Monthly Archives: September 2010

Keyed-Up recital series



Zen Zeng (piano) and friends

reviewed by Helen Fintlean


This was a Keyed-Up program with a difference, very far away from the standard piano recital format that audiences have experienced over the years. Instead, we saw a host of artists who featured in a program of music and dance from Spain.



In the first half of the program, Zen Zeng drew on the keyboard repertoire of the Iberian peninsula in works by Albeniz, de Falla and Turina. It was the last mentioned’s Noche de la Feria and La Ofrenda in which Zen Zeng sounded most at home, giving point and meaning to music seldom heard here and  which, in lesser hands, might easily have sounded prosaic. And nimble fingers were a prime focus of attention in Falla’s much-loved Andaluza as they were, too,  in the villainously demanding El Puerto and Corpus Christi en Sevilla from Albeniz’ Iberia.


In the minds of most people, flamenco is inextricably associated with the guitar. But in recent decades, there has been a growth of interest in piano music in flamenco style – and here we heard Zen Zeng in her own Solea which fell most agreeably on the ear.


In a most resourcefully compiled program, we also heard ace percussionist Steve Richter in duo with Zen Zeng in Camaron de la Isla’s Rosa Maria. I admired the skill with which piano and percussion integrated. It was an offering of considerable charm. Indeed, throughout the evening, Richter’s very real understanding of percussion made his every contribution most appealing.


Later, Zen Zeng was joined by castanets virtuoso Deanna Blacher in arrangements for piano and castanets of two of Granados’ most popular Danzas Espanolas. These were highlights of the program which, for those who have attended numbers of Keyed-Up recitals in the past, would have been considerably off the beaten track and opening new aesthetic vistas.


In a collaboration between Zen Zeng and Danza Viva Spanish Dance Company, Nicola de la Rosa gave a performance of splendid technical accomplishment, controlled emotion and exceptional grasp of style in a traditional Tangos – and was later joined by an on-form Karen Henderson in a no-less spirited and lively Bulerias. And to conclude the proceedings, something quite unexpected: an arrangement for castanets and piano of Rimsky Korsakov’s much loved Flight of the Bumblebee which brought the house down.

 Zen Zeng

Dvorak: Violin Concerto: Legends opus 59



Richard Tognetti (violin)



Nordic Chamber Orchestra



Christian Lindberg (conductor)

TPT: 70’17”






reviewed by Neville Cohn




By most accounts, Dvorak was a gruff, no-nonsense sort of character who didn’t suffer fools gladly. But insofar as the composition of his Violin Concerto is concerned, he demonstrated a forbearance that verged on the saintly. He’d been commissioned to write the work by Fritz Simrock, he of the famous firm of music publishers.


Dvorak, himself a violinist of ability, demonstrated humility in sending the score to Joseph Joachim, the greatest violinist of his day. In response to Joachim’s suggestions, Dvorak completely rewrote the work but when he sent the new version to Joachim, the latter took an incredible two YEARS to deliver his verdict.


His comments were largely negative. The work, he opined, was not yet ready for performance, the orchestration too dense. Had Dvorak at this point thrown up his hands in despair and abandoned the project, it would have been understandable. But, saint-like, he laboured on. Then, a Simrock employee found further fault. Here, though, Dvorak drew the line – and the concerto was finally published. Intriguingly, Joachim never ever played the concerto.


Soloist Richard Tognetti is in fine fettle here. In the opening allegro ma non troppo, he expresses Dvorak’s ideas in altogether convincing, toughly assertive terms. And how beautifully the soloist phrases the themes of the slow movement with notes clothed in tone of the most agreeable kind.


Throughout, conductor Christian Lindberg presides over events with understated authority. And the folksy, cheerful ideas of the finale, with their obeisance to some of Dvorak’s much loved Slavonic dances, could hardly have been better presented. I cannot imagine anyone failing to fall under the spell of this engaging music.


Dvorak’s Legends will never supplant his Slavonic Dances in the hearts and minds of an international constituency but  they are still well worth an occasional airing. And they are beautifully played here. 

Musica Viva 2011


by Neville Cohn


For the first time in fifteen years, Australia will be able to listen to the rare artistry of Sabine Meyer, clarinettist extraordinaire. This superb musician came to worldwide notice after she was voted out – 73 to 4 – by her fellow musicians in the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. It’s widely acknowledged that this had absolutely nothing to do with her musicianship – she is, at best, peerless – but was due to the refusal on the part of her fellow players to tolerate admitting a woman to the ranks of the BPO.  It was their loss; years on, Sabine Meyer is celebrated internationally as one of the very greatest exponents of the clarinet.

