Death at the Festival pp183 sc | Death in Titipu pp203 sc | Through a Brick Wall Darkly pp216 sc by Barbara Yates Rothwell

 

Trafford Publishing.

 

reviewed by Alice Woode

 

Now in her ninth decade, Barbara Yates Rothwell demonstrates an energy that is frankly extraordinary. At an age when many of her contemporaries are either dead or building tiny houses of sea shells, Yates Rothwell forges ahead. A mother of six, she founded and ran a school for a decade in the 1980s, she worked as music critic for The West Australian newspaper for ten years – and prior to settling in Australia, was Women’s Page editor for a large group of weekly papers in the UK.

 

In Death at the Festival, Rothwell is in familiar territory (that is, in a purely musical context). It focuses on the murder of two celebrated concert pianists who have turned up to take part in the festival. It’s a book that ought to be read by any and every musician who has played at one or other – or many – music festivals – and that goes for festival organisers as well. The reader is kept guessing until almost the very end.

It’s a thumping read.

 

If Death at the Festival focuses on professional musicians, Death in Titipu is peopled by those amateur musicians – both singers and instrumentalists – who for decades past have been the lifeblood of the Gilbert and Sullivan repertoire as members of one or other of the many G&S societies in English-speaking environments around the globe.

 

It’s a fascinating whodunit. Titipu’s interpreter who is also the local school principal is done to death and as the police delve into the often murky backgrounds of some of the other players, unpleasant facts emerge, not least about Miss Teresa Glencosset, the principal of St Chedwyn’s school for girls; she is most definitely not nice.

 

It’s a real page turner. Don’t begin reading it at bedtime. The chances are that you’ll be so intrigued by the murky goings-on among the G&S crowd that you’ll carry on reading into the wee hours and stumble about groggily from tiredness the following day – as happened to me.

Through a Brick Wall Darkly is the antithesis of the whodunit. It’s a beautifully written story about adoption and the emotional minefield that has so often to be traversed by those involved in the process. It should be read by anyone contemplating adoption. Yates Rothwell offers a movingly sensitive, bittersweet tale about the effects the process can have on so many people. Depression, elation, regret, confusion, despair are so often the essence of the process. It’s a touching, at times desperately sad, story that ought to be read by anyone contemplating involvement in an adoption. Throughout, Yates Rothwell never puts a foot wrong in this beautifully considered book.

Book Review

Tartuffe (Moliere)

State Theatre

reviewed by Neville Cohn

 

To experience Black Swan Theatre’s frankly delightful production of Moliere’s timeless Tartuffe is as refreshing an entertainment as a cool shower on a very hot day.

 

With a gratifying sense of onward momentum and an entirely appropriate lightness of touch, Moliere’s play worked the magic that has made it a theatrical favourite for centuries. Pace is crucial here – and on this count director Kate Cherry could not be faulted.

 

This production of Tartuffe plays out against a very 21st-century background. The set is cleverly designed by Richard Roberts. It looks as if the play is set in, say, suburban Scarborough – and its neatness and polish are largely due to the efforts of the maid Dorine,  played delightfully by Emily Weir. Her role is a crucial one and she essays it as if it had been written especially for her.

 

The sons and father of the household, too, enter splendidly into the spirit of the play; it is theatrically spot-on.

 

As Tartuffe, Darren Gilshenin warrants the highest praise. He could not be faulted. This is the sort of characterisation that critics pray to experience but only very rarely encounter in reality. The timelessness of Moliere’s play is underscored by the visceral unpleasantness of Tartuffe, surely one of theatre’s most appalling, indeed disgusting, characters, a man who has made deception and hypocrisy a way of life, in fact an art form. His ability to lie and deceive is exceptional.

Cast.Tartuffe Image

Daniel James Grant

In the wonderfully capable hands and voice of Gilshenan, Tartuffe is given a face that faultlessly mirrors each nuance of this stomach-churning crook. Gilshenan hands us a Tartuffe who is the most revolting of hypocrites. The timelessness of Moliere’s play is assured by the playwright’s genius in bringing the vomitous Tartuffe to life; his visceral unpleasantness is limitless.

 

At one time or another, we have all encountered Tartuffe clones, those who exploit circumstances of the moment to advance their own interests which are invariably to the detriment of innocent others. And Moliere’s genius ensures that Tartuffe is as much of today as of the century in which the play was written.

 

Lighting, decor and garb – all this is of A1 quality – but the translation of the text into English – or rather its presentation –  is not always at the standard of these other theatrical high points. There was a lack of even flow; frequently words sounded stilted or awkward.

Royal Schools Music Club – a 90th birthday celebration

 

 

Callaway Auditorium

reviewed by Neville Cohn

 

In many instances, people are now living years longer than was the case, say, a century ago. Many now survive to 90 years of age  – and older; it is no longer considered particularly remarkable. The opposite applies to music clubs. Most have died years ago. But there are exceptions – such as the Royal Schools Music Club which recently celebrated its 90th anniversary in fine style. If its birthday concert is anything to go by, there’s every reason to believe it will not only reach its centenary in glowing health but carry on its fine work further into the future.

 

This birthday celebration was a finely balanced offering: serious, profound material leavened by moments of brief, tongue-in-cheek frivolity. It was a delightful mix.

 

Lyn Garland: step forward and take a thoroughly deserved bow for a faultless ushering-in of the program with an account of a Faure Impromptu. I cannot recall hearing this fine pianist to better advantage, capturing, as she did flawlessly, the essence of this so-elusive music.

