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.


Above: Warwick Fyfe as Sancho Panza with ensemble members. Featured image: Elena Maximova with cast as Dulcinea (La Belle Dulcinee). Photo credit: Prudence Upton

Massenet’s setting of the Don Quixote tale and legend brings to Sydney a new production for Opera Australia and a unique version of this popular story. Here, themes of the deluded ‘knight’ from La Mancha as an outsider and the fatal pains of love unrequited are brought to the fore in the place of excessive ridicule of the title character. The results are charming, elegant and atmospheric. This opera explores human emotion alongside the comedy. Continue reading DON QUICHOTTE @ THE DAME JOAN SUTHERLAND THEATRE


Above : Period flautist Melissa Farrow. Featured image : Some of the AHE members for the 2018 season.

Australian Haydn Ensemble commenced its 2018 concert season by doing what it does best-giving its audience an intense snapshot of musical history in a varied programme. A quality arrangement of
a well known orchestral work for chamber music performance was also included. The works presented, all by Haydn, dated from consecutive years 1793, 1794 and 1795 and gave a fine
illustration of the composer building his reputation during working visits to London after 1791. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN HAYDN ENSEMBLE @ THE UTZON ROOM


The 2018 line-up for The Idea of North : (l to r) Kai Kitamura, Luke Thompson, Nick Begbie, Naomi Crellin and Emma Rule. 

The first concert in The Independent Theatre’s Prelude in Tea and Song Series for 2018 was a sold-out event, featuring the unique vocal arrangements and blend of The Idea of North. This group’s
reputation and popularity continue to enjoy an enthusiastic following even after twenty-five years entertaining Australian audiences. Continue reading THE IDEA OF NORTH @ THE INDEPENDENT THEATRE NORTH SYDNEY


The creatives from SOQ, Graham Sattler (baritone) and Stephen O’Connell (saxophone) joined TMO to perform the premiere of their song cycle, ‘Beauty’. Photo credit for this and  featured image : John B Chen

It was a thrill to have the performance and interpretative talents of The Metropolitan Orchestra back before us for the start of their 2018 and tenth anniversary season. We heard a work from the Finnish composer Sibelius and the well-known Symphony No. 9 ‘From the New World’ by Sibelius’ contemporary, Dvorak.
These works by great late nineteenth orchestral composers framed an Australian song cycle in its premiere performance. Continue reading THE METROPOLITAN ORCHESTRA : MET CONCERT 1 @ EUGENE GOOSSENS HALL


Above : Skye McIntosh, Artistic Director of Australian Haydn Ensemble.                                        Featured image: fortepianist Neal Peres Da Costa.


The most recent CD from Australian Haydn Ensemble is an exciting release. Australian Haydn Ensemble : Beethoven Piano Concertos 1 & 3 – Chamber Versions appears after a cycle of all Beethoven concertos was presented during live concerts in chamber music format by AHE. It also marks the second CD release in as many years from AHE, following on from a successful recording debut in 2016 with The Haydn Album on the ABC Classics label. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN HAYDN ENSEMBLE : BEETHOVEN PIANO CONCERTOS 1 & 3


Above: writer-performers of FAG/STAG, (left to right) Jeffrey Jay Fowler and Chris Isaacs. Featured image: (left to right) Chris Isaacs and Jeffery Jay Fowler. Production images: Robert Catto @robertcattophotographer on Facebook.

FAG /STAG is the first play to be presented by Griffin Theatre Company for 2018. Sexuality-discordant friends Jimmy and Corgan, united by a love of gaming and a metaphorical urge to succeed in life by happily reaching the next level of Donkey Kong.

The heart-on-the-sleeve ambition of the two friends includes an intense drive to be successful in the love/lust/desire/where-is-my-soulmate/for-god’s-sake-don’t-make-me-be-alone game that life makes us play without any clear rules. Continue reading FAG/STAG : GRIFFIN THEATRE COMPANY


Above: Alexander Lewis and Danielle de Niese as Danilo Danilovich and Hanna Glavari. Featured image: Danielle de Niese and male ensemble.

It is a challenge to present a modern public with something of a soap-operetta like The Merry Widow. This light work profiles gender, marriage and loyalty to a small state very specifically and in a contrasting way to our contemporary approach.

