Tag Archives: Mark Coughlan




Taryn Fiebig (soprano)

Mark Coughlan (piano)

Hale Auditorium

reviewed by Neville Cohn


If William Walton’s song cycle A Song for the Lord Mayor’s Table had been the only work on the program presented by Taryn Fiebig and Mark Coughlan, it would have been an altogether satisfying evening.


Had the shade of the composer hovered over proceedings at Hale Auditorium, it would surely have nodded approval at the performance of his song cycle.


From first note to last, this was a reading to savour with its complete identification with the score by  both musicians. The words were sung with a very real understanding of style – and the piano part could hardly have been bettered. It was a model of its kind.


Walton’s cycle is fiendishly difficult to bring off in both physical and interpretative terms – but on both counts the two musicians came through with banners flying. It was offered with splendid flair, the high point of the recital, not least for the exhilaration that informed so much of the more extravert songs in the cycle.

  Photo Credit: Steven Godbee



Also on the program were a bracket of lieder by Schubert as well as Samuel Barber’s Knoxville Summer of 1915. The latter was less persuasive due primarily to some less than clear diction. It lacked the fine focus that made the Walton cycle so satisfying. And of the Schubert bracket, it was Die Manner sind mechant (in which a young woman complains to her mother about her boyfriend’s roving eye) that came across best; it was a miniature delight.


Unintentionally, Taryn Fiebig has joined the ranks of that small group of artists who perform bare feet. Like the extraordinary flamenco dancer La Chunga and Rumanian violinist extraordinaire Patricia Kopachinskaja, Fiebig came on stage sans footwear which, she explained, was the unwanted outcome of playing with her pet dog. This resulted in a fall and broken toes which precluded the use of footwear.

Graeme Gilling/Jana Kovar/Mark Coughlan (pianos)

Conservatorium Auditorium

reviewed by Neville Cohn

It would have been surprising if any of the audience gathered to hear Bruch’s Concerto for two pianos had ever heard the work before – or even heard of its existence. Although it is available on an EMI LP, very few seem to be aware of its existence.

Graeme Gilling gave a fascinating little prefatory talk in which he explained that Bruch’s concerto had been written on commission for a piano duo – sisters Ottilie and Rose Sutro in the USA. But due to irreconcilable disputes about the concerto between composer and the duo, the work had never been performed by the commissioners.

After the death of the duo, their assets were auctioned. Among these was a box containing miscellaneous scores with the original manuscript of the concerto among them which, incidentally, revealed literally hundreds of amendments to Bruch’s original.

This lunchtime performance would almost certainly have been the first public airing of the work in Australia albeit in a version for three pianos, the third for a keyboard reduction of the orchestral score and played by Mark Coughlan.

The sheer novelty of this offering ensured the closest attention. On the basis of a first hearing, though, one is left with the impression that the concerto’s chequered history is vastly more engrossing than the piece itself.

It is a frankly tedious, vast repository of musical cliches, a work brimming with fanfares, scales and arpeggios, much of it written in a way that makes it difficult to master in physical terms and – based on a first hearing – devoid of memorable melody. In fairness, it may well sound more meaningful when heard with orchestral accompaniment – although the cosmic dullness that this version for three pianos engenders does not augur well.

Earlier, Kovar and Gilling played Percy Grainger’s Blithe Bells.

Copyright Neville Cohn 2006