All posts by Paul Nolan

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.

OMEGA ENSEMBLE: ‘SCHUBERT’S TROUT’ @ CITY RECITAL HALL

Above: Omega Ensemble’s quintet performed Schubert’s ‘Trout’ quintet. Alexandra Osborne (violin), Neil Thompson (viola), Maria Raspopova (piano) Alex Henery (double )bass and Paul Stender (cello).  Featured image: For the Schubert Octet D 803, the string players above were joined by Veronique Serret (violin), Michael Dixon (horn), Ben Hoadley (bassoon) and David Rowden (clarinet). Photo credit – Bruce Terry.

The audience for this Omega Ensemble concert was treated to some very sophisticated Schubert. The performances of two substantial Schubert works  displayed all the elegance we love from this master of melody. Schubert’s command of  classic forms and a subtle but sure glance forward in history with sudden outbursts of Romantic drama albeit were rendered at all times with finesse within the works’ architecture.

This concert demonstrated Omega Ensemble’s ability across its annual concert series to cover a wide range of styles and  repertoire. In the concert, the group illustrated its flexibility of instrumentation and ability to attract some Australia’s finest string and wind players into its ranks when needed. Continue reading OMEGA ENSEMBLE: ‘SCHUBERT’S TROUT’ @ CITY RECITAL HALL

MUSICA VIVA PRESENTS THE SITKOVETSKY TRIO @ CITY RECITAL HALL

Above: Cellist Bartholomew LaFollette, who joined Alexander Sitkovetsky (violin) and Wu Qian (piano) for this national Sitkovetsky Trio tour for Musica Viva.

The second tour of Australia by the Sitkovetsky Trio  has left no doubt in listeners’ minds that this trio is a definite  powerhouse capable of meeting the emotional challenges of any composer it encounters. The trio’s big sound and equality of parts explored both new and well-known repertoire with incredibly spontaneous, energetic and passionate playing.

For those who have never heard recordings by this trio nor have had the thrill to witness them dealing spectacularly with classics of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this listening experience would have been a real baptism of fire and a quick upgrade to fan status.

This continually breathtaking evening began with  Rachmaninoff’s Trio Elegiaque No 1 (1892). Sitkovetsky trio introduced us to their capacity for big and beautifully balanced playing with formidable  expressive range.

The exchange between strings was a fine conversation throughout this single movement work , and the atmospheres created by them were a perfect backdrop for rich Rachmaninoff chordal work on the piano.  Here, pianist Wu Qian’s arsenal of so many degrees of nuance made for some exquisite moments in melodic exposition and development. Continue reading MUSICA VIVA PRESENTS THE SITKOVETSKY TRIO @ CITY RECITAL HALL

SAINT NICOLAS: SYDNEY CHAMBER CHOIR @ SYDNEY UNIVERSITY GREAT HALL

Above: Guest conductor, Brett Weymark. Featured image: The Sydney Chamber Choir.

This concert showcased the Sydney Chamber Choir at its dramatic best. The group’s stunning vocal precision, capacity for warmth of tone and command of textual detail ensured quality delivery of Britten’s cantata Saint Nicolas Op 42 and a collection of short, evocative sacred works to fill the concert’s first half.

The thorough realisation of Britten’s music and narrative sweep was a true highlight of this event. Reflecting  the origins of this work as a composition for the centenary celebrations of Lancing College in 1948, the choir was joined by school-age voices and instrumentalists.

This young talent came from the NSW Public Schools Junior and Senior Singers, Santa Sabina College Chamber Choir and the NSW Public Schools Percussion Ensemble. Student Shirley Zhu was joined by Katherine Day on Piano

Such collaboration brought with it exciting energy. A small and confidently spoken  string ensemble (Anna McMichael and Stephen Freeman-violins, Nicole Forsyth-viola, Anita Gluyas-cello and Theo Small– double bass) joined the student percussion and focussed piano duet to manage Britten’s atmospheric requirements in excellent fashion.

Guest conductor Brett Weymark (Sydney Philharmonia Choirs) harnessed all forces and the participation of the audience for hymn singing to present this varied work with clarity and poignant momentum.

Also pivotal to the success of Britten’s cantata was tenor Richard Butler’s penetrating plaintiveness in the role of Nicholas. Text and emotional development were delivered clearly and with appropriate passion. We were taken on an interestingly coloured vocal excursion as the dialogue and description of Nicolas’ acts or miracles reverberated around the Sydney University Great Hall space.

