Above  : Soprana Danielle Grant made a fine contribution to the contrasts needed in this programme.

Keyboardist Diana Weston and regular Thoroughbass musicians offered a finely thought out and diverse programme. It both stimulated our senses and contributed boldly to the re-emergence of Live classical music in Sydney.

In a keen juxtaposition which actually works really well, we heard Debussy’s Ariettes Oublieés, the sensual setting of Paul Verlaine’s heart-on-the-sleeve poetry followed by more joyous Ignaz Pleyel’s piano and violin sonata and dance music and songs from the early Australian colony.

This mixed swag of treasures reached us in the elegant venue with equal swagfuls of elegance, nuance and directness. From the outset we were charmed by Danielle Grant’s mellifluous vocal quality and a subtle, sympathetic piano accompaniment from Diana Weston for this song cycle.

The Ariettes Oublieés unfolded evenly and with slick delivery of the French text and Debussy’s delicately adroit musical figures. Verlaine’s emotional poetry so well set by the French composer was a great choice for these times, with the poets seemingly everyday and innocent opening lines hurtling us into deeper meaning and often disarray.

Above : Pianist and Harpsichordist Diana Weston

This pair of performers delved nicely into the resources of the poet and pianist-composer to reveal contrast within each small song and also across the set, which was a treat to hear in its entirety at this event. The shift to the livelier carousel-metaphor of  ‘Chevaux de Bois’ was one such big-picture contrast which was well managed.

Back in time next was a shift to the delicate exuberance of Ignace Pleyel. Violinist Tara Hashambuoy joined Diana Weston for a bright and a nest rendering of the Sonata in G Major, possibly new music for many of the audience.

This was a fluid and dynamic presentation, and one can only imagine the effect of the charming three movement work on an early piano, with lighter voice and pedalling effect.

Tara Hashambuoy delivered a fine historically appropriate violin statement, with sparingly employed vibrato and refreshingly articulated phrasing. The conversation with Weston’s keyboard was consistently engaging and always well-approached with regard to the recreation of period gestures.

Above : Violinist Tara Hashambuoy 

The remainder of this concert dealt with found songs and dance music from the early colony in an educational and enlightening snapshot of music in early Australia for white free settlers. Using sources various, including Scottish immigrant Lucy Haven’s portfolio of music from et very different past, we were treated to exciting musicological moments and an enjoyable romp with a Gaelic flavour.DFeaturing Danielle Grant mastering yet another language and dialect with crisp diction and strikingly varied characters, forces expanded to two cellos (Angus Ryan and Lucy Cormack), violin (Tara Hashambuoy) and harpsichord (Diana Weston).

Tara Hashambuoy is to be commended for some fine playing in vigorous reels and more plaintive moments alike, and some steadfast filigree in songs interestingly adorned with obbligato lines by prolific local composer Ann Carr-Boyd.

Above : Composer Ann Carr-Boyd composed violin obbligatos to Scotch Songs 

It would have been enjoyable to have heard the inimitable ring of an early colony piano in the mix for these songs rather than a plucked string sound, however this was a band of players which blended very well and gifted us songs that should never be forgotten, in keeping with the spirit of obviously homesick and a little lost early Australian settlers.

This concert sang with so many colours as well as got us out of live music isolation to get up and dance. Courtesy of the collection from Sydney Living Museums and other discoveries or manipulations by the hardworking Thoroughbass team, we sampled music from our own unique Antipodean beginnings which still had the power to move us despite a difficult era or environment.

‘Thoroughbass’ performs live again next at the Glebe Music Festival in November.



  1. I couldn’t agree more about the desirableness of an early piano for the early settler music. Fortunately we will be able to present a concert with an early square piano, courtesy of St John’s College Sydney University, perhaps several, in 2021.

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