Tag Archives: City Recital Hall


This is the latest joyous, astonishing collaboration, their third,  between the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Circa that had the audience in raptures. Don’t miss it. The audience did not want to breathe or blink in case they missed something.

It is an inspired pastiche by Paul Dyer and Yaron Lifschitz, with music from 16th and 17th-century England and featuring the beautiful voices of sopranos Jane Sheldon and Lauren Stephenson.

The set design by Yaron LifschitzLibby McDonnell and Richard Clarke is inspired by the idea of a clipped formal garden at a stately 17th-century mansion : a green covered area represents the manicured lawn .The middle area has tumbling mats , there is a large blank screen at the back used for projections and a huge hoop. Various sized white plinths (which also become props) are included and the Circa cast are carried on as statues hidden under drapes. Peter Rubie’s lighting design is dramatic and atmospheric.

It is perhaps, sort of like A Midsummer Night’s Dream – our Titania being Jane Sheldon who magically brings the statues ‘alive’. Sheldon appears in a striking red and black gown that includes a floral design. The Circa cast are costumed in silvery grey costumes that ripple in the light. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN BRANDENBURG ORCHESTRA AND CIRCA :  ENGLISH BAROQUE @ CITY RECITAL HALL



A most glorious concert full of superb playing by the ACO under the guest leadership of Lorenza Borrani who was very stylish in elegant black culottes.

What was interesting to note is that all three works were not originally written for a string orchestra.

First we heard PROKOFIEV’s Violin Sonata No.1 in F minor, arranged for violin and strings by Borrani. It was given a powerful, passionate performance. The cellos and basses generally took the piano parts, with the violas acting as the middle of the keyboard, the violins on top.

The first movement opened sombrely and sorrowfully and featured an eloquent, almost heartbreaking solo by Borrani. The cellos and double bass rumbled in agreement with Borrani’s anguished statement, the violins then joined the discussion. The music became shimmering and floating yet sharp and spiky. This then changed to a somewhat lighter mood and melody that swirled and pulsated.

The second movement had a very energetic opening by the cellos and double bass, with a rather ominous march like tempo.
Borrani was fiery and defiant with sharp, spiky flurries. An angry discussion developed between the two sections of the Orchestra with Borrani attempting to be a peacemaker. A relentless driven rhythm took us to the dramatic ending. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA : BEETHOVEN AND PROKOFIEV



Happy Birthday to the Australian Brandenburg Orchestra! This year marks their 30th birthday and the season began with a glittering , joyous concert. There were many VIPS in the audience and the Orchestra’s playing under the enthusiastic and very energetic baton of Paul Dyer was in superb form . There were huge garlands of flowers across the middle balcony above the Orchestra .

Introductory speeches were made by Bruce Appelbaum the Managing director and then Dame Quentin Bryce .

We heard five of Bach’s Brandendburg Concertos. Written in 1721 the concertos were submitted to a possible patron the Margrave of Brandenburg and are a magnificent showcase to feature the musicians of the Orchestra on their period instruments and continual refinement of Historically Informed Performance style .

First was No. 4 in G major, BWV 1049 in three movements which featured recorders as played by Melissa Farrow and Mikaela Oberg. The first movement was bright and sprightly , the music leaping cascading and pulsating. Shaun Lee Chen had a fiery, insistent solo on his violin .The fluid music became a breathless dialogue for the ensemble.

The second movement was slower with a looping repeated melody and in the third the violins were energetic and emphatic with a featured very fast bubbly trio for Lee- Chen ,Farrow and Oberg on recorder , with another showy solo for Chen . Again a great dialogue ensued between all the ensemble leading to an emphatic conclusion. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN BRANDENBURG ORCHESTRA : BACH’S BRANDENBURG CONCERTOS



The Nutcracker and I, by Alexandra Dariescu, with ballerina Désirée Ballantyne, animations by Yeast Culture, and choreography by Jenna Lee. Photo by Mark Allen

Blending a piano rendition of Tchaikovky’s romantic melodies with 35,000 digital images and a live ballerina THE NUTCRACKER AND I produces a purely enjoyable and magical creation. Having both a world renowned concert pianist and ballerina performing against constantly changing colourful backgrounds and characters is a sublime and enchanting experience.

