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.

LITTLE TRIANGLE PRESENTS ‘MURDER SHE SANG’ @ THE NEWSAGENCY CAMPERDOWN

 

Above : Local production company Little Triangle brought new work ‘Murder She Sang’ to Camperdown venue The Newsagency. Featured image : Caitlin Rose sang impressively in this her cabaret debut. Photo Credit : Shakira Wilson.

Little Triangle brought a slickly packaged and entertaining cabaret to the charming space at The Newsagency in Camperdown this week. It was in the form of the new Australian piece Murder She Sang, transporting us with  retro costuming and story into classical femme fatale territory with a fully scripted cabaret and a string of nicely arranged and delivered songs from the twentieth-century songbook.

Creatives Caitlin Rose and Alexander Andrews have conjured up a slice of film noir-ish retro revenge tale in this concept which entertains. The detailed and challenging rapid fire script from writer Hayden Rodgers accurately hurtles us back to the era of arsenic, Secretly dangerous spouses with handguns and racy police investigations of yesteryear.

This new work saluting such rimes and social structures is a compact but twisting tale. With slick costuming and lovely subtlety of delivery some shocking murderous ambitions are coquettishly
dangled before us from the lethal lying leading lady. The aptly chosen songs always emerge smoothly from the details of the storyline.

Musical accompaniment for storytelling and song moments was in very good hands with Harry Collins at the keyboard. Balance of the amplification at this venue, half-open to an annoyingly noisy foyer may have been more successful with the vocals line at a higher level.

Nevertheless, Caitlin Rose’s interpretation of songs from Sondheim, Rogers and Hart, Coleman and Zippel as well as many other luminaries of musicals and musical environments past was quite a consummate one. It consistently delivered and communicated with variety of tone and gorgeous elaboration of her character.

Accompanist and cabaret honey here worked effectively together here as they made use of the stage, each other’s personas and the link between the story, smooth segues to song lyrics and the
wide range of iconic stylistic features of the chosen music. Visual comedy, nice characterisations and a wealth of musical or vocal tone supported the situations and bold character of the leading
lady.

In this short show without interval the pair ensured the retro romp through larger than life vintage scenarios flavoured by cliché domestic crime

characters was studded with super-satisfying musical moments. These enticed us from an engaging musical style many audience members would not be often exposed to.

The offering was a fine tribute to music and storytelling from racy and tongue-in-cheek twentieth century times. Caitlin Rose’s experienced and solid svelte voice was a suitable once to maintain our interest in the difference of the older song styles.

Rose’s beautifully measured performance of ‘Sooner or Later’ stayed with me for a long time after the cabaret concluded. Her deceptively sweet delivery of all other text and music was engaging. This was one newly crafted cabaret for which modern audiences of any age would do well to pause their modern lives to soak up, celebrating the character and music of the featured era. Continue reading LITTLE TRIANGLE PRESENTS ‘MURDER SHE SANG’ @ THE NEWSAGENCY CAMPERDOWN

CD REVIEW – THE MARAIS PROJECT : THE GARDEN PARTY : CELEBRATING TWENTY YEARS OF THE MARAIS PROJECT.

The latest CD release  on  Move Records, The Garden Party (MCD 592) from The Marais Project is the group’s seventh to date, celebrating its twentieth anniversary. For two decades, viola da gamba player Jennifer Eriksson has passionately led this early-music-ensemble-with-a-difference. The Marais Project’s long history of concerts and recordings have delighted audiences and attracted a huge range of performers as it has worked on its aim to present all works in Marin Marais’ oeuvre.

This goal has never restricted the promotion of thus composer’s compositions and the viola da gamba on which he was a famous teacher and virtuoso to the mere replica of pure early music environments.

Jennifer Eriksson has updated the image and profile of her instrument  by continuously updating it in performance and ground-breaking recordings of which The Garden Party is yet one more fine example. The viola da gamba has over the years been included in performances and new arrangements of works from Marais and his contemporaries right through to inclusion in modern world music, new music as well as exciting  pop or jazz music crossover.

The current  Marais Project discography  features the subtleties of this historic string instrument’s diversity constantly being challenged and included in ensembles and works other than the French Baroque of Marais.

