Tag Archives: Cathie Travers


Christ Church Grammar School Chapel

reviewed by Neville Cohn


If the Eileen Joyce Studio on the University of WA campus is one of the country’s most pleasingly appointed intimate recital rooms, the Chapel of Christ Church Grammar School, Claremont is its equivalent on a larger scale. Certainly, listening to music while looking out over a boat-dotted Freshwater Bay as dusk fell, was a most agreeable experience.

And the gentle pleasure of a Sunday twilight was significantly enhanced by the performance of Leonardo – Cathie Travers (accordion), Paul Tanner (percussion) and Phil Everall (bass clarinet and contrabass clarinet).

Much of the repertoire on offer was music which, to one extent or another, evoked moods of yearning and nostalgia. Certainly, this would apply to Richard Galliano’s New York Tango in which a pulsing bass clarinet combined with the richly sonorous tones of the accordion, a sound mix further enhanced by some very sensitive playing on the vibraphone.

The same composer’s Fou Rire occupies a very different mood world, its lively, up-tempo measures in the best sense buoyant.

Piazzolla’s Milonga del Angel, on the other hand, is music pared to the bone; it hasn’t a superfluous note. As ever, its subdued mood which powerfully suggests a sense of loneliness and worldweariness, made magical, hushed listening. So, too, did the same composer’s Grand Tango in which nuanced subtleties and a moody blues quality combined to most satisfying effect.

Paul Tanner’s mysteriously titled Back in 1516 is a jazz-inflected piece I’ve not encountered before, holding the attention throughout with its abrupt rhythmic gear changes, gentle burpings from the contrabass clarinet to an overlay of vibraphone arabesques. There was also music for unaccompanied bass clarinet – Iain Grandage’s curiously named ffDuck, much of it couched in abrupt, jagged utterances laced with what sounded like little screams. A little of this went a long way.

In Galliano’s French Touch, Cathie Travers provided a pleasant antidote to what had gone before, a virtuosic solo for accordion that sounded veritably drenched in Parisian café atmosphere. Tanner’s marimba solo – one of Gordon Stout’s Mexican Dances – was another charm-filled interlude that was musical to the core.

This concert raised funds for Anglicare.

Copyright Neville Cohn 2006

Equinox Quarry Room, Joondalup Resort



Quarry Room, Joondalup Resort

reviewed by Olive Mountbatten

On a stiflingly hot day, one of the most oppressive of a summer that’s been around too long, concert organisers wisely opted to change the venue for Equinox’s concert from outdoors to the blissful, air-conditioned comfort of the Resort’s Quarry Room. And even if 11:30am is perhaps a less-than-ideal time of day to present a program largely devoted to tangos (music that for many, if not most, followers is inextricably associated with the night), the ensemble – Cathie Travers (accordion), Jessica Ipkendanz (violin), Mark Shanahan (guitar) and Pete Jeavons (double bass) – set to with a will.

This was a generous compilation that was largely devoted to the music of tango meister Astor Piazzolla (whose music Travers has done more than anyone locally to make available to a large audience) but included items by other composers, including Zequinha Abreu whose Tico Tico, the 1943 evergreen piano hit that seems never to have lost its charms for both musicians and listeners (and is considered in some quarters to have its source in a section of the finale of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No 1!).

Of the Piazzolla pieces, I particularly liked the Equinox tango band’s account of Milonga del Angel, unfolding, as it did, in an introverted, dreamy way that irresistibly evoked images of couples drifting languidly across some inner city dance floor. And in Adios Nonino, Ipkendanz’s violin sang with great feeling and warm tone; this was some of the most haunting, bittersweet music of the recital. Michelangelo at 70, too, held the attention with its rushing violin glissandi that sounded like cries. I liked, too, Richard Galiano’s New York Tango, given altogether appropriate, blazingly intense treatment ­ and the near-mesmeric throbbing of Piazzolla’s Libertango.

This concert was given in the context of the Joondalup Festival.

Copyright Olive Mountbatten 2004

Terrace Proms reviewed by Neville Cohn St George’s Terrace

Terrace Proms

reviewed by Neville Cohn


Various foyers
St George’s Terrace

Sun 19th Oct, 2003



Can there be a drearier thoroughfare than St George’s Terrace on a Sunday? In summer, when the wind is still, its buildings radiate heat ­ and when stiff breezes blow down the Terrace, it’s like a wind tunnel.

Apart from folk emerging from the Chifley on the Terrace or going into or out of church, the highway is deserted on 51 Sundays of the year. But for the last six years, there’s been one Sunday of the year when the Terrace comes to life in a way that is diametrically different to all the other Sundays.

On this day, the foyers of the palaces of commerce that line the CBD’s premier thoroughfare are thrown open for a day-long musicfest. It worked – and worked well – as, for a few hours, grand vestibules were host to throngs of music lovers instead of the more usually encountered streams of people either entering or leaving the foyers on matters of commerce and the law.

On that single Sunday, these entrance halls become intimate concert venues where internationally respected artists and some of the city’s best musicians offer an eclectic range of performances.