Effective staging for various characters and character groups was also dramatically pleasing. Use of the back of the venue and the centre worked well. Female voices singing lined up the side of the hall as mothers of the soon to be resurrected Pickle Boys brought the audience very close to their laments and the story.

This successful re-enactment of Britten’s formidable cantata in some ways made it tempting to want a programme with a large work of similar nature balance and flesh out the programme’s first half also. This concert began instead with a collection of shorter pieces from composers various. Perhaps one extended early sacred or secular dramatic piece would have reflected the larger Britten work well.

However, in the collection of works opening the concert we had the chance to hear from Sydney Chamber Choir sacred settings of music by none other Hildegard von Bingen, Hans Leo Hassler Bach and Buxtehude in a blend of clear and precise performance with a satisfying degree of religious drama.

Apart from the fine choral interpretation, Edwin Taylor’s continuo organ accompaniment was a highlight throughout this half of the concert, as was the string ensemble joining Sydney Chamber Choir soloists and choir for the exquisite setting of the Magnificat attributed to Buxtehude, which was exquisitely performed.

The Ave generosa chant of Hildegard von Bingen was pure atmosphere with which to begin the event, once again using the venue space well with a procession-style entry of voices above Nicole Forsyth’s solo viola.

The next Sydney Chamber Choir concert on the evening of Saturday October 7 promises to please once more. It includes a performance of Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas and smaller works by Monteverdi, Palestrina and Marenzio. This concert will be conducted by Roland Peelman and features the early music ensemble The Muffat Collective.

MARAIS MEETS MUFFAT @ INDEPENDENT THEATRE NORTH SYDNEY

Above : Jennifer Eriksson from The Marais Project performs with guest violinist Stephen Freeman and The Muffat Collective’s cellist Anita Gluyas.  Featured image : members of The Muffat Collective
This was a joyous collaboration of two passionate and committed local early music ensembles. It took us back to a time where monarchs and patrons craved the French musical style which was de rigeuer internationally.

In this concert the Marais Project’s Jennifer Eriksson and The Muffat Collective (Matthew Greco and Rafael Font-Viera -violins, Anita Gluyas-period cello /bass viol, Anthony Hamad-harpsichord and guest violin Stephen Freeman) combined their performance experience and specialist training to supply a beautiful and exciting stream of instrumental music from the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The six accomplished musicians explored the work of five composers through short works, excerpts from dramatic formats of the day or dance-inspired concert suites.

And dance this programme definitely did. The joyous and comfortable blending of talent presenting contrasting  pieces of music worked  very well.  Joyous performances resulted and were received enthusiastically.

A special highlight of this programme was the inclusion of two concert suites in the fashionable French style but featuring a concerto style part for a string soloist in the Italian style. These suites celebrated the French love of dance music but also displayed amazingly virtuosic passages for the soloist.

Viola da gambist Jennifer Eriksson and Baroque violinist Matthew Greco worked sensitively within the ensemble texture of these works but also dazzled us with demanding filigree above the general character of the dance movements.

The first of these concert suites was Telemann’s Ouverture-Suite in D Major TMV55:D6. The French overture styled opening was boldly played. it was a confident start to the string of dance movements. This work was imbued with a fine sense of subtle shading and contrast from all members of this concert’s new collective. Eriksson shaped Telemann’s challenging interludes of bravura for her instrument in effective broad strokes.

In the second such concert suite, by JS Bach’s cousin  Johann Berhard, Matthew Greco’s baroque violin sang with finesse alongside the other instrumentalists. The intricacies of the various dances were realised with finesse, but Greco also soared above the texture in solo display and out to the astonished listeners. This was the concert’s final offering on the programme  and a stunning conclusion to an elegant kaleidoscope of early music.

Another intimate delicacy which danced elegantly before us was the concert suite Concert pour quatre parties de violes . This was another example of the French stylistic fare, this time by four players from the ensemble, presenting the well-articluated work  by French composer Charpentier.  The contrasting dance movements were skilfully delineated.

Music from the theatre was a sharp, dramatic  addition to the event and a good way for each half of the programme to begin . It also showcased the musicians’ historically informed performance style in presenting works with a narrative or stage basis  as well as purely instrumental entertainment.

The concert opened in attention-grabbing fashion and with theatrical flair as the ensemble introduced its expressive potential by playing Lully’s Prologue from  the tragedie en musique,  Armide‘ Following interval the full ensemble welcomed us back into the world of of their study with a short energetic march from the comedie-ballet Le bourgeois gentilhomme by Lully.