The previous six recordings have thrust it into new or changing lights. Eriksson’s playing and eagerness for experiment and collaboration has endeared Marais’ music and chosen instrument to us in a joyous kaleidoscope of musicology, reinvention and tribute to the energy of the focus composer and others and a cornucopia of contrasting musical styles, both historic and contemporary.

Above : Viola da gambist Jennifer Eriksson, founder of The Marais Project. Featured image: Detail from the cover design of The Garden Party CD – artwork by Lyndall Gerlach.

In this vein, The Garden Party boldly starts the anniversary celebration with the fluid and various reference points of its title track. In one of Eriksson’s own compositions, based on the Book IV work by Marais, Feste Champêtre’, we jump into a cosmopolitan and timeless blend of viola da gamba, violin, piano accordian, baroque guitar and double bass.

The viola da gamba as heard in Marais’ composition now speaks with fortified colour and function as the original material is tweaked with more than the occasional jazz twist in a typically delightful Marais Project melting pot.

In a similar vein, accordionist Emily-Rose Šárkova’s  arrangements of works by twentieth-century composers add to the five  new-release tracks on this recording.These Argentine composers’ works joyously conclude the celebration CD and are namely La Anunciácion by Ariel Ramirez and De Fiesta en Fiesta from Carlos Carabajal and the Rios Brothers.

Ending this CD in true party style, here with vocal lines and clapping adding to the successful blend of the same eclectic ensemble as the opening work, a high standard of sound engineering and recording expertise is obvious, giving a clear and well balanced result that is unwavering across the CD.

Above : Emily-Rose Šárkova, piano accordionist on the CD and arranger of three works on ‘The Garden Party’ recording.

As twenty years of The Marais Project concerts and recordings have shown audiences, we can expect to encounter historic instruments in their authentic environment as well as observe them taken way out of their early music comfort zone.

Marais and many composers would love such fresh collaborations and inclusions of instruments such as the viola da gamba with such altered voice in new ensemble opportunities.

Of the nine works included here, four come to us from previous Marais Project recordings. Tender Swedish folk song vocals by Pascal Herrington blend with fine accompaniment of baroque flute, violin, viola da gamba and theorbo in Tommie Andersson’s version of Om sommaren sköna, as released on the fifth CD, Smörgäsbord!

The Marais Project’s third recording, Love Reconciled brings to the party beautiful baroque vocal music from a contemporary of Marain Marais, Pierre Bouteiller. His motet for voice, viola da gamba and theorbo pays homage to works explored in the ensemble’s past to document pure French Baroque style.

The continued contributions over the last twenty years to The Marais Project concerts and CDs by early music experts soprano Belinda Montgomery, cellist Daniel Yeadon and multi-instrumentalist Tommie Andersson (here on theorbo) are highlighted in this selection.

Above : soprano Belinda Montgomery, whose recording of Pierre Bouteiller’s  motet ‘O salutaris hostia’ with viola da gambas and theorbo is included on this anniversary CD.

And what of the music of Marin Marais? We have included three full works lovingly rendered on this CD, from his 4è and 5è livres of 1717 and 1725, as well as his Pièces en Trio from 1692. The Suite No 2 in G minor from this latter publication also comes to this CD from the previous recording, Smörgäsbord!

This beautiful set of tracks included on the recording is classic Marais as Jennifer Eriksson and colleagues have made us familiar with countless times in performances of multi-movement suites and works of Marais. This suite is full of elegant discussion and expressive contrasts within and between movements.

The  inclusion of another Suite in G minor – this time from the 5è livre of Marais, pays tribute again to the Love Reconciled CD. Its multiple movements add Chris Berensen’s harpsichord to this CDs plethora of participating instruments and finely blended tone colours.

The second track on The Garden Party  and second world premiere recording as well is the substantial  Suite in E minor by Marais from Pièces de viole 4è livre. In another quality arrangement by Emily-Rose Šárkova of Marais, this time  for piano accordion and viola da gamba, this innovation impresses on the CD as much as it has audiences in the past.