The production of THE NUTCRACKER AND I is quite beautiful but an unusual format. Images are projected onto a see-through black gauze screen at the front of the stage. Pianist Alexandra Dariescu and ballerina Désirée Ballantyne are illuminated behind the screen. The images tell the classical Nutcracker story. Snow is falling as the Silberhaus family decorates their Christmas tree. The magician and toymaker Drosselmeyer arrives. Presents are exchanged including a nutcracker. Clara’s dream that night includes the nutcracker fighting with the Mouse King before being transformed into a prince. The familiar story continues with matching images, both static and dynamic, on screen.                                               Continue reading THE NUTCRACKER AND I : A SUBLIME AND ENCHANTING EXPERIENCE

Australian Brandenburg Orchestra Noel! Noel! Follow Your Star


A most glorious concert full of the Christmas spirit , musically and vocally superb.

The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra and Choir exuberantly led by Paul Dyer were in rich , glowing form.

Special guest was magnificent Western Australian soprano Bonnie de la Hunty , returned from the Netherlands , who was in elegant , refined joyous voice .Her soprano was exquisite ,delicate scintillating and crystal clear.

This year Dyer talked to the audience only once and there was no audience participation involved. Musical styles ranged over 700 years from Gregorian chant to contemporary, seeking peacefulness and a centred stillness with a selection of songs and arrangements of favourites for a 13 member orchestra and 24 member choir.

The first bracket opened with Hildegard von Bingen (arr. Palmer)’s O euchari in laeta via – at times dancelike and shimmering , de la Hunty was in stunning angelic voice and the choir was rumbustious and celebratory .You could almost hear the snow flurries. Next came the dramatic acapella Gregorian Chant Rorate coeli / Veni veni Emmanuel with the male and female choirs alternating in counterpoint , answer and response.

Johann Crüger ‘s Nuch komm der Heyden Heyland opened with a stirring drumbeat.the atmosphere was that of a medieval /renaissance court with a boisterous dance like flowing rhythm. De la Hunty;s solo was captivating.This was followed by Johannes Eccard’s joypus and bouncy Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier
The second bracket began with Christopher Tye & Nahum Tate ‘s While shepherds watched , featuring an angelic solo by de la Hunty .Claudio Monteverdi ‘s tumbling , upbeat Laudate dominum , conducted by Dyer on harpsichord ,ended with a very showy and extended Allelujia.

The traditional (arr. Palmer) Gartan mother’s lullaby was warm and lilting , with a pulsating rhthym.de la Hunty sang softly and tenderly. In Francisco Guerrero’s Maria Magdalena we heard the ladies choir soaring voices , the men interweaving , all blending and cascading in a richly layered performance .

Next up was a fun ,quirky version of John Henry Hopkins Jr. (arr. Palmer) We three kings of Orient are , with tambourine , trumpets , organ , harpsichord and xylophone among other instruments .Big smiles all round.

De la Hunty in a fiery red and gold gown had a stunning solo in Jean-Philippe Rameau (arr. Dyer) ‘Ô nuit’ from Hyppolyte et Aricie which was quiet reflective and full of awe.

Traditional (arr. Palmer) O little town of Bethlehem featured trumpets up in the balcony and also included cymbals.The Orchestra for this had a rich, full bodied sound.

Alex Palmer’s A sparkling Christmas was fast and furiously scurrying , with emphatic rhythms leading to a breathless conclusion. For this piece the many lights suspended from the ceiling pulsated and flickered on and off.

Ēriks Ešenvalds flowing Only in sleep was hauntingly beautiful .One particularly noticed de la Hunty’s exceptional crystal clear pure voice in her solo .

The bubbling, joyous explosion of Handel’s ‘Let the bright Seraphim’ from Samson was a major highlight , a glittering showpiece for de la Hunty and her leaping coloratura fireworks .

Irving Berlin (arr. Rathbone) ‘s White Christmas was sung acapella by the Choir , a wonderful blending of voices , with appropriate snowflake lighting.

Adolphe Adam (arr. Palmer) O holy night was a very moving showcase yet again for de la Hunty.Tommie Anderson on Baroque guitar had a delicate, extremely moving solo in Franz Xaver Gruber’s Stille Nacht ( sung in three different languages! ) and there was also a violin interlude.

The concert concluded with a vigorous O come, all ye faithful absolutely bursting with Christmas spirit.

Running time roughly 90 minutes no interval.

The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra in Noel! Noel 1 Follow Your Star runs at the City Recital Hall 12-15 December and is at other NSW venues too.

