Classical Music

ACO SOLOISTS TAKE CENTRE STAGE @ CITY RECITAL HALL

This very exciting concert blended world premieres and nineteenth century Romanticism in a program of six relatively short works.

The program featured performances by three soloists – violinists Satu Vanska and Glenn Christensen and cellist Timo-Veikko Valve.

Ruth Crawford Seeger’s Andante (for her 1931 String Quartet) opened the concert. It began slowly almost eerily with sharp, spiky, dissonant, shimmering strings. The piece was intense and atmospheric and filled with moments of calm and jarring disharmony. The ACO’s renowned precision for detail was on show in terms of phrasing, articulation and the ability to keep body movement to a minimum.

Vivaldi’s Concerto in G minor for two violins and cello with a glittering, crisp and precise performance displayed the ACO’s ability to be vigorous and exact, particularly in the opening movement. After a soft, rather tentative and slow start, the piece turned into something quite  tempestuous, though one section sounded like delicate raindrops. Continue reading ACO SOLOISTS TAKE CENTRE STAGE @ CITY RECITAL HALL

LIVE AT LUNCH : MONET : THE FLOWERS OF WAR @ THE CONCOURSE

 

Celloist David Pereira. Images by Steven Godbee

One hundred years after the First World War, bullets, bones and bombs are still being discovered by farmers in the fields of France. They remind us of the men of Australia, New Zealand, Britain, Germany, and France who died so painfully in the trenches in the rain and mud.

I was privileged to be at this latest Live at Lunch concert and hear this luminous, soulful performance.

The marvellous quartet of musicians consisted of Jane Rutter on flute, Tamara-Anna Cislowska on piano, David Pereira on cello and Christopher Lantham ( the director of The Flowers of War) on violin. Rutter wore a striking kimono/suit like outfit in turquoise and black the other performers were in orchestral black. Continue reading LIVE AT LUNCH : MONET : THE FLOWERS OF WAR @ THE CONCOURSE

HONG KONG PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA @ THE CONCERT HALL

This is the first time the Hong Kong Philharmonic has visited Australia in its 43-year history. Its 2017 Tour was led by internationally-renowned conductor maestro Jaap van Zweden, Music Director of the Hong Kong Philharmonic since the 2012/13 season, who conducted with elegance, aplomb and a terrific sense of timing and phrasing

The ambitious programme included the Australian premiere of Quintessence, a new work by Hong Kong composer Dr Fung Lam as well as Mozart’s Violin Concerto no. 4 and Mahler’s Symphony no. 1.

The opening work Dr Fung Lam’s Quintessence which tries to define and express the Buddhist ideas of striving towards one’s highest goals and attainment. Fung Lam is the orchestra’s Director of Orchestral Planning and the first Hong Kong composer ever to be commissioned by the BBC.
Continue reading HONG KONG PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA @ THE CONCERT 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

SPANISH BAROQUE : THE AUSTRALIAN BRANDENBURG ORCHESTRA AND CIRCA @ CITY RECITAL HALL

The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Circa have reunited for a glorious blend of Baroque music and circus at the City Recital Hall.

The performance was inspired by the Brandenburg’s ARIA Award-winning CD Tapas, which includes plenty of percussion, guitar and theorbo, and lashings of violin bravado, with music by Albéniz, Merula, Murcia, Martinez and more.

The two special guests were Baroque guitarist Stefano Maiorana from Rome and soprano Natasha Wilson from New Zealand making her Australian debut.

Circa’s artistic director Yaron Lifschitz’s choreography astutely blended sensational dazzling solos and breathtaking ensemble routines while always harmonising with the spirit of the music. It was a fluid combination of tumbling, gymnastics, balancing and aerial numbers , in various jaw-dropping sections making you blink and go “ I see it but I don’t believe it“. Dangerous dives, throws and catches were included as well as feats of strength and daring as well as sometimes triple-level human pyramids. Continue reading SPANISH BAROQUE : THE AUSTRALIAN BRANDENBURG ORCHESTRA AND CIRCA @ CITY RECITAL HALL

AUSTRALIAN HAYDN ENSEMBLE PRESENTS MELVYN TAN AND HAYDN’S PARIS @ CITY RECITAL HALL

 

Join the Australian Haydn Ensemble (AHE) and Artistic Director Skye McIntosh as they present one of the world’s greatest forte-pianists, Melvyn Tan, in a program inspired by the beauty and romance of classical Paris.