J’avois crû, from the French publication of airs in 1703 is another impressive shift of colour and pace on this CD’s diverse flow. The track features the engaging voice and violin  lines of Susie Bishop, more recent collaborator with The Marais Project and also from Elysian Fields, the band in which Jenny Eriksson plays electric viola da gamba.

Congratulations to The Marais Project for not only this entertaining CD but for all its live and recorded performances which have been educating Australia and beyond in the French Baroque and its instruments in such a fresh and innovative way over the last twenty years.

 

ACACIA QUARTET : ‘TESTAMENT’ @ INDEPENDENT THEATRE NORTH SYDNEY

Above: Acacia Quartet played the first two movements of  ‘A Sundried Quartet’ by Australian composer Alice Chance Photo Credit: Stephen Godbee. Featured Image : Acacia Quartet. Photo Credit : Chris Donaldson.

This concert of four works for string quartet was titled ‘Testament’, sharing its name with one of the central works in the programme. The event was a luminous display of the expressive capabilities of Acacia Quartet and each of the four innovative composers featured. Two well-known quartets from Mozart and Debussy bookended two recent works. This programme itself was testament to the diversity and warmth of Acacia’s interpretative skill.

Testament, the single movement lament from Armenian composer Tigran Mansurian was a moving part of this event. Heard directly after interval, the work’s subtle movement both along  individual lines and across the quartet was a highlight of this concert. Its successful blend and rendering of Mansurian’s gentle intimacies benefitted from Acacia Quartet’s expert ensemble playing and intelligent approach to creating accurate atmospheres.

Precision and making a range of choices for the measured delivery of colour contributed to a fresh creation of shapes for Debussy’s String Quartet in G minor Op 10. The independence of instruments in this work as required from Debussy’s  was successful here, especially the emergence of viola and cello from Acacia’s unified voice.

The sprawling  flow forward of gestures and thematic development in this work was in good hands here. Acacia’s typical attention to detail and clear conversation ensured Debussy’s intricate writing reached us with renewed verve.

The ebb and flow of this composer’s originality was recreated with engaging focus. Acacia’s neat delivery of Debussy’s inimitable approach to contour allowed us to follow a sustained elegance with  an edge-of-the-seat excitement to our appreciation.

The brand-new work for this Acacia concert was A Sundried Quartet, from local composer Alice Chance. This string quartet, still a work in progress, has been commissioned for Acacia Quartet from this creative’s unique and gifted imaginative voice.

In its current two opening movements, the work  explores the musical depiction of intense Australian heat and playing at the beach.  This refreshing composer added strikingly individual musical brush strokes at this point of the concert programme, in which the  evocative works showcased compositional innovation spanning more than three centuries of writing for string quartet.

Two compact and poignant atmospheres here were obviously meticulously crafted by Alice Chance in this work. They were well realised by Acacia Quartet’s players.  The snapshot of each movement’s scenario was a clear, consistent and joyous slice of summer life.

Whether making fresh use of string effects such as repeated sharp bowing slants melting through close intervals or pizzicato arcs in close counterpoint, this composer presented timbral and structural challenges to the quartet which were embraced wholeheartedly by the string players.

Acacia Quartet’s enthusiasm and aptitude for performing new music enabled them to boldly produce the  vivid shapes and suggestions of our environment providing pleasure or pain throughout these movements’ musical iterations. The delicate and clean vignettes spoke volumes-joyous ones at that, and we eagerly await the remainder of Chance’s inimitable work  presenting more earthy scenes to us in the future.

At the start of Acacia Quartet’s striking concert communication was Mozart’s ‘Dissonance’ String Quartet. Led with innate communication prowess, care and charisma by violinist Lisa Stewart, this rendering enabled fine discourse from all players.

There was considerable flexibility, spontaneity and fresh highlighting of the structure supplied as we took sparkling delivery of Mozart’s perfect Haydnesque quartet form.

In keeping with the keen sharing of things unique and innovative over the concert afternoon, Mozart’s unusual slow introduction to this quartet set the tone for the moments of ground-breaking expression to follow.

