Monthly Archives: August 2016

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!



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.