Elandra Ensemble

Elandra Ensemble

Callaway Auditorium

reviewed by Neville Cohn

Tapping into the seemingly limitless repertoire of Argentinian composer Astor Piazzolla, the musicians of the Elandra Ensemble (a loose coalition of professionals drawn mainly from the W.A.Symphony Orchestra) played a number of his idiosyncratic tangos as well as music by Istvan Marta and two of the Elandra musicians. But while Piazzolla represented the lion’s share of the program, it was Blues for Gilbert by Mark Glentworth that proved the chief joy of the evening.

Percussionist Paul Tanner, who has been a stalwart of the local music scene for a good many years, was at his persuasive best at the vibraphone. Much of the work is couched in gentle, languid terms and here Tanner did wonders, using his mallets to produce delicate arabesques, note streams clothed in auras of glowing sound. And in more robust episodes, he employed multi-mallets with trademark control and accuracy.

I very much admired, too, the ensemble’s account of Piazzolla’s Fugato which came across as a fascinating exercise in quasi-Bachian style, with Catherine Cahill (clarinet), Zac Rowntree (violin), Tanner on percussion, Tom O’Halloran (piano) and Peter Jeavons on double bass demonstrating an iron nerve and a cool mind to bring this tango to exhilarating life. Stylistically, it was entirely convincing.

And O’Halloran’s own Guapo which oscillated between swagger and swoon, employed rapidly repeated chords to dramatic effect.

Piazzolla’s Soledad was another delight, not least for its wide range of timbres, including warm, dark tone from the clarinet’s chalumeau register, a groaning double bass and vibraphone keys struck with the wooden reverse ends of the mallets.

Also on the bill was Piazzolla’s Michelangelo ’70, an engaging miniature with little screams on the violin and an irresistible, toe-tapping rhythmic underpinning.

© November 2003

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