Mozart’s personal sense of drama contributes to the opening of this quartet. The daring chromaticism for Mozart’s time and a hushed, asymmetrical voice leading was offered up with stunning  soft-dynamic suspense and mystery from the players.

Acacia Quartet in this way launched into the beginning of  the concert event with the intense and lush collective tone that audiences have come to treasure when hearing this team of musicians perform.

Acacia Quartet’s next concert is not to be missed. It features a new quartet by their frequent collaborator Lyle Chan, as well as a much-anticipated performance of Fratres by Arvo Pärt.

MUSICA VIVA PRESENTS ZOFO: ‘ZOFOMOMA’ @ THE CITY RECITAL HALL

Above and featured images  : four-hands piano performers ZOFO.

Piano duet artists Eva-Maria Zimmermann and Keisuke Nakagoshi (ZOFO) made their Musica Viva and Australian debut with a unique and entertaining project. ZOFO commissioned fifteen new pieces for the piano four hands repertoire. In the sprawling yet slick multimedia presentation in the form of a medley of new works, ZOFO brought to life the fifteen musical responses of composers about the globe to a chosen artwork from their culture.

The resulting work, ZOFOMOMA, is varied and eclectic. As well as being an active anthology of music from living composers, it is a fine meditation on the possibilities of piano sound,, particularly the piano four hands sound. The juxtaposition of fifteen different cultures and countries in the swoop of one concert with no interval is an important one.

The delight of composers in searching for an appropriate piece of  modern art from their country and their passion in freely reacting musically to it for this project is obvious.

The comissioned composers relish in the chance to write for twenty fingers at the keyboard when the pianistic team is as athletic, unified, dramatic and able to welcome new effects as the global superstars ZOFO.

Eva-Maria and Keisuke present a visually stunning, highly physical performance at the keyboard. It is also a timbral and textural offering of much depth.

In this concert has the piano is situated below a large screen for projection of the artworks as the commissions are played.

The choreography of the piano duetists beside and around each other in every manner imaginable is quite amazing to watch. They comfortably blend their personal space, intertwining hands, arms and bodies as they unite on the same keyboard to deliver the new compositions.

This stage action and music resulting from composers exploiting the skills of this team is a truly inspiring excursion into painting with twenty-finger keyboard-orchestra colour.

ZOFO’s transitional walks between pieces to ponder the concert progress, the art just exhibited on screen  cleanse the visual and aural palette. The meanderings are as important as the featured works here. The promenades are just as well executed by the pair, whose stage presence and evocative flair is as successful as it is innate.

These interludes in the event structure have music for ten fingers only. At these times, different variations of a fragment from Mussorgsky’s famous ‘Promenade’ from Pictures at an Exhibition help one of the pianists shift from primo to secondo or treble to bass keyboard position and vice versa.

These nicely accompanied segues across the stage are unexpected at first. However, when ZOFO’s style of interlude here manipulates the well-known music the promenade music and routine becomes an anticipated part of the presented itself, prior to the next assault on a new duet work and each new cultural shift in the art and new music from fifteen different countries.

The fifteen works presented with their new ‘pictures at at exhibition’ music and artwork pairs were greatly varied. Throughout all segments of  this event, the consistency of mood or atmosphere and effective keyboard writing which the twenty fingers tackle see the duo move as the one super-pianist.

The individual pieces are joyously different and are played with stunning sensitivity and virtuosity by the ZOFO musical machine.

Australian composer and Musica Viva Artistic Director Carl Vine composed the second piece in the sequence. This is an impressive showcase for piano duet. The exciting work has a painting from 1985 by Australian artist James Gleeson as its inspiration.

This piece, like many in the work, demands much of a piano duet on a technical and interpretative level to successfully draw it together. The duets written by Japan’s Kenji Oh and China’s Lei Liang were
highlights of the peaceful and calmer evocative end of the broad musical spectrum.

Above : ‘Sacred Peaks of Chichibu at Spring Dawn’ (1928) by Japanese artist Yokoyama Taikan, which inspired the piece by Japanese composer Kenji Oh.

These pieces, as individual as all of the fifteen, are performed with as much respect for their uniqueness as all commissioned works. They are based on nature and the artworks’  images of landscape use modern musical ecclecticism in the creation.