However, the cast and creatives at Opera Australia, and Lehár’s direct and beautiful score as interpreted with infectious lilt by Vanessa Scammell save the day in this regard. The attractive, engaging production spills over us with sumptuous momentum, visual delights and a dazzling, physicality to the storytelling. Continue reading OPERA AUSTRALIA: THE MERRY WIDOW @ DAME JOAN SUTHERLAND THEATRE


Above: (left to right) Susie Bishop, Tommie Andersson and Jennifer Eriksson perform a bracket of Swedish Music. Photo credit : Geoff Sirmai. Featured image : (left to right) concert ensemble members Emily-Rose Šárkova, Susie Bishop, Jennifer Eriksson, Steve Elphick and Shaun Ng. Photo credit Philip Pogson.

In her programme notes, founder and director of The Marais Project, Jennifer Eriksson commented that it is ‘hard to know how to add anything to the mix’ of Christmas concerts. During the final ‘Prelude in Tea’ chamber music concert at The Independent Theatre in North Sydney, such concern was shown to be totally unwarranted. Not only was a highly international programme presented capturing the history, essence and celebratory nature of Christmas, but key goals of any Marais Project concert were also satisfied. Continue reading THE MARAIS PROJECT: A CHRISTMAS ADVENTURE @ INDEPENDENT THEATRE


Above: Dr Erin Helyard conducted from the  harpsichord and was soloist in C.P.E Bach’s Keyboard Concerto in C major. Featured image: Skye MacIntosh, Artistic Director of Australian Haydn Ensemble.

This final concert from Australian Haydn Ensemble (AHE) in its 2017 season was a dramatic delight featuring fine works from the later eighteenth century orchestral repertoire.

Anthony Albrecht’s quality programme notes featured a quote from Haydn about his creative seclusion in the Esterhazy court where he ‘had to become original’.

All works from the composers in this programme were meaty examples of how musical masters pioneered the conveying of mood and feeling in musical environments. The relevant affectations shone in the hands of AHE in its full orchestral mode. Especially enjoyable were two works in the programme’s centre from the individual, radical and emotionally outspoken C.P.E Bach. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN HAYDN ENSEMBLE: C.P.E BACH, MOZART AND HAYDN @ CITY RECITAL HALL


Above : Guitarist Giuseppe Zangari plays Rodrigo’s  ‘Concerto De Aranjuez’ with TMO. Featured image : conductor Sarah-Grace Williams leads TMO during the final concert for 2017. Photo credit : John B C Images. 

‘New Beginnings’ was TMO’s final Met Concert in this year’s series, and the  last performance for 2017. It communicated with signature energy and freshness across a diverse programme. The concert began with a world premiere then forged an expressive path back through time, covering a guitar concerto before finishing with Beethoven’s mighty Symphony No 3 {‘Eroica’). Continue reading THE METROPOLITAN ORCHESTRA: MET CONCERT 5 @ PETERSHAM TOWN HALL


Above : Catalin Ungureanu – violinist for the Arensky Piano Trio No 1 in D minor and  the Ravel String Quartet in F major

‘Ravel Impressions’ at City Recital Hall was the final concert from Omega Ensemble in its 2017 Virtuoso Series and for all concert series in the year. Whilst celebrating the trio and quartet genres from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries, Omega Ensemble presented an entertainment which was consistently stylish and elevated. Once more their programme allowed a demonstration of the talented virtuosi at Omega’s disposal. The chamber music skill on display soared with constant class into the artistic stratosphere.

The first half of the concert juxtaposed a Russian piano trio from the late Romantic period with a more well-known clarinet trio written by Mozart in 1786. The concert’s second half consisted of a joyous reunion of a piano trio by Gabriel Fauré and the famous string quartet by his pupil Maurice Ravel. This concert also paid homage to teacher-composers, as both Arensky and Fauré were prolific music educators of their time at the St Petersburg and Paris Conservatories respectively. Continue reading OMEGA ENSEMBLE : RAVEL IMPRESSIONS @ CITY RECITAL HALL


Above: Paul Cutlan, composer of the recording’s title track, Spinning Forth. Featured image : Jenny Eriksson, viola da gambist and founder of The Marais Project

‘Spinning Forth’ (Move Records, MCD564) is the latest recording from The Marais Project. Founder of this project, Jenny Eriksson, has once again guaranteed that as well as providing a beautiful listening experience this is a CD which is rich in contrast.