Melvyn Tan, a pioneer of performance on historical instruments is renowned for his ‘silvery virtuosity’.  Exploration, insight and imagination are vital ingredients in Melvyn Tan’s blend of artistic attributes.

Tan will perform the Mozart concerto No.18 in B flat major, written for the Parisian pianist, Maria Theresa von Paradis.

The Ensemble will also present the Australian premiere of a symphony by Chevalier de Saint-Georges, the legendary African Parisian violinist, director, swordsman, soldier and composer, known as The Black Mozart. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN HAYDN ENSEMBLE PRESENTS MELVYN TAN AND HAYDN’S PARIS @ CITY RECITAL HALL

GLORY : WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA IN CONCERT @ THE CONCOURSE

Featured image : Chilean born Composer in Residence Daniel Rojas.

This was a magnificent, thrilling performance by the combined forces of the Willoughby Symphony Orchestra and Choir under the umbrella title GLORY (no, not the song from Pippin) as conducted by maestro Simon Kenway.

Charismatic Kenway was energetic, enthusiastic and precise and introduced each of the three works briefly putting them in context. Under his baton the Orchestra was in fine form and displayed  a lyrical, warm tone.

The concert opened with a lush, intense presentation of Faure’s Pelléas and Mélisande, a suite in four movements of Faure’s music for Maternlick’s play.

The magical mysterious discovery of Melisande is described in the first section – the Prelude began in traditional French Baroque form, rather slow and stately with lush strings that ebbed and flowed throughout. The section featured stormy horns and woodwind.

In  the passionate second movement, Melisande at the spinning wheel  is evoked – you can hear the whirring as she spins.  Faure captures her charm and apparent innocence. Prick your ears to listen for the interplay of soprano and tenor melodies in conversation, especially when the second theme emerges from solo clarinet and horn. The oboe however is the primary ‘singer’ of this song without words.

The third section is the famous Sicilienne featuring a delicate, limpid flute solo, and the orchestra shimmering and bubbling.

Then came the turbulent finale of the death of Melisande, which was played at the end of Fauré’s funeral, as his coffin was carried from the church.

The next piece in the program was a Latin piano concerto by  Dr Daniel Rojas, Composer-in-Residence. Dr Rojas is renowned as an award-winning composer specialising in the Latin American aesthetic, as well as an acclaimed pianist with stunning live improvisations.

Chilean born, Rojas draws on his heritage and a broad musical palette that includes Latin American indigenous, folk, classical and popular traditions, as well as Western classical and jazz techniques.

His concerto blended refined classicism and explosive Latin -American rhythms in three challenging movements.

Rojas’ playing was very energetic and emphatic. He played with enormous authority and exceptional technique – at times shimmering and birdlike, at other times blisteringly fast and joyously explosive when it came to the Latin-American dance rhythms.

The first movement was a showcase for Rojas’ bravura playing, thoughtfully accompanied by the Orchestra. The second movement was more a dialogue between piano and orchestra and the third movement included achingly beautiful violin segments.

The thrilling dynamic work was brought to a breathless , exuberant finish . For this work Kenway was hidden from the view of most of the audience – he was behind the piano so the Orchestra could see him.

The audience applauded rapturously and for an encore we heard Rojas’ arrangement of the soulful, passionate Resureccion del Angel, by Astor Piazzolla.

After interval came the very strong and powerful performance of Poulenc’s Gloria , with Laura Scandizzo as soprano soloist .( Scandizzo has previously performed with the Willoughby Symphony in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony for their Joy concert) .Among other choreographers Sir Kenneth Macmillan and Graeme Murphy have used this work for their ballets . Poulenc’s work is short and intense. First performed in 1961 it is a setting of the Gloria from the Catholic Mass in Latin in six short movements. It is full of joy yet threading through it is humility and a luminous clarity.

The packed Choir and Orchestra were superb in a thrilling performance. From the start we become aware of its human focus yet grand scope – a lofty fanfare segues into a somewhat lighter register blowing away hints of royalty or superior aloofness penetrating chords contribute to the sense of continuing quest , but this ebbs as the choir becomes a corroborative authority figure over eddying strings. We are taken on a wheeling kaleidoscopic journey of emotions including wonder, jubilation and satisfaction as well as humility.