Notable amongst these two works are extended string techniques that see ZOFO just as comfortable inside the piano, plucking strings and dropping soft objects on them as they always are interlocked and working with great physicality at the keyboard proper.

Stamping, shouting and being accompanied taped sound are demanded of the pair at other times, and these interesting additions to keyboard playing are capably and confidently delivered.

Extracts of ZOFOMOMA can be viewed online in some of its multifaceted multimedia glory. However, the chance to experience this series of totally newly commissioned music and superior four-hands piano virtuosity live is an unforgettable one.

For this opportunity we must thank Musica Viva for bringing such artists and their innovative concert format to Australia.

AUSTRALIAN ROMANTIC & CLASSICAL ORCHESTRA: MANNHEIM ROCKET @ CITY RECITAL HALL

Above: ARCO Director Rachael Beesley was soloist in the Mozart Violin Concerto in A major KV 219. Featured image : The Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra. Pics by Nick Gilbert.

The Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra (ARCO) delivered yet another substantial instalment in its five-year concert history. Following on from its last concert, which featured both the Mozart Clarinet Concerto and Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, we were treated to another concert favourite in the early symphony genre, namely Mozart’s Symphony No 40 in G minor.

With an associated ‘Voyage of Musical Discovery’ seminar discussion in the week following this concert, and rarely heard works from the Mannheim court composers, ARCO’s performance event was once again a perfect example of their mission statement to  ‘inspire, educate, enlighten’.

This was a vibrant snapshot of the birth of the symphony and the dazzling Mannheim string effects that impressed eighteenth century audiences. Concluding with the much-loved Mozart No 40 in its HIP  (historically informed performance) guise, this was quite the showcase for this orchestra and the early symphony alike. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN ROMANTIC & CLASSICAL ORCHESTRA: MANNHEIM ROCKET @ CITY RECITAL HALL

THE METROPOLITAN ORCHESTRA-MET CONCERT 2 RUSSIAN NIGHTS @ EUGENE GOOSSENS HALL

Above : Piano soloist Clemens Leske, who performed the Piano Concerto No 3 by Rachmaninoff. Featured image: TMO with Chief Conductor Sarah-Grace Williams.

The latest Met Concert from The Metropolitan Orchestra was a mesmerising event full of fine intensity, clarity and sensuality we would expect from music of the Russian masters. Attention to detail and a consummate realisation of any atmospheric challenge were once more hallmarks of TMO’s concert package.

This orchestra was joined by local pianist Clemens Leske to present the awesome ‘ Rach 3’. There was stunning synchronicity and emotional unison in their combined exploration of subtleties and
sheer power in this famous concerto.

The showcase for TMO alone in this Met Concert was Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade. This sprawling suite of programmatic intricacy and dramatic musical narrative was deliciously rendered
by TMO’s skilful storytellers across all orchestral sections.

Rimsky-Korsakov’s preoccupation with the exotic oriental themes require delicate enunciation throughout this work. The colourful scenes and sentiments suggested in the music and depictipon of the voice of the Sultana Sheherazade crave crystal clear delivery from  orchestral sections and solo instruments employed. Continue reading THE METROPOLITAN ORCHESTRA-MET CONCERT 2 RUSSIAN NIGHTS @ EUGENE GOOSSENS HALL

SYDNEY CHAMBER CHOIR : ‘MUSIC ON MUSIC’ @ GREAT HALL, THE UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY

Above : Musical Director and conductor of Sydney Chamber Choir, Sam Allchurch. Photo supplied. Featured image: members of Sydney Chamber Choir. Photo credit for for featured image: Pedro Greig

Sydney Chamber Choir opened its 2019 season with a joyous and diverse celebration of choral music spanning over five centuries. Titled ‘Music on Music’, the event delivered layers of choral composition from early music through to the innovative current day, The use of similar text or musical concepts across time reappeared in new guises throughout.

From the concert’s outset, newly appointed Musical Director and specialist choral conductor Sam Allchurch brought out a seamless blend from the combined talent of the choir.  Lush and warm singing delighted from the first phrase of Herbert Howells’  A Hymn for St Cecilia which opened the concert.