It contains successful and striking juxtapositions of style, mood,
instrumentation, and blends different compositional homelands or time periods. From the project that is working its way through the oeuvre of gambist Marin Marais, we are here treated to new Australian music, able to access Swedish music and hear the viola da gamba explore music from colonial Australia in arrangement for early music instruments.

The work by Marais featured on this CD is a stunningly solemn arrangement for the penultimate track. Jennifer Eriksson’s nicely balanced arrangement for two viols da gamba and theorbo of the Tombeau pour Marais le Cadet (from Pièces de violes, Book V, 1725).  In the renamed Tombeau for John Dowland, first performed at a concert in 2013 for the 450th anniversary of Dowlands birth, Eriksson is ably joined by Catherine Upex on the second viola da gamba and Tommie Andersson on theorbo. The arrangement gives a full and even sound, celebrating the expressive skills of both Marais and the group of Sydney-based early musicians. Continue reading CD REVIEW : THE MARAIS PROJECT – ‘SPINNING FORTH’


Composer Lyle Chan, above, whose work “Andante Moderato” received a world premiere during this concert.

Acacia Quartet presented its most recent concert to an ecstatic reception from the assembled audience in the Sydney Opera House’s Utzon Room. Named ‘Rhythm and Texture’, this programme offered existing and new fans a modern classic of the string quartet repertoire plus a keenly diverse quartet of works from the mid twentieth century to right now.

Engaging and gripping from the outset, the concert from this prominent quartet on the Australian musical landscape drew on its collective experience and skill to present intricacies of rhythm in the ingenious works
selected. Broad, beautiful shifts of texture or successive textural complexities and string effects in the various modern works were also clearly demonstrated to the attentive audience. Continue reading ACACIA QUARTET: ‘RHYTHM and TEXTURE’ @ THE UTZON ROOM, SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE


Above, left to right: Tristan Entwistle plays Papageno,  Joshua Oxley in the role of Tamino with the Three Ladies Sitong Liu, Viktoria Bolonina and Jia Yao Sun. Featured image: the Three Spirits move  about the Egyptian-themed set. Photo credit – Christopher Hayles 

The latest fully staged production to showcase the talents of opera students at Sydney Conservatorium of Music is a slick revival of THE MAGIC FLUTE, Mozart’s final opera, as once performed and toured by Opera Australia. In an entertaining and colourful depiction of the singspiel’s  varied characters and concerns, the cast energetically recreate Michael Gow’s version, set in a Raiders of the Lost Ark-like Egyptian pyramid or tomb vault labyrinth. Continue reading CON OPERA : THE MAGIC FLUTE @ SYDNEY CONSERVATORIUM OF MUSIC


Conductor Roland Peelman indicated in his insightful pre-concert talk that this concert performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas was complemented by a programme of shorter vocal works all composed in the seventeenth century.

The result was as special as this interesting talk had us anticipate. Madrigals, laments, litanies and a scena entertained us in the first half of the programme. These works were all innovations by Monteverdi, save for a pair of radical madrigal expressions by Gesualdo.

The Gesualdo works were performed with all their boldness and rich harmonic radicalism completely celebrated. This made them a definite highlight of the concert’s first half. It is always worthwhile introducing audiences to this unique composer, and giving the existing Gesualdo fans a taste of the composer’s progressive harmonic accent live.

Another thrill of this compilation was the Lamento d’Arianna in its five part madrigal form rather than as an extended recitative by a soloist. This version was rich, lush and set the text of love tragically lost across male and female voices for a more universal expression of despair at predicament.

Monteverdi’s Laetaniae della Beata Vergine was a fine interpretation  of this composer’s forward thinking regarding sacred text setting. The singing was as consistent,  driving and reverent as such litanies demand.