The opening was bright and stately the chorus entering with a prominent dotted figure to the word ‘Gloria’, which forms the basis of this movement.In the second movement Laudamus Te the choir bubbled and rippled with pairs of voices -; altos and basses , sopranos and tenors – exchanging a series of short, succinct phrases. In the Domine Deus,with its glorious flute accompaniment, Scandizzo was pleading, sombre and reflective. In the fourth movement the choir and orchestra combined in a lush thrilling blend of six bubbling melodies.

In the Domine Deus and Agnus Dei there was an ominous ticking sound underlying its relentless ,sweeping rhythms .Listen out for the eight point harmony of the Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris and the soaring final Amen as sung by Scandizzo and then echoed by the choir with haunting woodwind brings everything to a radiant conclusion.

Running time 2 hours 10 minutes (roughly) including interval.

GLORY by the Willoughby Symphony was at the Concourse April 29 & 30 2017

 

A PRELUDE IN TEA : MARK ISAACS @ THE INDEPENDENT

The perfect Sunday afternoon out!

A PRELUDE IN TEA is a Sunday chamber music series offering a delicious afternoon tea as a prelude to a virtuosic afternoon concert of music at the splendid Independent Theatre in North Sydney.

Whilst last Sunday’s performance was not quite the Chamber music that some had subscribed to it was nevertheless a very enjoyable one.

This month’s recital featured the accomplished and renowned Australian pianist and composer Mark Isaacs.

Isaacs replaced the previously scheduled Enigma Trio on extremely short notice after a 12 month absence from the recital stage. He had just a mere two weeks to prepare and perform a lovely program of Chopin, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Satie, Poulenc as well as playing some of his own original compositions, all delivered with fervour and passion.

Isaacs is one of the few musicians with interests both in the classical and jazz music world including film, television and theatre. His output encompasses both classical (over 90 works) and jazz, and takes in orchestral music – including a symphony (2013) as well as works for piano and orchestra

The concert began with Chopin’s Nocturne in D flat Major, Op. 27 No. 2, a glorious piece of music in Lento sostenuto style i.e. “slow and sustained”. His left hand played beautiful arpeggios throughout the entire piece and his right hand brought out the melody in a sustained yet delicate manner. His crescendos and decrescendos were gradual and the cadenza towards the end was delivered superbly.

What followed next were Chopin’s Etude Op. 10, No. 3 (“Tristesse”) with its poetic and lingering ‘sad’ melody played confidently by Isaacs with feeling and emotion. It’s a most beautiful melody. This was followed by the Etude Op. 25 No.  1 “Aeolian Harp” with its flowing use of rapid arpeggios requiring both dexterity and velocity.

Next came 3 Rachmaninoff Preludes in D major, Op. 23 No. 4, Prelude in E flat major, Op. 23 No.6 and Prelude in G sharp minor, Op. 32 No.12. The soulful melancholy melodies and noted use of arpeggios in these piece suited this pianist well.

The Debussy ‘Arabesque No. 1’ piece followed. One could sense that this piece resonated strongly with this pianist. The flowing, melodic and impressionistic style of Debussy has been quoted as an influence on some of Isaac’s style and compositions.

Eric Satie Gymnopedie No. 1 followed played in a highly restrained soulful manner completing the first half of the program with Francis Poulenc ‘Intermezzo No. 2 in D flat major’.

The second half of the program followed after a short interval.

Isaac’s performed excerpts from his “Children’s Songs (2011) original compositions No. 2 “Gentle Swing’, No. 4 Lullaby 1 and No. 18 Absheid (nicht). These are amongst a collection of eighteen piano pieces that describe a childhood scene or mood and contain both classical and jazz elements. The mood of these pieces were a mixture of the wistful and playful with the tempo at a moderate pace. Gentle Swing (#2) was very soothing and innocent, while Lullaby (#4) could almost put the listener to sleep. Abscheid (#18) was also hypnotic and serene.

The concert ended with the world premiere of “Three Impromptus (2017)” which was quite a treat. These pieces were entirely extemporised i.e. the pianist just made the pieces up on the spot without any prior idea of what he was going to play.

Isaac’s classical background and considerable technique shone through. The first piece commenced with gusto, forte with a high use of octaves delivering a forceful lovely melody. The second and third pieces were more melodic, beautiful and soulful with lots of chord progression.