A recurring theme of the evening was the joy of music, and the need to sing to deal with existence in a complex world during any century. The use of text from Psalm 137 : “How can We Sing the Lord’s Song in a Foreign Land”, documenting the predicament of Jewish people needing to sing praise as captives in Babylon.

This text of this Psalm was heard presented in a densely polyphonic setting by Byrd. This was immediately followed by Australian composer Joseph Twist’s How Shall We Sing in a Strange Land?

This modern use of the Latin Psalm text introduced the sentiment of displacement within a setting of modern poetry by Noonuccal woman Oodgeroo.

Sydney Chamber Choir communicated complex emotions and predicament clearly here. Such intensity from juxtaposition via a ‘music on music’ layering beside Byrd’s sixteenth century version led to enhanced drama and creation of a multi-faceted concert environment.

Twist’s powerful eclectic work in English and Latin with words of an Aboriginal poet was delivered by the choir with inimitable care. The stillness and textural delicacy was beautifully handled by this choir, and especially by soprano soloist Josie Gibson.

The programme thereafter  underwent a fluid shift back from our time to the Baroque in proof that complex choral fare from early music times can be devoured by this choir equally as impressively as music full modern innovation.

More psalm text was heard elsewhere with dense double-choir polyphony in Bach’s Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied-the text ‘Sing to the Lord a New Song’ by JS Bach (1726). Throughout this motet the choir drenched us with busy counterpoint which always managed a skilful lightness and momentum. A quartet of soloists from the choir varied the texture in this work and showed off more individual talent within the choir’s ranks.

Above: Sydney Chamber Choir members, 2019. Photo credit: Pedro Greig.

The inside cover of the deliciously detailed printed concert programme suggested reasons we should be audience for the choir in 2019. Amongst them was ‘come to immerse yourself in beauty’. This was the case with this successful interpretation of Bach.

Amongst many lush moments of beauty here and elsewhere  for early music modern composers, the performance of the Kyrie from Palestrina’s Missa Ut re mi fa so la, performed surrounding the front of the audience in a single line arc with all voice parts mixed. The blend of vocal parts in this format was exquisite.

From the same printed programme cover, the audience are urged to ‘come to hear something you’ve never heard before’. This could be said for many of contemporary works by Eliott Carter (Musicians Wrestle Everywhere) Elliot Gyger (Ut queant laxis) and Paul Stanhope (Cherubic Hymn).

Sydney Chamber Choir here showcased its proficiency in virtuosic rendering of contemporary or twentieth century composers’ innovation for the genre, musical homage to choral music of the past and ambitious demands on voices to master effects needing great control in timbre, nuance and colour to convey text musically.

The choir was often combined with organist Joshua Ryan’s fine playing of innovative keyboard fragments against the choir in these works. The organist and vocalists worked hard and well in these and all works in the concert to achieve a dazzling and joyous sonic tapestry as well as fine promotion for this group’s communicative skill. The effectiveness of compelling utterances fashioned by composers both old and new was also on exciting display in this concert.

During this event, choir and conductor continued to create layers of timeless text and music packages from contrasting eras with equally successful result. This formidable start to 2019 left us craving more music on music to come. We listened with the confidence that as audience to these choristers we will continue to be deeply touched and taught so much.

‘MADNESS AND CONFRONTATION’- AUSTRALIAN ROMANTIC AND CLASSICAL ORCHESTRA

Above:  Nicole van Bruggen performed Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto on period basset clarinet.  Featured image: Australian Romantic and Classical Orchesstra. Photo Credit: Nick Gilbert.

Following its formation in 2013 by founding artistic director Richard Gill AO, the Australian Romantic and Classical Orchestra have continued to deliver vibrant and exciting programmes, re-inventing past music for us adhering to  historically informed performance (‘HIP) guidelines. The result is always  one which provides historic sound and performance event accuracy with stunning freshness.

The assembled crowd were obviously thrilled beyond all such expectations by this group of expert ‘HIP’ musicians from around the country and the world as well as the popular works to be played. Keen tempi, crisp articulation and brilliant  playing in bold broad strokes imbued this entire communication of instrumental and opera classics.