 Sabine Meyer

Musica Viva presents this fine musician in ensemble with the Paris-based Modigliani String Quartet. Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet will give Perth concertgoers the opportunity  to savour Meyer’s musicianship. Ian Munro, Musica Viva’s resident composer for 2010, will be represented by his own Clarinet Quintet subtitled Songs from the Bush.

 Ian Munro

Munro is perhaps better known for his skill as a pianist. He will front up with the Goldner String Quartet in his own Piano Quintet as well as the much loved Piano Quintet in A by Dvorak.


Multiple international prize winning pianist Stephen Hough will play Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata as well as Liszt’s Sonata in B minor, two sonatas by Scriabin and his own Broken Branches, a suite of 16 short pieces.

 Stephen Hough

String Quartets have been the backbone of Musica Viva’s presentations since its  inception and we will have the opportunity to listen to Beethoven’s superb Quartet No 16, opus 135 played by the Brentano Quartet which is based in the USA. There will also be works by Mozart and Ian Munro.


Another great favourite of Australian audiences, counter tenor Andreas Scholl, will, as ever, enchant audiences with his unique artistry in music by Purcell and Handel. His program will be presented in association with the W.A.Opera Company. And recorder virtuoso Genevieve Lacey will appear in ensemble with the Concerto Copenhagen in music by Bach, Vivaldi and Telemann.


Brochures with full details of Musica Viva’s 2010 concerts are now available in the foyer of Perth Concert Hall.

Complexions Contemporary Ballet


His Majesty’s Theatre, Perth

reviewed by Deanna Blacher

 Complexions - group shot lr





Complexions Contemporary Ballet would have been a largely unknown quantity in this part of the world before its opening night on Tuesday. But anyone coming away from its first performance at His Majesty’s Theatre is unlikely ever to forget it – and for all the best reasons.


Led by co-founder and principal dancer,  Desmond Richardson, (who will surely join the ranks of the great American modern dancers of the 21st century) astounded, astonished  and inspired this reviewer. Complexions reveals a strikingly different world of dance, in which hitherto unknown levels of technical accomplishment become the norm.


These extraordinary bodies are poetry in motion. What distinguishes them from so many other good dancers is that their technique, all encompassing as it is, remains the servant of their musicality, passion and artistry.


Dwight Rhoden, the company’s founder and resident choreographer, could hardly be better served by these very special dancers. Their training allows them to convey the illusion of honey in their limbs, rather than bones, especially the hips. They meet every technical and interpretative challenge head on, sailing through the most complex of  dance vocabulary with the nonchalance of mastery.


Highlight of the evening was Desmond Richardson’s unprogrammed solo, Moonlight, which comes across as a distillation, a summing up, as it were,,of everything the company stands for and is.


Superhuman control, phrasing, timing, passion, originality and an ability to draw and hold the attention of the viewer add up to memorable dance theatre  in which the whole is greater than the sum of its constituent parts.


The opening ballet – Moon Over Jupiter  – to music by Rachmaninoff was for me the most intriguing and satisfying of the works performed on opening night.


Athleticism and sheer virtuosity, especially in some very innovative solos and pas de deux , gave this work an edge that was highlighted by the exposed lighting rig in a  design by Michael Korsch.


Notwithstanding a view that a bigger stage was needed for the playing out – and appreciation of – the complexities of these splendid choreographies, this production succeeded at every level, especially in the manifold ways in which the music was interpreted, to highlight the various strengths and differences of the dancers. They are made to work as a tightly knit unit, but retain their individuality.


An exposed lighting rig featured in all the presentations and seemed to surmount the technical limitations of the theatre’s stage without difficulty, thus adding immeasurably  to the worth of each choreography .


In so many-splendoured an offering, it would be invidious to single out individuals for special mention – but it would be ungracious not to mention Patricia Hachey who shone in everything from Rachmaninoff to Billie Holiday and U2, displaying a versatility that was  breathtaking.


I noted with interest that the company has in its repertoire the works of other choreographers apart from those of its founder, Dwight Rhoden.


Apart from occasional lapses in timing and a sometimes too-loud and distorted sound track, this will be an evening that will be remembered long after the applause dies away.


Can we hope for a return visit of this very special company to give us an even broader view of their artistry?