Isaac’s has described his third piece as “quite grandiloquent”, “being surprised when it came out like that” and “I just play what I hear in the moment”. I would most certainly have to agree with him.

After a resounding applause he treated the audience to his unique jazz version of the “Wave” by Antonio Carlos Jobim, the famous Brazilian bossa nova composer.

This was a delightful concert featuring a pianist playing classical music with passion.

Be sure to see Mark Isaac perform jazz with his new trio at Foundry 616, Ultimo on Wednesday May 17 2017Together with his new trio they will be exploring great melodies – whether standards or “not-so-standards” – with fervour and lyricism.

 

OMEGA ENSEMBLE PRESENTS ‘SONGS FROM THE BUSH’ @ SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

Featured photo- Artistic Director David Rowden.

The clarinet takes the spotlight in this concert of deeply moving and lyrical chamber music.

Busoni’s lesser-known Suite for Clarinet and String Quartet in G minor is filled with beautiful lyricism and driving rhythms that display a Romantic musical language but is looking towards the future. Continue reading OMEGA ENSEMBLE PRESENTS ‘SONGS FROM THE BUSH’ @ SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

LIVE @ LUNCH : FLUTE SPIRITS AND THE SEASONS @ THE CONCOURSE

 

This was a  very exciting, dynamic and unusual concert, part of the Live at Lunch series at the Concourse, devised and presented by internationally renowned flautist Jane Rutter.

The performance opened dramatically with a very unconventional version of the traditional balled The Minstrel Boy featuring a new arrangement by Jane Rutter. Rutter, wearing a  heavily brocaded kimono like outfit with a gold outer layer over pink and green floral underlay, was superb on flute with Blak Douglas equally good on didgeridoo.

Rutter then went on to  talk about how she has a great sense of belonging to the land and country and its songlines and how the flute and the didgeridoo are two of the world’s instruments.

Continue reading LIVE @ LUNCH : FLUTE SPIRITS AND THE SEASONS @ THE CONCOURSE

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

THE CHANCELLOR’S CONCERT @ SYDNEY CONSERVATORIUM OF MUSIC

This was a thrilling concert in the beautiful , elegant Verbrugghen Hall at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

The Orchestra under maestro Eduardo Diazmunoz was magnificent. Diazmunoz’s conducting was precise, energetic, refined and mostly restrained, except in the case of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring during which he was jumping around,

After the introduction and welcoming speeches by the Chancellor Belinda Hutchinson AM ,the opening work was the delightful world premiere of Anne Boyd AM”s Olive Pink’s Garden which requires an absolutely HUGE orchestra,

Boyd’s composition is inspired by the work of anthropologist Olive Muriel Pink, after which a beautiful park in Alice Springs was created,             Continue reading THE CHANCELLOR’S CONCERT @ SYDNEY CONSERVATORIUM OF MUSIC

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

AUSTRALIAN ROMANTIC AND CLASSICAL ORCHESTRA : ‘ITALIAN ROMANCE’ @ CITY RECITAL HALL

Established in 2013 by Richard Gill AO, Rachael Beesley, Nicole Van Bruggen and Benjamin Bayl, the Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra (ARCO) has adopted a thematic approach to its repertoire. This was exemplified by its recent concert Italian Romance at the City Recital Hall  which featured works by Beethoven, Hugo Woolf and Mendelssohn.

In the first half of the program the Orchestra was a smaller ensemble and stood. Beethoven’s Corialanus Overure was a particular choice as an example of Romantic Music. The work is not based on the Shakespeare play but on the equally gruesome story of a Roman General. The piece was played with precision and wonderful rhythm by the Orchestra. It was very much a  ‘Sturm and Drang’ experience.

Beethoven’s Romance for Violin and Orchestra No 2  featured Rachel Beesley as the soloist. Beesley played with tenderness and warmth, and created a wonderful dialogue with the woodwind section.

The next work which the Orchestra played was Beethoven’s 12 Contradances for Orchestra. Most of the Contradances were just 32 bars in length and the Orchestra glided through each dance to create a seamless whole. The joyful music was however made more poignant with Gill reading out extracts from a letter which Beethoven wrote to his brother about his impending deafness.