Authenticity of musical gesturing was further enhanced by a concert item ordering where the three movements of the Mozart concerto work were separated and heard as individual entities alternating with vocal duets and arias from Figaro.

As well as this being a reflection of concert programming from the era of Mozart and Beethoven, this rare separation of a work’s movements enabled us to explore Mozart’s dramatic and atmospheric skill as a composer as reflected so immediately between his loved concerto and opera genres.

The audience was able to enjoy each mood and character of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in stunning juxtaposition and appropriate matching with the surrounding opera confrontations between Figaro’s servants Susanna (Jacqueline Porter), and Figaro (David Greco) and the opera’s titled upper class couple.

Nicole van Bruggen’s presentation of each separated mood of the concerto was also designed with help from a period picture marketing a concert in Mozart’s time. Visually different in this way to longer keyed clarinet versions often seen, the instrument allowed beautiful subtleties of muted tone in slow expansive moments such as the joyous opening movement. The playing had alight agility of phrasing across registers in faster instances of eloquence such as the opening movement’s mood.

The depth of tone produced by this player and instrument in the inimitable basset low register was a very special and rare exquisiteness for us to witness. The blend and conversation with the orchestra was balanced. A clarity and airiness surrounded all exchanges between soloist and orchestra.

Above : Soprano Jacqueline Porter and David Greco joined the orchestra for semi-staged performances of  excerpts from Mozart’s ‘ The Marriage of Figaro’. Photo credit: Nick Gilbert.

In a similar vein the rendering of the Beethoven Symphony No 5 following interval was a brusque but beautiful reading. Charismatically and sensitively led by violinist Rachael Beesley, the performance  showcased the sheer excellence of the orchestra’s huge collective experience. It  also confronted us with the forthright nature of Beethoven’s declamations using tempi not often attempted.

The result was an enlightened forward rocket of expression in this Symphony. The playing was devoid of excessive vibrato or laboured playing of less crisp and heavy slower interpretations from years gone by. The playing by individual sections or tutti orchestra which breathtakingly highlighted the energy behind Beethoven’s expertly crafted rhythmic and melodic structures from ingredients which work well at a very sprightly and HIP speed.

The orchestra accompanied Mozart’s vocal writing with equal clarity and crispness. Respectful, rigorous and detailed figuration laid down a stable and colourful bed for the operatic voices. Greco and Porter’s fine chemistry and tension in the earnest and believable assorted characterisations were also finely supported musically.

Followng the active opening to Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, Greco’s Count in the duet ‘Crudel! Perché finora’ sizzled and flowed over the instrumental foundations. Hot on the heels of the famous clarinet concerto  Adagio came Jacqueline Porter’s Countess aria ‘Dove sono’, warmly accompanied. It extended the poignant clarinet expression with a clear musical package of heartache. The pace and shaping of this aria left space for text delivery and acting on an elevated and appropriate level.

The refreshing delivery of such beloved classics and operatic moments on the concert stage brought the audience to their feet in thundering applause at the concert’s conclusion.  In addition to more such concerts, it would be exciting for continued recordings of such landmark compositions and the quality collaboration of performers to excite educate and enlighten with such style.

‘WONDER’ – VOX : SYDNEY PHILHARMONIA CHOIRS @ UTZON ROOM SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

Above : Composer Ella Macens, one of the several Australian composers featured in this programme. Photo credit : Darwin Gomez. Featured image : Vox members in rehearsal. Photo credit : Roland Kay-Smith.

Vox is the young adult choir under the umbrella of the Sydney Philharmonia Choirs. Its latest concert, ‘Wonder’, presented original choral works and arrangements for choir which explored the joy and fragility of childhood.

This vivid hour of music was thoughtfully programmed and narrated by Vox’s conductor and musical director Elizabeth Scott is an asset to Sydney Philharmonia Choirs and wonder-ful musical parent to the talented vocalists of Vox.