Hildegard von Bingen (arr. Palmer) O euchari in laeta via
Gregorian Chant Rorate coeli / Veni veni Emmanuel
Johann Crüger Nuch komm der Heyden Heyland
Johannes Eccard Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier
Christopher Tye & Nahum Tate While shepherds watched
Claudio Monteverdi Laudate dominum
Traditional (arr. Palmer) Gartan mother’s lullaby
Francisco Guerrero Maria Magdalena
John Henry Hopkins Jr. (arr. Palmer) We three kings of Orient are
Jean-Philippe Rameau (arr. Dyer) ‘Ô nuit’ from Hyppolyte et Aricie
Traditional (arr. Palmer) O little town of Bethlehem
Alex Palmer A sparkling Christmas
Ēriks Ešenvalds Only in sleep
Handel ‘Let the bright Seraphim’ from Samson
Irving Berlin (arr. Rathbone) White Christmas
Adolphe Adam (arr. Palmer) O holy night
Franz Xaver Gruber Stille Nacht
Traditional O come, all ye faithful
Paul Dyer Artistic Director
Australian Brandenburg Orchestra
Brandenburg Choir
Bonnie de la Hunty (AUS) Soprano



A most exciting and captivating concert showcasing some ravishing, passionate playing. There was intense rapport between the Ensemble who concentrated intensely and were in fine form.

First we heard Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quintet No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 87 . Violinist Anna Da Silva Chen led the quintet which was violinist Arena Nakamura, violists Amanda Verner and Neil Thompson, and cellist Howard Penny, guesting courtesy of the Australian National Academy of Music.

The first movement opened briskly and skittishly with scurries and flurries , becoming slightly slower and more sedate before jumping back to the brisk tone. The dynamic second movement was full of circular whirling interlocking melodies, with slinky slipping and sliding strings .The third movement was poignant, sombre and richly layered , wish some spiky sections contrasted with passionately explosive quiveringly anxious ones. The pulsating final movement was driven and relentless with brisk flurries .Each of the quintet had their own individual ‘voice’ but were a magnificently unified whole taking us to the tornado like conclusion.

David Bruce’s Gumboots was delightful and featured clarinettist Georgina Oakes. Celebrating “the rejuvenating power of dance , Bruce, in his program note, insists that the work is not ‘about’ the gumboot dancers of South Africa – the dance tradition, rooted in the horrendous conditions imposed upon black gold miners – but it is definitely inspired by them. It was in two contrasting halves, the first pulsating , rich limpid and fluid, the strings shimmering and throbbing in accompaniment, the second a series of five vibrant, fast bubbly dances full of emphatic, infectious rhythms as if scattering puddles while splashing in the rain .There was a bluesy/jazz feel and hints of Gershwin. For the first half Oakes used a bass clarinet at times .

After interval we heard a passionate heartfelt performance of Schubert ‘s String Quintet in C major, D. 956, the “Cello Quintet” in a fine, focused performance. Chen, Nakamura, Thompson and Penny were joined by Paul Stender who added his rich tones to the combination.The throbbing first movement was richly lyrical yet also emphatic and had a somewhat angry atmosphere, yet it ended in earnest, thoughtful discussion. The compelling second movement was slower lyrical and more reflective. It was turbulent and achingly Romantic – a heated yet courteous group discussion that built in ominous intensity. The third movement had a spiky dynamic beginning , the main melody line stated taken and embroidered upon. There was a buoyant start to the fourth movement, led by Chen, some of which was Hungarian inspired. It included scurrying and flourishes and leading to the conclusion it was almost as if the quintet were tripping over themselves .

A most bewitching performance.

Running time approx. 2 hours 20 minutes including interval
The Omega Ensemble in Momentum played at the City Recital Hall on 13 November 2018.


For more about Omega Ensemble : Momentum, visit {Website:10}



guest soloist Lixsania Fernandez

This was a glorious concert in which the ABO under the enthusiastic, energetic and precise direction of Paul Dyer glowed and were in tremendous form.

The concert was terrifically staged with most effective lighting , opening with guest star Lixsania Fernandez appearing solo in the spotlight then as the music required quietly joined by the various members of the ABO who had been waiting behind red lit screens. Tall , charismatic and model thin, striking, rather feline Fernandez hails from Cuba with reddish/purple hair . She wore several different elegant outfits during the concert. There was obviously profound rapport between Fernandez and the ABO and great enjoyment .

First we heard Folia Pasticcio by Corelli, Scarlatti and Marais which sounded as fresh as if it had been written yesterday. The music eddied and swirled .Fernandez on her viola da Gamba had a luminous , passionate solo and at one point Dyer on harpsichord had a rippling, delicate solo.