 

Shuan Hern Lee gave us a seldom heard, engaging Tchaikowsky miniature: Invitation to Trepak. Afterwards, he was joined by his father Yoon-Sen Lee in a version for piano duet of the same composer’s evergreen Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.

 

We also listened to a first performance of a charm-laden obeisance to the Romantic era: Holly Broadbent’s Sonata in A minor, played in high style by Paul Wright (violin) and Anna Sleptsova (piano). They also presented a fine reading of  Danza No 1 from de Falla’s Three Cornered Hat – and Sleptsova played Ukrainian Melody by compatriot Myroslav Skoryk as well as Rodion Shchedrin’s A la Albeniz, a cheeky obeisance to the great Spanish composer.

 

And there was, too, a charming interlude from the Palm Court era with Trio Apasionado playing Chaly by Andres Linetsky.

 

Whether frivolous or profoundly serious, this was a beautifully balanced presentation that throughout struck just the right note – pun intended!

 

By virtue of its ability to remain relevant – in a most meaningful and engaging way – the Royal Schools Music Club has not only survived (whereas almost all other music clubs in Australia have gone the way of the dodo) but shows no sign whatever of fading from the music scene. And that is as remarkable as it is heart-warming.

Blanca y Negra

Crooked Spire Coffee House, Midland

reviewed by Helga Sand

Fascinating flamenco finesse informed every moment of a traditional Farruca at the Crooked Spire Coffee House. It was an ideal curtainraiser for Nicole Levy and Karen Henderson to demonstrate their skill and style in this most attractive of flamenco dances. Impeccable footwork was a particularly pleasing feature.

There was a most attractively styled Solea por Bulerias and a no-less meaningful account of a Siguiriyas, each given a contemporary take on the traditional versions. In both instances, style, technique and a fine sense of line and rhythm gave point and meaning to these flamenco staples. Castanet playing was of fine standard. A concluding Alegrias, with a beautifully gowned Henderson and Levy striking in a Spanish trouser suit, did wonders in this most approachable of flamenco dance styles. Their performance would surely have charmed even the grumpiest of audience members.

Laurels aplenty to guitarist Kieran Ray who excelled on flamenco guitar. His playing, radiating authenticity and buttressed by an impeccable technique provided ideal accompaniments for the dancers. For much of the evening, mystifyingly, he was at times barely visible, a dim figure in the gloom, the very antithesis of his radiant playing. This aside, Sarah Levitt’s lighting design was everything one could have hoped for.

It is only very infrequently indeed that the violin is heard in a flamenco context so Stuart Robertson’s strongly emphatic playing was of particular interest – and Genevieve Wilkins and Jackson Vickery were both faultless on cajon.

Adding to the visual dimension of the production was the use of drawings of bullfighting and flamenco dancers, images of which were projected onto the rear of the stage. The originals, on sale, were displayed on the walls of the cafe area.

Having worked for decades as a reviewer in Perth, I can say that, compared to some of the hideously uncomfortable seating provided for audiences in too many local venues, the seats in the Crooked Spire theatre border on the heavenly.

The Grigoryan Brothers (guitars)

WAAPA Music Auditorium.

reviewed by Neville Cohn

 

As a young piano pupil, I was particularly fond of the pieces contained in Tchaikowsky’s The Seasons, especially the Barcarolle. But at a crowded Music Auditorium at WAAPA at the weekend, we listened to the Grigoryan brothers in a rarely encountered version for two classical guitars of three other of Tchaikowsky’s delightful miniatures.

I savoured every moment of this delightful curtainraiser.

The rapid, nimble essence of February was evoked to the nth degree as was the finesse with which the bittersweet measures of October were presented. These three arrangements, played with such understanding of mood and style, would, I am sure, have brought an approving nod from Tchaikowsky himself had the shade of that great composer hovered over the proceedings at the weekend.

Yet another delight was a transcription for two guitars of Handel’s Organ Concerto No 3. How, I wondered, would Handel’s much loved masterpiece fare in a version for guitar duet? It seemed such an improbable undertaking – but I need not have been concerned. The transcription was done with such finesse that, in its altered guise, Handel’s sublime concerto sounded altogether right, entirely valid in sonic and stylistic terms – and exquisitely played.

I especially admired the players’ subtle rubato in the slow movement and the quite delightful insouciance that informed the finale.

As the novelist Mrs Gaskell famously opined about Trollope’s novel Framley Parsonage, I’d have liked the concerto to go on forever. The meticulously detailed playing, the near-flawless ensemble and the sheer beauty and clarity of sound provided a performance informed by artistry of the highest order. It was an offering that could have held its own before even the most demanding international audience.

Indeed, the musical chemistry was such that the playing invariably sounded the product, not so much of two very fine musicians playing together, but of a corporate music persona where individuality is sacrificed in the interests of that persona. And the aesthetic results of that were impressively in evidence. Perfect ensemble was apparent in even the subtlest rubati.

A fascinating compilation also included a delightfully laid back account of Lovelady’s Incantation No 2 – and a beautifully considered Sarabande from Towner’s Suite for two guitars.

Both players have written works for themselves – and what musical pleasures were in evidence there. In works which teemed with intriguing, novel and ingenious ideas, delightful tone colourings and a gratifying sense of spontaneity, the duo reached for – and touched – the stars. Slava Grigoryan’s Fantasy on a Theme by William Lawes was a charm laden offering, music that throbbed and pulsed, a perfect introduction to a memorable evening.

This was one of the most satisfying recitals I’ve listened to this year, a splendid offering presented by two profoundly disciplined, exceptionally gifted and stylistically impeccable siblings. Bravo!