Category Archives: Live Performance

Silver Sands Guitar Trio

 

Perth Town Hall

reviewed by Neville Cohn

 

 

Outside, it may have been raining with a teeth-chattering-chilly wind as well – but Perth Town Hall provided a cosy, pleasantly warm environment as we listened to a charm-laden program featuring three classical guitarists of high accomplishment, collectively known as Silver Sands Guitar Trio: Jonathan Paget, Craig Lake and Nathan Fischer.

 

Each of the Silver Sands players is a guitarist of high (and deserved) reputation in a solo capacity. But collectively, they have submerged their individuality to create a new multi-person identity – and it was in this latter capacity that we listened to a fascinating and intriguing compilation.

 

Azariah Felton’s Tintinyungu was given its world premiere performance. Its gently flowing, charm-laden measures give way to more assertive moments. I’d like to listen to it again.

 

The composer points out that the title means ‘‘to challenge or compete with” and the piece shows this by pitting the players against one another “through different time signatures and rhythmic groupings”. It’s fascinating fare.

 

I liked Francis Kleyjans’ Imagerie, Hommage a Debussy, a charming obeisance and clever allusion to Debussy’s unique style. Another delight – Gnatalli’s Toada from Brazilian Popular Suite in an arrangement by Laurindo Almeida – has an engagingly danceable  quality.

 

Two movements from Suite Retratos provided intriguing listening, too. First movement, entitled Ernesto Nazareth, came across as stylish with a first class blend of tone. Chiquinha Gonzaga is a busy miniature, a bustling delight.

 

Nigel Westlake’s Shards of Jaisalmer was exquisitely presented, a most attractive composition but needing some judicious pruning; it seemed too long for its material.

 

A delightfully laidback Rio Rhapsody by Gnatalli arr.Almeida was the afternoon’s curtain raiser: a splendid introduction to the afternoon.

 

Earlier, we listened to the W.A.Guitar Society Orchestra conducted by Jane Darcey.

Millenium Rag was a pleasant, charmingly lazy, tango-like offering and Darcey’s own River Rocks made for most appealing listening as well.

Pacifica Quartet

 

reviewed by Neville Cohn

 

In its original and accurate sense, chamber music, by definition, is intended for performance in a small space – perhaps, say, in the lounge room of a suburban home or the entrance hall of a mansion or, at most, in a small commercial space. Intimacy is its crucial requirement. As a critic who has long since lost count of performances devoted to such music, I can say that during those many years, the number of times I’ve listened to high-end chamber music in the sort of space which the composers might have had in mind for this or that work, is very, very low indeed. Commercial considerations demand continuation of the status quo. It’s virtually non-negotiable.

I dare say that box office takings at concerts featuring musicians who are paid very high fees are a necessary requirement.

 

Photographer Matt Landy

But there was a delightful departure from this state of affairs at a concert given in a suburban Perth residence in a conventionally-sized room. The Pacifica Quartet, US-based, was to give a performance at the Concert Hall on the night following. But to raise funds for bringing music and musical instruments to young people living miles from cities and so far away in some cases that even radio reception is uneven or non-existent, the Pacifica ensemble agreed to participate in a re-creation of an old-style chamber music environment..

 

Bringing the musical action so close to the listener can be an extraordinary experience, not the least of it being the strikingly different sound that reaches the ear, for instance, the unmistakable but only-very-rarely encountered grainy quality as bows bite strings. A first encounter can – and often is – a startling and even off-putting experience. I have known some listeners who find the experience so grating and unpleasant that they find it necessary to leave the room. In larger performing spaces such as purpose-built auditoriums, this is a non-issue.

 

Some liken close listening to bow on string to the sound of a finger nail scraping down a blackboard. Its metallic, ratcheting sound can be offputting.

 

So it was a fascinating experience to listen to Beethoven’s late quartet – opus 135 – under these conditions. Of all Beethoven’s chamber music produced in the twilight of his life, opus 135 would be one of the most accessible. To be frank, I’d have preferred to listen to it in a larger space. Although this was a rare opportunity to listen to a music masterpiece under conditions similar to those in Beethoven’s time, I found the nearness of the instruments eventually oppressive. But it was a rare experience and I’m so glad I had that opportunity to experience chamber music as it might have sounded in the composer’s day. I think every enthusiastic chamber music follower might benefit from an insight of this sort if only on a one-off  basis.

 

There was more than Beethoven on offer. We listened, too, to utterly different music in the form of  Astor Piazzolla’s Four for Tango. This, too, came across as a sonic gem to cherish.

 

My there be more of these events, fascinating in their own right – and beneficial in a very real and important way for young musicians in remote places. Bravissimo!

Black Swan State Theatre Company

 

Endgame (Samuel Beckett)

State Theatre

reviewed by Neville Cohn

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

photographer Daniel James Grant.

 

 

He’s like the spirit of malevolence and bitterness: blind, marooned in a chair from which he almost never moves as he dispenses – generously –  bile and self-hatred.

 

He’s not the sort of person anyone would willingly want to befriend. But Clov – played with masterly skill by Kelton Pell – has reserves of patience and compassion that are wildly out of proportion to the constant stream of unpleasantness that issues from Hamm.

 

Pell is star of the production; his characterisation is wonderfully, and satisfyingly, complete. There’s understated artistry in his every gesture, the slightest semi-sentence. He makes of Clov a man of angelic patience, never for a moment – not even a second – gruff, abrasive, dismissive. His every word and gesture are informed by a quietness – a calmness – that make him the very antithesis of Hamm.

 

Clov climbs a ladder.(He never sits – anywhere, any time.) He places a foot on the first rung – and waits a while before bringing his other foot to the same rung – and so on. In a sense this typifies Clov – quiet, unhurried, gentle with a near-angelic forbearance.

 

Despite given every reason to,  he NEVER raises his voice. There’s quiet understatement to his every word – the absolute antithesis of the monstrous Hamm., – but although viscerally unpleasant, one cannot help feeling pity for this dreadfully stricken being.

 

Hamm’s handicaps are awful;  his abrasiveness, his virtually complete lack of empathy add to the sheer unpleasantness of the man.  But – and this is the crucial question – how many others would act differently to awful Hamm in his dreadful predicament.

 

Who would uncomplainingly accept blindness and additional incapacity? How many would accept being weighed down by such hideous handicaps? It is so easy to be judgemental – but how many in a similarly awful  situation would act differently?

 

Then there are Nell (Caroline McKenzie) and Nagg (George Shevtsov), both legless, each living in a bin. Although on a much smaller scale, their parts require consistent skill – and on this score, they both deliver wholesale.

 

This is a five-star offering, much due to first rate direction by Andrew Ross.. I hope it’s seen by thousands. It deserves to be.

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.