stars in this production.
The combined efforts of enthusiastic cast and insightful creatives enable audiences to sample one of Purcell’s popular entertainments in fresh style. With clever, quality production values it spoils the senses.
THE FAIRY QUEEN plays at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music on May 17 and May 19 at 6:30pm. Its run concludes with a 2pm matinee on May 21.