Energy, committed performance and elegance were features of this successful collaboration. Informed commentary by members of the combined groups brought the music and musicians close to us. This is always a great human touch from performers in the modern climate and a good accompaniment to fine playing. Anthony Hamad’s historical perspective in this regard was as endearing, expressive and  clear as his playing throughout.

The expressive work La Sultane by Francois Couperin unfolded as a performance rich in moments of contrast, as well as balanced and lyrical  instrumental combination. The level of poise, interplay between parts and authentic gesturing  made this work drip with elegant chic and vibrant shifting colours. Even though such playing was consistent with the overall treats supplied by other items on the programme, this work was a definite highlight alongside the  Bach and Telemann suites.

This immensely successful collaboration project was a tribute to the training and talent of  members from both collectives. The Marais Project and The Muffat Collective continue with their individual 2017 Sydney concert seasons. We look forward to the next meeting of these two important early music groups.

Continue reading MARAIS MEETS MUFFAT @ INDEPENDENT THEATRE NORTH SYDNEY

THE METROPOLITAN ORCHESTRA : ‘SUMPTUOUS STRINGS’ @ CONGRESS HALL

Above: TMO’s Artistic Director Sarah-Grace Williams and members of TMO Strings. Featured:  Duo Histoire’s Murilo Tanouye and Nicholas Russoniello. 

The recent TMO Met Concert #3 was an evening of exciting firsts. A new city venue option of the Congress Hall in Elizabeth Street successfully accommodated this event. As with many Met Concerts in any TMO subscription year, a world premiere composition, or arrangement in this case, added to the programmes richness. This concert contained the first collaboration between TMO and Duo Histoire, performing a version of Piazzola’s Double Concerto, arranged by saxophonist Nicholas Russoniello. When we heard this rewarding arrangement for the first time, the blend of strings, guitar and saxophone would have been a first for many in the crowd.

This concert featured TMO strings separated from the rest of the orchestra. This capable string orchestra presented famous and signpost works from the genre with pleasing precision and blend.

TMO’s Artistic Director Sarah-Grace Williams deftly guided all possibilities for shifting string timbres and articulation through the range of works string orchestra works by nineteenth and twentieth-century composers. Continue reading THE METROPOLITAN ORCHESTRA : ‘SUMPTUOUS STRINGS’ @ CONGRESS HALL

AUSTRALIAN HAYDN ENSEMBLE WITH MELVYN TAN@ CITY RECITAL HALL

Above: Australian Haydn Ensemble’s Artistic Director Skye McIntosh with some ensemble members. Featured image: visiting fortepianist  Melvyn Tan.

The Australian Haydn Ensemble’s (AHE) 2017 season continued with the group’s signature elegance, intellect and visceral precision on exciting display. ‘Melvyn Tan and Haydn’s Paris’ was a  brilliantly devised programme of 18th century works with wonderfully interlocking connections. It also featured a fine collaboration with internationally renowned fortepianist Melvyn Tan.

As well as the concert including AHE favourites Mozart and Papa Haydn, it introduced us to the music of Parisian star performer, composer, dancer and fencing champion Chevalier de Saint Georges. We heard music from this dazzlingly individual and contemporary of Mozart in both the formal programme as well as in encore.

Chevalier de Saint Georges’ Symphony Op 11 No 2 in D major (1779) was presented in an Australian concert premiere. The bold delivery was carefully controlled by Artistic Director and violinist Skye McIntosh. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN HAYDN ENSEMBLE WITH MELVYN TAN@ CITY RECITAL HALL

MUSICA VIVA SESSIONS: KIRSTY MCCAHON and KERRYN JOYCE @ NSW HERBARIUM

Above : Percussionist and Taikoz member Kerryn Joyce performed in session alongside Kirsty McCahon, pictured below.

This entertainment concept, which took the Musica Viva audience away from the regular concert stage venue was a clear success.

It brought the intimacy of chamber music to a space within an historic building, namely the National Herbarium of NSW’s lecture theatre. As an audience we walked through the working spaces of the herbarium’s archives and down stairwells to arrive at the lecture space.

Following the session experience, with the range of carefully chosen music freshly sown in our memories, we were treated to a night time walk through the surrounding Royal Botanic Gardens to one of its main gates.