The Orchestra’s performance of The Italian Serenade by Hugo Woolf featured a delightful conversation between the violin and cello.

The Orchestra reconvened after interval with a larger ensemble and delivered an impressive performance of Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony. The remarkable, glorious wall of sound that this Orchestra achieved was in spite of the fact that it was about half the size of a full Orchestra.

The success of  this pleasing concert can also be attributed to the concert’s guest conductor Benjamin Bayl. His relaxed yet disciplined conducting brought out the best in the Orchestra.

ARCO performed its concert Italian Romance at the City Recital Hall, Angel Place on Saturday 25th March.

 

LAUNCH OF WESTERN SYDNEY YOUTH ORCHESTRA @ RIVERSIDE THEATRES

It was dry if cloudy at this invite only launch held in the undercover courtyard at the Riverside Theatres in Parramatta.

Ms Yarmila Alfonzetti, Chief Executive Officer of the Sydney Youth Orchestras, opened the proceedings, welcoming us and making a speech reminding us that it marks thirty years since the passing of Peter Seymour, the founder of the Sydney Youth Orchestra.

In her speech she spoke of how, ‘Music is about sharing, giving and connecting and that it is very exciting to be part of this launch and founding something new and inspiring  which makes music further accessible to all.”

She also said big ‘thank yous ‘ to the founding partners of the Western Sydney Youth Orchestra including Fort St Capital and Dixon Advisory, as well as the Riverside.
Ms Amanda Chadwick, Administrator, City of Parramatta Council spoke next, mentioning the other VIPS attending and the recent release of Parramatta’s Cultural statement

.She discussed the cultural statement which was about how Parramatta Council is promoting growing and celebrating culture and enthusiastically welcomed the partnership between Sydney Youth Orchestra and Riverside. She spoke of how , ‘Talent comes from every suburb and we are looking at an exciting journey, breaking down barriers and creating new opportunities.”

David Borger, Western Sydney Director of the Sydney Business Chamber spoke next. He reminded us that the Orchestra has given many talented young musicians a chance to rise to the next level, and that it is a training ground for professionals. He said that the Sydney Business Chamber is trying to provide funding to break the tyranny of distance and allow for travel and expansion of cultural programs and events.

Steve Hawkins of Fort Street Advisers said that opportunities for advancement should not be defined by postcode. The launch of the Western Sydney SYO creates a platform for the next great wave of musicians who come from the area.

The final speaker was the Hon Stuart Ayres MP, Minister for Western Sydney who excitedly declared that this would be the start of a new chapter in the story of the Sydney Youth Orchestra .

The new Orchestra’s area covers  from Penrith to Sutherland. He is hoping that the Western SYO will draw people from a wide geographical area, and said that this was all about providing high quality education and music for the area. Mr Ayers also referred to the upcoming national and international tours by the Sydney Youth Orchestra.

The launch concluded with a performance of Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov ’s Capriccio Espagnol, dynamically conducted by James Pensini and beautifully played by the Orchestra.

Guests then mingles, and further sampled the finger food and drinks on offer.

The first performance by the new Western Sydney Youth Orchestra will be this coming weekend Sunday 26 March at 2 pm

 

SYDNEY CHAMBER CHOIR DELVES INTO SOME GERMAN ROMANTICISM

The Sydney Chamber Choir, conducted by Sam Allchurch with pianist Jem Harding, invites  music lovers to attend its first performance for the year at the Great Hall, Sydney University in early April.

It will be a great opportunity to dive deep into the luscious music of the German Romantics, with this celebration of the rich beauty of choral voices: the delicacy of Schubert, the eloquence of Mendelssohn and the resonant harmonies of Brahms and Bruckner, culminating in Schoenberg’s passionate and powerful plea for Peace on Earth.

This was the age when music got personal, as composers shook off the old conventions of balance and restraint to seek out fresh ways to communicate feeling.

The Romantics, inspired by the magnificence of Nature, the unexplored paths of dreams and a deep awe of the divine, opened up choral music to unlimited horizons of both grandeur and intimacy.

SAVE THE DATE : –
Saturday April 8 at 7.30 pm at the Great Hall, Sydney University.