The choir’s crisp and agile unison voice, a cappella precision, timbral diversity and impressive composite talents of Vox members in ensemble and solo roles were keenly showcased in this compact concert event. Continue reading ‘WONDER’ – VOX : SYDNEY PHILHARMONIA CHOIRS @ UTZON ROOM SYDNEY OPERA HOUSE

MIRANDA MUSICAL SOCIETY PRESENT JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR @ SUTHERLAND ENTERTAINMENT CENTRE

Above: Jay Cullen as Judas Iscariot, Rickard Roach as Annas and Mark Gardner as Caiphas. Featured image: Kyle Nozza as Jesus Christ with ensemble. Photo credit- Grant Leslie Photography

This is solid entertainment and a stunningly updated version of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s original 1971 classic. Audiences will be moved and leave the theatre singing the well known music which has been excitingly repackaged. I still am.

Successful lighting, filmic rear-stage projection, a multi-level set design and a diversity of modern costuming ensure that this show is a visual spectacle throughout. These production values bring us an engaging, edgy and entirely believable piece of suffering.

It is a current and relevant retelling Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s nod at the Christian story of a sacrificed Saviour. It pushes creative boundaries quite far but not too far and delights our modern and very visual sensibilities.

Several ‘superstars’ grace this stage. Vocally, James Gander as Pontius Pilate is forever rewarding with warm controlled tone and measured swoop to his acting. ‘Pilate’s Dream’ was a well carved out signpost of foreboding and a well delivered mood changer.

Ileana Pipitone brought the role of Mary Magdalene to the Sutherland Entertainment Centre with an open directness of physical approach and truthful tone and expert blend in ensemble moments. These exchanges reached a relaxed intensity of colour in ‘Can we start again, Please?’ where she ably led the group emotional statement.

The shifting emotions in the final week of Jesus’ earthly life were sung with formidable clarity and with pleasing stage presence by Kyle Nozza. He demonstrates an amazingly keen and humble conversational lilt whilst delivering us some huge direct-hit notes. Challenging shifts between types of vocal voice and many chest voice high register exclamations were attacked with thrilling passion here.

Above: Ileana Pipitone as Mary Magdalene and Kyle Nozza as Jesus with ensemble. Photo credit: Grant Leslie Photography.

This show’s  traditional larger-than-life King Herod as played by Lachlan O’Brien and dancers illuminates the stage here. It is such a theatrical number as this which proves audiences need to leave the lounge room and reality TV to discover emerging talent supplying the real deal live locally. Herod’s dancers are ably re-invented later as an angelic hoodie hip-hop troupe in another stellar stage innovation.

Acting highlights include the multifaceted edginess displayed by Jay Cullen in a restless yet vulnerable portrayal of the torments of Judas Iscariot. The temple priests are also a terrific presence with varied dramatic tone and attitude in equal portions. The busy ensemble are also believable and focussed as they move smoothly through the constant shifts of the stage storyboard.

Some moments exist where the active ensemble’s vocal part-singing and textural power could be stronger or more defined within the melee but these are brief. However the languid hypnotic mood created in the ‘The Last Supper’ scene. Here, gorgeous groove and well blended part singing are up with the most seamless to be found in any historical stage or screen version of this musical.

At all times the band played with well chosen tempi and with the necessary momentum this rock musical demands. They were at all times successfully sympathetic to the onstage sound level being produced.

The ‘John 19:41’ 39 lashes scene is one of this version’s many standout action segments . As led again consistently commandingly by James Gander’s’ Pontius Pilate it uses the assembled sinners of mankind to slash n mark the Saviour in what is indeed a directorial and choreographic  master stroke. The macabre energy level and pace never wanes throughout this sequence.

Miranda Musical Society’s Jesus Christ Superstar concludes its run on Sunday Mar 23. Fans of blockbuster musicals should save the dates of September 25-29 for this group’s production of Les Misérables.

 

 

 

THE METROPOLITAN ORCHESTRA : A NIGHT AT THE MOVIES-MET CONCERT#1

 

 

Above : the climactic scene in ‘The King’s Speech’ made use of Beethoven’s Symphony No 2 (2nd movement) as heard in this concert. Featured image: a powerful performance of John Williams’ Superman March was included in the first half of this concert.

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