This event was not accompanied by a typically detailed Musica Viva printed programme. This allowed greater focus on the two session artists, bassist Kirsty McCahon with percussionist, composer and taiko specialist Kerryn Joyce. Continue reading MUSICA VIVA SESSIONS: KIRSTY MCCAHON and KERRYN JOYCE @ NSW HERBARIUM

CD: ‘CELEBRARE’ – SYDNEY CONSERVATORIUM OF MUSIC WIND SYMPHONY

Above: CD cover :  Celebrae (Klavier Music Productons K  11215) Featured Image   :   SCM Wind Symphony

The title of this CD,  Celebrare (Klavier K11215) is borrowed from Carl Vine’s orchestral work of 1993, Celebrare Celeberrime : a celebration for orchestra which begins the recording in its fine wind band arrangement form.

This title’s reference to celebration is a perfect theme for this CD. The CD was produced following the centenary of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, and live performances by SCM Wind Symphony at the institution’s Centenary Festival in 2015.

The recording, dated 2016, has been mastered with a pleasing bright clarity by Bruce Leek. This celebrates the sound of the school’s quality symphonic wind ensemble. The emergence of this CD also recognises the Sydney Conservatorium’s recent centenary as well as this music school’s efforts towards being at the international forefront of wind band interpretation. Two works on the recording were commissioned by the SCM Wind Symphony and appear as first recordings on this disc. Continue reading CD: ‘CELEBRARE’ – SYDNEY CONSERVATORIUM OF MUSIC WIND SYMPHONY

BALMAIN SINFONIA : CENTENARY CONCERT @ THE ITALIAN FORUM LEICHHARDT

Above: Tinel Dragoi performed Mozart’s Violin Concerto No 5 with the Balmain Sinfonia. Featured image: Director of Music for Balmain Sinfonia, Gary Stavrou OAM

This was Balmain Sinfonia’s 100th concert, and the orchestra’s popular contribution to the local performance scene since its inaugural concert in May 1992 is truly cause for celebration.

This milestone Balmain Sinfonia concert included the usual fare of an excited audience, a diverse concert programme and interesting programme notes to help unpack and enhance the works presented.

The evening also offered champagne for all in the crowd and interspersed with the music were tributes by Director of Music Gary Stavrou OAM to founding members of the orchestra.

Audience participation in the form of the signature music trivia or Mystery Music  for the chance to win tickets to future concerts continued to engage old and new audience members alike.

Collaboration between the orchestra and a local soloist again was a feature of this concert. As always it introduced the audience to a great work and an accomplished artist. This concert saw Romanian-born violinist Tinel Dragoi  join the orchestra  on the stage.

In this concert his intelligent and expressive rendering of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No 5 in A major K 219 was a highlight of the first half.

In particular, the cadenza work was beautifully conveyed by this violinist’s intricate artistry. There was no showy or ingenuine note in his interpretation of the concerto. Instead, a simply elegant and exacting development of Mozart’s extensive musical ingredients and language ensued.

Mozartean drama and a sufficiently sympathetic accompaniment were provided by the smaller ranks of Balmain Sinfonia exposed in this work.

The first half of the concert began with two atmospheric works by the chemist-composer Alexander Borodin. For this celebratory concert, such a choice of composer rang out a keen note of comparison to formidable conductor Gary Stavrou, whose early qualifications were in pharmacy.

We heard Borodin’s descriptive works In the Steppes of Central Asia and the Prince Igor Overture. On this occasion the second work was especially successful in conveying the depth of tone colour and mood necessary for painting Borodin’s fine vistas and characterisations.

After interval the Balmain Sinfonia supplied us with more colourful playing as Dvorak’s Symphony No 8 in G major Op 88 was boldly delivered.

The first movement, allegro con brio, endeared us to Dvorak’s signature evocative and gentle development of musical material.

It also showed off the talents of Balmain Sinfonia in their centenary concert.

Through the remainder of this symphony we were taken on a quality excursion. Firstly, through an expanded adagio, here  well played to portray Dvorak’s unique approach to drama and also the legacy of such slow movements as written by Beethoven.

The orchestra contrasted this movement with a successfully lilting allegretto grazioso third movement and concluded with a fourth movement rich in brass fanfares and here with a well structured delivery of Dvorak’s version of the classic theme and variations structure. As in the Borodin works, there were repeated moments of fine playing from Balmain Sinfonia’s wind and brass choirs throughout this symphony.

Bravo and Happy Birthday to the Balmain Sinfonia for its 100th event. This is an achievement, as is its continued fostering of a firm fan base and team of capable volunteers. Both these are assets in the modern concert-making environment.