For more about German Romantics, visit http://www.sydneychamberchoir.org
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LAWRENCE LEE AND SIANG CHING NGU IN RECITAL @ THE CONCOURSE

In early April, good friends and very talented musicians, violinist Lawrence Lee and pianist Siang Ching Ngu, will present a charity concert entitled TRANSFORMING LIVES THROUGH MUSIC during which they will play works by Brahms, Kreisler, Tchaikovsky, Falla, Sarasate and Piazzolla at the Concourse.

All proceeds from the recital will go to a very good cause, Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy Australia; a not-for-profit organisation providing Clinical Musical Therapy and Community Music Programs.

Nordoff-Robbins runs numerous programs aimed at transforming people’s lives through music including musical therapy for special needs schools and aged care facilities, running music clubs for people with a disability, as well various training and education programs to spread the influence of music through the broader community.

CONCERT DETAILS : 

The concert TRANSFORMING LIVES THROUGH MUSIC will take place on Wednesday 5th of April, 7:30 pm at the Concourse Chatswood.

For more about Transforming Lives Through Music: Charity Violin & Piano Duo, visit http://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/show.aspx?sh=TRANSFOR17
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OMEGA ENSEMBLE PRESENTS ‘ROMANTIC VISIONS’ @ CITY RECITAL HALL

Featured image – Maria Raspopova.

This is a joyous and colourful program, put together by Co-Artistic Directors David Rowden and Maria Raspopova, featuring an elegant work from Rachmaninoff and a serenade of Beethoven’s septet.

Beethoven’s Septet in E flat major was first performed as background music at an aristocratic tea-party in 1800. Filled with Mozart like charm and elegance, the piece has gone on to become one of the most popular septets ever written.

The piece is full of both colourful musical dialogue and melodic and harmonic richness. It cleverly explores the vast array of colours and sonorities created through the intriguing and unique scoring of clarinet, horn, bassoon, violin, viola, cello and double bass. Continue reading OMEGA ENSEMBLE PRESENTS ‘ROMANTIC VISIONS’ @ CITY RECITAL HALL

WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA : GENIUS @ THE CONCOURSE

The Willoughby Symphony Orchestra and conductor Dr Nicholas Milton were off to a terrific start for 2017 with their concert entitled GENIUS, part of the year long program entitled ENDURING PASSION.

The concert featured works by Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Brahms with special guest artist, gifted violinist Lily Higson-Spence.

Overall the orchestra was in fine, glowing form with a delicious rich tone. Dr Milton conducted very energetically yet extremely precisely .

The concert rocketed off to a tense, dynamic start with Beethoven’s Leonore Overture No.3. In the form of a dramatic full scale single symphonic movement, the piece was eloquently played and featured an augmented horn section. The work featured surging, crashing, tempestuous strings with a flute soaring above and  an inquisitive questioning woodwind, all leading up to an impressive, thrilling finale.

Guest artist Lily Higson-Spence, in a long flowing halter neck beige gown with a large bow at the back, dazzled playing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E Minor Op.64.

The standard symphonic structure is used by Mendelssohn but slightly changed by the composer. It is regarded as one of the most lyrical and flowing works of its type and is one of the most frequently performed of all violin pieces. The work had its premiere in Leipzig on March 13, 1845.

For this work, Higson-Spence, Dr Milton and the Orchestra combined as one for a magnificent performance. It was mostly Higson-Spence ,however, leading the discussion between the three in collaborative harmony .

Higson-Spence’s bravura solos were mesmerising. Her violin had a pure tone, precisely controlled yet volcanic underneath. Sometimes the violin, singing its heart out, was lyrical and reflective, melancholic and passionate, at other times the violin darted about at a blistering pace.

There was a seamless flow between movements : the first was somewhat turbulent, with a wonderful bassoon transition to the ardent second movement and the third movement was animated , leading to an invigorating finale. Continue reading WILLOUGHBY SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA : GENIUS @ THE CONCOURSE

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.

 

PRELUDE IN TEA : THE STREETON TRIO @ THE INDEPENDENT THEATRE

After a delicious afternoon tea we were treated to a magnificent concert by the Streeton Trio, part of the Prelude in Tea series of concerts held at the beautiful Independent Theatre.

The concert was given the umbrella title The Vienna Congress.

