Ben Martin (piano)
W.A.Academy of Performing Arts
reviewed by Neville Cohn
Since Peter Tanfield took over the direction of the Faith Court Orchestra, it has improved so significantly that it sounds like an altogether different – and more proficient – ensemble to that of, say, a couple of years ago.
Tanfield comes to Perth with impressive credentials. A former student of Yehudi Menuhin, he was a prizewinner at the Carl Flesch International Competition. He has taught extensively in Britain, Spain and Germany. Tanfield came to University of Adelaide in 1998 to lead the then-Australian String Quartet. He has been co-ordinator of classical strings at WAAPA since last year.
Tanfield’s direction of Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No 5 was impressive. I had wondered whether tackling this masterwork might have been overly ambitious. In the event, my reservations evaporated only moments into the work.
While a uniform tonal sheen in the various subsections of the strings is, on Wednesday’s evidence, still more a hope than a reality at present, and although some of the lower woodwinds need focused work in relation to intonation and tone quality, the overarching, grand sweep of Tchaikowsky’s Fifth was most commendably achieved.
Tanfield did wonders in extracting fine detail from his forces, his face eloquently mirroring the emotions he so skilfully coaxed from his young players. It augurs impressively for the FCO’s long-term prospects.
I particularly liked the tone of the brass choir, now bold and assertive, now warmly expressive, especially the French horns who gave a most musical account of themselves. A bouquet to Samuel Parry for consistently musical work on the oboe.
Ben Martin was soloist in Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 2. As ever, this prince of the piano did wonders at the keyboard, in an interpretation that was in the best sense lucid, cogent and stylistically apt. It is perhaps quibbling to point out some minor slips in the finale. Certainly, the overall effect was first rate, not least for Martin’s finely honed skill in unbottling the often turbulent genie that lies behind the printed note.
As for the accompaniment, one wondered whether the lion’s share of the FCO’s rehearsal time had been devoted to the symphony because there were moments in the concerto when ensemble weakened and entries were tentative.