Balmain Sinfonia’s next performance on September 23 promises to entertain. It will include Khachaturian, Respighi, orchestra members playing Bach’s Concerto for Oboe and Clarinet orchestra, and Mozart’s  Symphony No 25 in G minor K 183, which had its opening feature in the film Amadeus.

 

 

ROCKDALE MUSICAL SOCIETY PRESENTS ‘RENT’ @ ROCKDALE TOWN HALL

Above: Charles McComb as Roger. Featured image: the full ensemble sing  ‘Seasons Of Love’

Giacomo Puccini, was the composer of La Boheme the opera on which the musical RENT is based. He adored the chance to present confronting plots with a range of characters, as well as scenes both joyous and tragic. He wedded music to an operatic libretto which demanded naturalistic performances dripping in genuine chemistry.

Puccini would love this visceral and evocative Rockdale Musical Society production of RENT as deftly directed by Kate Berger. The clear treatment of Jonathan Larson’s score by musical director David Lang would also titillate Puccini’s musical drama palette, which savoured purely atmospheric soundscapes over which a tapestry of exuberant and decaying energies were colourfully contrasted.

Rockdale Musical Society’s wintry 2017 RENT succeeds amongst assorted attempts by community theatre contemporaries due to the fiercely believable quality which imbues all singing, and action on the stage. Many of the main characters are superbly well cast and chemistry between the main Bohemists struggling to find love and avoid death in a poor and drug-filled neighbourhood cuts keenly. Continue reading ROCKDALE MUSICAL SOCIETY PRESENTS ‘RENT’ @ ROCKDALE TOWN HALL

ANGELA HEWITT PIANO RECITAL @ CITY RECITAL HALL

 

This matinee event at the City Recital Hall, Angel Place was the final recital concert in Angela Hewitt’s recent national tour with Musica Viva. Hewitt hailed Musica Viva as world class prior to encores, recognising them as a world leader in tour presentation and support. This fine partnership was matched by exquisite interpretations of Bach and early Beethoven by Hewitt which reinforced her international superstar status.

The programme demonstrated pure balance and symmetry just as successfully as the pianist’s excellent and even command of fugue and counterpoint. Each half of the concert consisted of a substantial Bach Partita with a well-known Beethoven sonata to follow.

The Partita format was a fine vehicle with which to present Angela Hewitt’s consummate and quite legendary Bach interpretative skills. New and existing fans delighted in the fine control, contrasts in character between the dance movements and layers of nuance selected to create a Bach keyboard sound for the piano. This sound never directly imitated the Baroque instruments nor did it drown out the music’s subtleties by using sound options from the modern instrument’s arsenal. Continue reading ANGELA HEWITT PIANO RECITAL @ CITY RECITAL HALL

OMEGA ENSEMBLE : SONGS FROM THE BUSH @ THE UTZON ROOM

 

Above : Composer of Songs From The Bush, Ian Munro. Featured image : Omega Ensemble clarinettist and Co-Artistic Director, David Rowden.

Omega Ensemble again presented a chamber music concert in the delectable Utzon Room setting which championed works combining the clarinet with string quartet.

David Rowden’s seamless and sonorous clarinet tone across all instrumental registers and compositional style spoke beautifully to us throughout the event, sensitively supported by the Omega Ensemble strings.

The five versatile musicians blended expertly in an eclectic programme featuring two recent Australian works. A rarely heard clarinet quintet from the late nineteenth century was introduced to the audience and a popular Mozart string quartet was thrown elegantly into the mix. Continue reading OMEGA ENSEMBLE : SONGS FROM THE BUSH @ THE UTZON ROOM

MET ORCHESTRA #2 : FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

Precision, a wide spectrum of nuance and continued fine rapport as an orchestra allowed formidable expression throughout TMO’s latest Met Concert, entitled FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE at the Eugene Goosens Hall, the ABC Centre.

Getting the event off to a flying start was the overture to Glinka’s opera Ruslan and Ludmilla. A successful choice to initially energise the atmosphere, this piece rocketed out at a brisk pace.
In this way the concert was given an exciting opening from one of the fathers of traditional Russian music. TMO’s track record of excellence in delivery of dramatic musical moments with directness and solid character continued here.

Continue reading MET ORCHESTRA #2 : FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE

SYDNEY CHAMBER CHOIR: GERMAN ROMANTICS @ THE GREAT HALL, SYDNEY UNI

Above: Conductor Sam Allchurch. Featured Image: Members of the Sydney Chamber Choir- Photo Credit Nick Gilbert

The Sydney Chamber Choir has started its impressive 2017 season with a concert swathed in exciting emotional moments and exquisite restraint. Audience members who can attend all events in this season will cherish some special experiences of major works. The choir’s skilfully balanced programmes will also successfully juxtapose smaller works from many different time periods.