There was a carnival atmosphere, with marching bands and marching girls and throngs of school-age musicians taking part in a variety of ensemble endeavours indoors or on the pavements.

For those on modest budgets, many of the events were free of charge. Internationally acclaimed artists and the best of the city’s own gave performances at impressive levels of expertise that catered for many tastes.

With much of the Terrace blocked to traffic and handed over to the people, many made the most of strolling along and across the roadway as they pleased. There was a very real, almost tangible, air of excitement about the proceedings. People enjoyed being on the Terrace – and cafes and restaurants in the immediate vicinity did a roaring trade. An ABC-TV documentary on the Proms (made in the late 1990s) brought Perth priceless publicity around the country when it showed that the city was far from being some provincial backwater.

Now, due to diminished funding, the Proms, the brainchild of emeritus professor David Tunley (who has laboured for years to raising the profile of fine music in the city) is imperilled. The signs of its decline were apparent in the very limited pre-publicity (due to very limited monies for the purpose) and the much reduced number of performances for the same reason.

Music festivals, small or large, don’t just happen, even if much of the behind-the-scenes and front-of-house work is done by volunteers. Funding is their lifeblood, not least to publicise the event. And because advertising was so limited, few people knew the Proms were on. As is the way with the arts in the 21st century, subsidies are essential. Professor Tunley believes that triennial funding and corporate sponsorship are needed to enable the event to be planned well in advance.

As an inveterate concertgoer (as are many others), I look forward each year to this event. And if, due to insufficient funding, the Proms fail, everyone loses. But if there is appropriate funding to enable the Proms to continue, it will almost certainly become an established tourist attraction, the like of which may well be unique in national terms.

Even though there were fewer events than usual, standards, for the most part, were as high as ever.

Classical guitarist Craig Ogden accompanied his wife Claire Bradshaw in songs by Purcell and Schubert. Another singer of distinct promise is young baritone David Thelander, of the Australian Opera Studio. Accompanied at the piano by Michael Schouten, Thelander communicated strongly in lieder by Mozart, Schubert and Schumann.

In the vestibule of London House, which is one of the most beautifully appointed on the Terrace, Paul Wright (violin), Darryl Poulsen (horn) and Anna Sleptsova (piano) did wonders in a trio by Charles Koechlin. In the same venue, Cathie Travers (accordion) and her Equinox ensemble played Piazzolla as if to the manner born, Preludio No 9 given the stamp of distinction.

At nearby Forrest Centre, Elisa Wilson and Mark Alderson sang with customary enthusiasm in a semi-staged version of Wolf-Ferrari’s Susanna’s Secret. Tommaso Pollio at the piano did wonders in bringing the piano reduction of the full score to life.

Also at Forrest Centre, young cellist Louise McKay, playing excerpts from Tchaikowsky’s Variations on a Rococo Theme, took top honours in the inaugural Janet Holmes a Court Terrace Proms Young Classical Performer of the Year Award. The adjudicators were Graham Wood and Jack Harrison.

© October 2003

Totally Huge New Music Festival 2001


W.A. Academy of Performing Arts Music Auditorium

reviewed by Edmund Percy



It’s recitals such as this that make an initiative like The Totally Huge New Music Festival thoroughly worthwhile for audiences in search of the musically novel. With the exception of John Cage’s Experiences No. 1 and Lutoslawski’s frequently aired Variations on a Theme of Paganini, the entire program could well have been largely – or even entirely – new to most of those at the Conservatorium Auditorium. Certainly, I cannot readily recall attending such an enterprising two-piano recital; it made for absorbing listening.

Cage’s Experiences is enchanting music, gentle, glowing-toned sound with a Ravelian delicacy that was a cleverly chosen foil to very much more extrovert works that preceded and followed it. Ron Ford’s Tema, the curtain-raiser, is a curious little piece that requires both pianists to play identical parts, much of it at high decibel levels. This is frighteningly exposed music; the slightest miscalculation is instantly apparent. Travers and Green-Armytage, though, could hardly be faulted here. Their digital synchronisation was beyond reproach, the attack and follow-through they brought to their performance making for satisfying listening. I liked, too, the duo’s response to Stephen Montague’s Paramell V, a little work that requires busy fingers, staying power and the ability to build up to massive climaxes. Here, too, the duo seemed positively to revel in the piece’s challenges to which they rose with all the vigour they demand. Dutch-born Reel van Oosten’s Danae ou la pluie d’or is based on the mythological story of Zeus changing himself into a shower of golden rain which is the form in which he visits Danae in her locked bedroom. Much of the piece has a fragile, pointillist quality that brings Debussy’s Gardens in the Rain to mind. It was given a beautifully considered reading.

This recital bore the stamp of distinction.

With the exception of Lutoslawski’s piece which was written as far back as 1941 and Cage’s piece that dates from 1948, there was nothing on the program that was written before 1981; the most recent of the compilation was Van Norden’s Uberbrettl, completed in 1998.