To conclude the first half, the Lamenta della Ninfa by Monteverdi was sung and acted with pleasing clarity of tone and character by soprano Wei Jiang with dramatic male chorus providing narrative colour.

Following interval we were treated to a concert performance of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. More members of The Muffat Collective accompanied the choir and soloists in this half for an historically informed rendering of this much loved work.

David Greco brought a commanding , well ornamented and rich,  sensitive voice to the role of Aeneas, as the only principal not from the ranks of the Sydney Chamber Choir.

Greco’s stagecraft and commensurate acting skill was secure and his gestures economically powerful. His final scene with Dido was dramatic gold and a well timed, well balanced vocal sparring match.

The part of Belinda was realised by Megan Cronin with agile vocal delivery. The vocal lines were nicely adorned with complex and well executed decoration. Brief but fine  characterisation of the sailor was supplied by Ed Suttle, as well as Natalie Shea’s spirit. There was ensemble evil witchcraft present with increasing excitement from Wei Jiang, Ria Andriani and Josie Gibson.

For her well sculptured role of  Dido, Belinda Montgomery utilised a full palette of vocal hue, dramatic skill and swirls of nuance.  Her interaction with chorus and Belinda’s character was keen and genuine as she  brought us a Queen’s fragilities and hesitations  at attempting any expression of emotion.

Her trajectory towards love completely lost hurtled past us in beautiful and emphatic tone. This made her character a pivotal one in both the opera and in supporting the tragic themes of the entire concert.

Montgomery’s  final ‘When I Am Laid In Earth’ was a rendition which brought the emotion and musical elaboration freshly to us in impressively graded layers.

The Muffat Ensemble was truly at home with all the seventeenth century fare. They, as well as the  vocalists, were conducted clearly by Roland Peelman. The Collective provided a rich and charismatic tapestry over which all characterisations could be woven. Both  soloists and the chorus were sympathetically accompanied.

The chorus work was joyous, engaged, vibrant and rich as Purcell’s innovative sound effects were brought to the Great Hall stage. Perhaps  the offstage echo chorus seemed a slight bit unbalanced this time, but the echo volume drop element was successful. It was only a little tweaking needed to offstage part placement which would have made the echoes completely exact.

This concert had an evocative and well sung version of Purcell’s classic opera as the jewel in its crown. There were many jewels in this programming though and some real gems of performances from choir members and invited guests on stage. It was a well patronised and exciting concert with which to conclude the choir’s 2017 season. We look forward to 2018, with the first concert at the City Recital Hall on March 25.



Above: TMO Composer Development Programme finalist, Nigel Ubrihien. His work Mestizo Suite was premiered at this concert. Featured image-Artistic Director Sarah-Grace Williams conducts TMO.

TMO’s most recent Met Concert was a consistently stunning event. Mahler’s massive Symphony Number 1 in D major and the world premiere of a new Australian work, Nigel Ubrihien’s Mestizo Suite, fleshed out this programme.