The ‘labyrinth’ of the title was the fiendishly difficult Pietro Locatelli’s 12th Violin Concerto in 3 movements from his Opus 3 set: Il Laberinto Armonico or The Harmonic Labyrinth. The composer described it on the score as “easy to get into, difficult to get out of” and Brandenburg’s Concertmaster Shaun Lee-Chen dazzled, channelling his inner Paganini and giving an astonishing bravura performance in the almost impossibly demanding Capriccios.

The opening movement began with bright and sunny violins. Lee -Chen’s solo shimmered and pulsated breathlessly, showing cultivated double -stopping as he risked the required break neck speed and dealt with the tricky arpeggios. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN BRANDENBURG ORCHESTRA :  LIXSANIA AND THE LABYRINTH

Australian Chamber Orchestra : Ilya Gringolts Plays Paganini


The ACO under guest director and soloist Ilya Gringolts was in fine , inspired form giving a rich and varied performance . There was intense joyous rapport between Gringolts and the Orchestra , and the Orchestra obviously enjoyed performing . Gringolts made his name 20 years ago as the youngest ever winner of the Premio Paganini Prize and has dazzled and delighted orchestras and audiences ever since with his astonishing virtuoso playing. For this program he was not only featured soloist but guest director as well.

For the first half of the concert bearded and darkly handsome Gringolts wore a white shirt with what looked to be a colourful Aboriginal design in panels down the front. For the second half he was in traditional concert black.
First we heard CPE Bach’s String Symphony in C major , full of precise elegance, drama and contrasting complicated dynamics.The first movement had a very busy, swirling opening and was full or repeated circular rhythms .
The second movement was a soft piercingly exquisite lament, Gringolts on violin leading like a lyrical tenor , the Orchestra accompanying. The elegant third movement was full of interwoven convoluted scurrying and rich fluidly floating segments, tumbling towards the conclusion. Continue reading Australian Chamber Orchestra : Ilya Gringolts Plays Paganini


This image: Guest Artist – Lloyd Van’t Hoff
Featured image: Omega Ensemble (Photo credit: Keith Saunders)

Music inspired by romance, created with love, and presented with passion, LOVE: WEBER AND FRANCK is next for the Omega Ensemble.

Where words have failed, music has been the language of friends, lovers and admirers from afar.

From Franck’s endearing Sonata for Violin and Piano, composed for and performed at a friend’s wedding to Elgar’s lyrical Romance for Bassoon and Strings, these are works created out of great love, filled with passion, tenderness and musical friendship.

Also featured in the program is young-blood clarinettist (and winner of the Young Performer of the Year Awards in 2015) Lloyd Van’t Hoff who will be joining Co-Artistic Director David Rowden in a performance of Australian composer Gerard Brophy’s new work ‘We Two Boys Together Clinging.’

…a smorgasbord of chamber music…played by first-rate musicians.” Sydney Arts Guide

The Omega Ensemble [Facebook] with  LOVE: WEBER AND FRANCK [Facebook Event] will play City Recital Hall [Facebook] Wednesday 18 July @ 7.30pm.  See more of the Omega Ensemble on their YouTube channel.

Elgar Romance for Bassoon and Strings in D minor, Op. 62 arr. Cramer
Weber Quintet for Clarinet and Strings in B flat Major, Op. 34
Brophy We Two Boys Together Clinging (2017)
Franck Sonata for Violin and Piano in A Major


A most glorious concert that had the packed house enraptured, The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra ( in double string orchestra format)and Choir combined forces to perform a richly textured dramatic concert that ranged over 400 years in an English musical journey mostly concentrating on works by Tallis, Byrd, Gibbons, Locke, Purcell, and Handel but concluding with a 20th century piece Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis. They were enthusiastically and energetically conducted by Paul Dyer. Continue reading THE AUSTRALIAN BRANDENBURG ORCHESTRA AND CHOIR: THOMAS TALLIS’ ENGLAND


ACO: Photo Julian Kingma

This is a vibrant , electrifying concert that was superbly played and had the packed audience bursting with enthusiasm. The work of two masters was paired with that of two female composers born in 1980 and included an Australian and a world premiere.There was a rich lustrous sound throughout. Continue reading AUSTRALIAN CHAMBER ORCHESTRA: TOGNETTI TCHAIKOVSKY BRAHMS