Category Archives: Live Performance

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.

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!

Magellan

 

Paul Wright (violin) Sacha McCulloch (cello) Faith Maydwell (piano)

Christ Church Grammar School Chapel

reviewed by Neville Cohn

 

Despite its wealth of melody and episodes of stunning, high drama, Tchaikowsky’s Piano Trio in A minor is only very seldom heard in live performance. More’s the pity. I dare say the formidable demands the work makes on the players are a factor militating against frequent airings.

 

Then there’s the material making up the work which can cause musical indigestion. It’s an over-abundance which calls to mind those giant hamburgers that are periodically advertised by fast food stores where a single serving contains enough meat, cheese and bacon to make two or even three ‘normal’ hamburgers. So, with one important reservation, is Tchaikowsky’s Trio. Unlike the burgers, however, Tchaikowsky’s Trio is far from injurious to health.

 

It’s a work brimming, indeed overflowing, with frankly magnificent concepts. But, like that giant hamburger, there’s simply too much of it to be taken in on a single occasion, not least because it brings a very real risk of musical indigestion.

 

This notwithstanding, the Magellan players did the work proud. Their level of ensemble is most impressive as is their staying power. Indeed, nearing the close of this marathon work, the players sounded as eloquent and stylistically assured as in the work’s opening moments. Passionate intensity and magnificent tone colourings – whether in episodes of dramatic boldness or moments of gentle, introspective reflection – were pointers to highest musicianship, the players invariably loyal to the composer’s seemingly limitless inventiveness.

 

Earlier, we listened to the first public performance of Duncan Gardiner’s A Thousand Cranes Beat Their Wings. It has a delightful, orient-tinged immediacy, written with a very real understanding of instrumental potential, as in a beautifully soulful cello utterance early on.  Whether couched in gently melancholic terms or moments of intensity, it’s clear that Gardiner has something worthwhile to say in instrumental terms. A Thousand Cranes deserves to be taken up by other musicians. I’d like to listen to it again – and again.

 

I am quite sure I am not alone in looking forward to this splendid ensemble’s next program.

 

Stereo Action

 

Defying Gravity

WAAPA Music Auditorium

reviewed by Neville Cohn

 

By just about any yardstick, Stereo Action was a thundering success. True, at times, fingers in ears were necessary to mitigate, at least to some degree, the massive sonic blasts which punctuated the evening’s proceedings. Perhaps the area of sound absorbing panels on the auditorium walls needs expansion.

 

With the linking commentary of the ever-ebullient Tim White who has done so much to make Perth a significant centre for top level percussion performances, the WAAPA students (with some additional sonic muscle provided by young student percussionists from UWA), gave ample evidence of focussed ability.

 

With so many players giving of their best, it is perhaps invidious to single out individuals for special mention. But it would be ungracious not to particularly praise the players who gave an account of white-hot intensity of Fire in the Sky – led by the extraordinary Marcus Perrozzi who also wrote the work.

 

IMG_0191Perrozzi’s skills have been honed in recent years as percussionist with Cirque de Soleil – and on Saturday, he was at his impressive best, leading the players on to the stage from the rear of the auditorium while hurling massive sonic blocks at the audience. This was a riveting experience in both sonic and visual terms.

 

Earlier, we listened to what, in the 1930s, would have been startlingly adventurous to Western ears: a major work scored for percussion instruments only. I wonder what Edgard Varese would have thought of the avalanche of Western percussion works which came in the wake of his barrier-breaking Ionisation.

 

In a program that contained much flexing of sonic muscles, Xiaowen Pan’s gentle offerings of Chinese traditional melodies on both Chinese flute and oboe provided unfettered listening pleasure.

 

Another unforgettable offering was the first ever public performance of Tao Issaro’s Trikaal which began in stygian darkness with a prolonged and unyieldingly ferocious assault on a drum surface. The sheer intensity of attack and the fierce focus required to maintain momentum brought this listener to the edge of his seat.

 

Laurels to two young percussionists, both on vibraphone, who reached for – and touched – the stars: Ben Albert in Raymond Scott’s Powerhouse and Tom Robertson in the first movement of Emmanuel Sejourne’s Concerto for Vibraphone. In the most articulate and meaningful way, these young percussionists are what Defying Gravity is all about: training and mentoring the best of young musicians who will take their skills to a wider constituency, bringing honour not only for themselves but the dedicated teachers at WAAPA who make this happen.