For this ‘German Romantics’ concert the choir was led by Sam Allchurch in a joyous cavalcade of German choral music. The selected works ranged in chronology from Schubert’s Gott ist mein Hirt (The Lord is my Shepherd) composed in 1820 to Arnold Schoenberg’s Friede auf Erden (Peace on Earth) written in 1907.                   Continue reading SYDNEY CHAMBER CHOIR: GERMAN ROMANTICS @ THE GREAT HALL, SYDNEY UNI

BALMAIN SINFONIA IMPRESSES WITH ITS FIRST CONCERT FOR 2017

 

Director of Music for the Balmain Sinfonia, Gary Stavrou was awarded an OAM in the 2017 Australia Day awards. The orchestra’s first concert illustrated yet again the calibre of his service to the Sydney music scene. The orchestra performed admirably under his baton in a diverse and artistically challenging programme which featured a broad historic swoop of music from Mozart to Mahler.

Exciting as always was the procuring of a local soloist of high standard to collaborate with Stavrou and the orchestra. This time, much awarded soprano Zoe Drummond  demonstrated how effective the choice of a vocalist can be as a soloist in an orchestral concert. As in past concerts, the Balmain Sinfonia did rise to the occasion as a very sympathetic accompanist for the tonal colour of a vocal soloist.

The concert opened with an arrangement of Debussy’s Petite Suite originally composed for piano four hands in 1889. Each of the four movements was realised and performed with admirable clarity and appropriate sense of character. Continue reading BALMAIN SINFONIA IMPRESSES WITH ITS FIRST CONCERT FOR 2017

THE HOMOSEXUALS, OR FAGGOTS @ THE STABLES

Above: Mama Alto as Pam and Simon Corfield as Kim. Featured image: Simon Burke as Warren and Lincoln Younes as Lucacz. Photo credit : Brett Boardman.

In this hilarious but incisive play we first meet Warren and Kim. They are a modern gay Sydney couple with, by modern terms, a lot to be happy about. Or are they really?

They have been together for several years, are married on a non-legal level in this country and have a labyrinthine studio in Darlo which affords a view of the Mardi Gras parade from the toilet window. They recently closed an entire hotel with an online petition which was serving a traditional meatball dish named ‘faggots’. Continue reading THE HOMOSEXUALS, OR FAGGOTS @ THE STABLES

MONKEY BAA BRINGS A CLASSIC AUSTRALIAN KIDS STORY VIVIDLY TO LIFE

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

THE METROPOLITAN ORCHESTRA-“MASTERWORKS” @ EUGENE GOOSSENS HALL

 

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.

 

OMEGA ENSEMBLE-HAYDN AND MOZART @ THE UTZON ROOM

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

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING @ THE GENESIAN THEATRE

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

NICOLE LIZEE WITH THE AUSTRALIAN ART ORCHESTRA @ RECITAL HALL

 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

SYDNEY FESTIVAL : ANTHROPOLOGIES IMAGINAIRES @ SEYMOUR CENTRE

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

THE METROPOLITAN ORCHESTRA-MET CONCERT 5 @ EUGENE GOOSSENS HALL

 

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.

Overture to a Midsummer Night’s Dream (1826) created by a teenage Mendelssohn and Symphony No 7 (1812) composed by Beethoven in the final fifteen years of his life framed an exciting central work, Ornamental Air for Basset Clarinet and Orchestra (2007) by Elena Kats-Chernin. Continue reading THE METROPOLITAN ORCHESTRA-MET CONCERT 5 @ EUGENE GOOSSENS HALL

ACACIA QUARTET PRESENTS HARBOUR LIGHT @ THE UTZON ROOM, SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

 

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.

MUSICA VIVA PRESENTS BEILMAN AND TYSON IN CONCERT @ CITY RECITAL HALL

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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 dramatic performances began with late Mozart, namely his Sonata No 35 in A major K526 (‘for Piano and Violin’) from 1787. Mozart, if emerging from a time machine to Angel Place, would have been re-energised to discover the depth of conversation and instrumental blend occurring. Continue reading MUSICA VIVA PRESENTS BEILMAN AND TYSON IN CONCERT @ CITY RECITAL HALL