 This intense concert experience without interval celebrated the ingenuity of both composers, not scared to push the boundaries of the traditional symphonic genre with their high level of imagination and communicative skill.
The inclusion of Nigel Ubrihien’s work was due to him being a finalist in TMO’s Composer Development Programme. This significant project with contemporary Australian composers benefits the musical community at large and brings new music to audiences, satisfyingly premiered by TMO.
Ubrihien’s compact yet expressive  work was not dwarfed by the Mahler symphony. They rather bounced off each other because of the similar way, years apart,  the two composers approached the unearthing of narrative content or emotion as well as creating a keen sense of place.
The musing of Mahler as we follow his ‘wayfarer’ character are mirrored to an extent in Ubrihien’s thought-provoking study of variety, colour and the possibilities of multiculturalism in Mexico and Australia by extension.
TMO’s precise realisation of gesture in Ubrihien’s new work ensured characters and feelings were both clearly conveyed  and cleanly delivered. Penetrating outbursts of drama were always on standby. Such an approach made for a very effective premiere of this suite, and a smooth segue to the sensory smash hit  of the much anticipated Mahler First followed with  its epic tale to be told.
With regards to the impressive or ‘Extraordinary First ‘ of TMO performing the Mahler 1 with an extended band of over ninety players, it would be incorrect to just describe the efforts displayed as a rite of passage or ‘coming of age’ moment. The standard of orchestral playing witnessed and conductor Sarah-Grace William’s interpretation of the work’s complex flux was simply too mature and assured for the weakness of such labels.
The continued confidence on show and elevated nature of the performance rather showed TMO to have matured some time ago. The navigation through the score and extra musical concerns to paint this sprawling story in exquisite colours put TMO’s established talents up in lights.  The orchestra delivered Mahler which was full of substance and successful subtleties, nicely carved lines and portions of pure quirkiness.
This was a generous interpretation of the score but resisted all temptations to overplay. When exposed solo lines and fragments flicked across the orchestral backdrops they were exquisitely vulnerable but eloquent and firm from all soloists involved.
The symphony’s opening movement contained an exquisite restraint and control. There were many pleasing moments of seamless and hushed exposition. From this finely sculptured platform,  glorious climaxes then unfolded organically whether all of a sudden or following an admirably gauged and prolonged build up. Percussionists, timpanists, horns  and harpist in particular crowned many tutti moments with scintillating filigree and sheer power.
Mahler’s fine sense of experimentation with melodic development, form and tone colour was handled here with caricature and with his trademark dark humour intact.  This composer’s sense of surprise was present, making the listening experience literally an edge-of-the-seat one.
The approach to the borrowing of the tune to ‘Frère Jacques’, hauntingly suggested in this venue by solo double bass, was developed through interesting guises across the huge orchestra. Such entries  were never restless, perfunctory or off-hand.
In this way there was no aimless wandering on behalf of TMO throughout  either work in this concert. The degree to which they worked as a team to present this work in a direct and straightfoward manner also allowed for a  magical array of colours and the tracing of large trajectories with interesting sonic effects. This was quite a masterful and  accomplished orchestral execution.
The next Met Concert on 25 November promises to entertain also. There is more New Music, the Rodrigo Guitar Concerto and Beethoven’s Symphony No 3.


Above: cast members Aanisa Vylet and Mansoor Noor (botton row), Dina Gillespie and Alissar Gazal (middle row) and Sal Sharah (rear). Featured image: Alissar Gazal, Dina Gillespie, Aanisa Vylet and Mansoor Noor. Photo Credit: Michael Bourchier.

Where the Streets Had a Name is a NSW Secondary School English text. The insights into life in the Arab-Israeli conflict areas, as revealed by teenager Hayaat and her family and friends, make it a worthwhile study text in our peaceful country.

Monkey Baa Theatre Company’s Creative Director and Producer Eva Di Cesare has vividly and economically converted Randah Abdel-Fattah’s text to the stage. It’s passion and revealing truths remain intact as we are gifted with a great big bottle-load of earthy hope, humanity and hard-hitting courage.

An exciting set makes use of imposing cement walls from which evocative flashback videos emerge. There is clever manipulation of set fragments to change from home to street to bus. The family scenes are hectic, sprawling and chaotic across the stage, but can also be focused and tender, as in the scene digesting X Factor together. Continue reading MONKEY BAA THEATRE PRESENTS ‘WHERE THE STREETS HAD A NAME’ @ LEND LEASE THEATRE


Above: Tom Henry, composer of the commissioned work, Uncertain Journeys. Featured Image:  The Australian Chamber Choir.

Fear. Invasion. Displacement. Isolation. These are emotions which have been experienced by peoples under violent siege from Biblical times right through to modern day refugees. Vocal protests, outcries or laments are believable reactions of victims trapped in such crystallised crises.

In this most recent internationally-toured concert, Australian Chamber Choir Musical Director Douglas Lawrence created a sequence of a capella choral music to highlight text-setting dealing with such anguish.

This musical offering used a well-structured programme centred around the sorrowful cries of the ancient Israelites forced into Babylonia. The phrase ‘By the waters of Babylon we sat down and wept’ was in keeping with the erssence of other collectively programmed works. It was expanded to include other types of persecution, fear and loss of place, as the music sung highlighted the plight of such human condition, always giving it a superb choral voice. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER CHOIR @ ST MARY’S CATHEDRAL CRYPT


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


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


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.


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.



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


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


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