Before the concert began violinist Emma Jardine set the program in context, explaining the turbulent times of the period and the dominant influence of Napoleon Bonaparte. She advised that the program explored the complex musical situation in Vienna, the capital of European music at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Two decades of great cultural ferment saw the Vienna Congress (1814/1815) as the turning point between the ideals of the Enlightenment and those of the Restoration. What took place was a radical change in the social role of music, which was no longer used as an instrument of awareness and knowledge, but instead became ‘the opium of the masses ‘ and proved useful in disguising the harsh reality of post-Napoleonic and post-Enlightenment society. Continue reading PRELUDE IN TEA : THE STREETON TRIO @ THE INDEPENDENT THEATRE

AUSTRALIAN BRANDENBURG ORCHESTRA PRESENTS HANDEL’S MESSIAH @ CITY RECITAL HALL

In the lead up to Lent and Easter we are very privileged to have the Brandenburg’s glorious performances of Handel’s THE MESSIAH, enthusiastically led and directed by Paul Dyer with the magnificent Brandenburg Choir, four soloists and a striking, very unusual and effective staging by Constantine Cosi.

Handel’s Oratorio on the life of Christ is divided into four ‘scenes’ : Darkness to Light , The Dream , Shame and Mourning, and Ecstatic Light.

THE MESSIAH follows the story of Christ from birth to crucifixion and resurrection, but it also examines Israelite history, exploring the prophets who preceded the Messiah (especially Isaiah) and looks forward to the birth of the Church. There is no single dominant narrative voice and little use is made of quoted speech.

The Orchestra, seated on a slightly raised platform, was in luminous form, and played with a warm, elegant tone on their period instruments – extra horns and drums were incorporated where necessary. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN BRANDENBURG ORCHESTRA PRESENTS HANDEL’S MESSIAH @ CITY RECITAL HALL

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

AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA : MURDER AND REDEMPTION @ CITY RECITAL HALL

 

Featured image – Guest violinist Pekka Kuusisto.

This was not your standard Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) concert, but as always it featured absolutely superb playing by the ACO who were in inspired form and dynamically led by the charismatic, bouncing, at times close to dancing guest violinist Pekka Kuusisto, who has taken the place of Richard Tognetti, who is currently in residence at the Barbican in London. (The ACO will play at the Barbican next month).

The concert was divided into two halves,as befits the concert’s title. There was a fascinating blend and contrast of blues grass folk songs sung and played on guitar and banjo by  guest artist Sam Amidon, with a turbulent, passionate Janacek piece (his first string quartet, The Kreutzer Sonata, as well as a dazzling version of a John Adams work entitled, Shaker Loops (1947) .

In the first half, Murder, the turbulent , at times quite spiky Janacek piece was magnificently played by the ACO. The wprk was inspired by the Tolstoy novella of the same name. At one time there was a stormy argument between sections of the orchestra tensely, breathlessly played, and this was contrasted with more melancholic and reflective sections .

Amidon’s folk songs, played in both halves, appeared at first to be simple tunes but then proved to be more complex. In the first half, in the work Way Go Lily, there were rippling flowing rhythms.  How Come That Blood featured a fluid, clip clop almost galloping rhythm – Amidon on banjo , the orchestra accompanying him, and there was an interesting use of pizzicato.

For the first half the songs were arranged by Nico Muhly.  Amidon’s rough hewn, sincere vocal style gave his retelling of these folk songs a powerful punch.  Amidon’s raw playing contrasted with the more refined tomes of the Australian Chamber Orchestra.

The Redemption set opening the second half was a selection of songs performed by Amidon and Kuusisto alone, in a delightfully intimate yet casual and relaxed manner. This contrasted with, and allowed some relief, from the darker subject matter of the program’s first half.

Kuusisto treated his violin more like a folk fiddler, and occasionally joined his voice to Amidon’s in a delightful performance that also included a showy violin solo.

This half also featured an acapella like, haunting and powerful version of Brackett’s Simple Gifts, (the most famous hymn of the Shaker sect) as sung by Amidon.

John Adams work Shaker Loops was rich and multi layered and featured an aching ‘centre’. At times, the piece evoked the ‘music of the spheres’, shimmering and delicate, at other the playing was strident, with bubbling violins and  cellos rumbling underneath.

This was a dazzling concert with a running time of two  hours and ten minutes.

The Australian Chamber Orchestra’s toured the concert  MURDER AND REDEMPTION nationally between the 2nd and 14th February.

The Australian Chamber Orchestra in Murder and Redemption was on national tour February 2 -14

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