Tag Archives: Cool Head

Recital- Government House Ballroom

Sacha McCulloch (cello)

Faith Maydwell (piano)

Government House Ballroom

reviewed by Neville CohnCelloPianoWeb

A recital of masterworks for cello and piano at Government House Ballroom at the weekend raised funds for the Australian Red Cross. Unusually at this venue, curtains at the rear of the stage were drawn back so allowing the late afternoon sun to bathe the stage in light.

It was an account of Brahms’ Sonata for cello and piano, opus 99 that provided the most consistent listening pleasure. Here, both musicians drew from deep wells of expressiveness in a way that allowed the sonata’s cumulative grandeur to register most positively on the consciousness.

Certainly, with Maydwell at the venue’s splendid, recently acquired Fazioli grand piano – and McCulloch impressive in coaxing noble tone from the cello, especially in the lower range – one was able to savour one of Brahms’ greatest inspirations. In fact, if this had been the only item on the program, it would have been an entirely fulfilling listening experience. I dare say that unfamiliarity with the Ballroom’s acoustics may have been a factor contributing to some less than immaculate cello intonation.

Rachmaninov’s Sonata for cello and piano is not for tinkle-fingered shrinking violets. On the contrary, it requires a cool head, an iron nerve and Olympian staying power to essay this formidably demanding score. I’m happy to say that on these counts, both musicians came up trumps with playing of an impressively committed kind. More often than not, there was bracing attack and follow-through in even the most dauntingly complex episodes, and these were almost invariably a model of what fine ensemble playing is all about. Again and again while traversing the musical equivalent of a minefield, the duo seemed to relish coming to grips with its challenges. I especially admired the quality of keyboard tremolos which brought an extra frisson to the scherzo.

This epic opus makes massive demands on the players but, some less than precise cello intonation aside, both musicians emerged from this titanic musical challenge with honour largely intact.

As curtainraiser, we heard Beethoven’s Variations on a Theme by Mozart. Notationally immaculate playing with pleasing corporate tone compensated for some lack of buoyancy in presentation.

There was an extended interval with fizzy drinks on the house.

The Galant Bassoon

The Galant Bassoon

The Galant Bassoon

Matthew Wilkie (bassoon)

Neal Peres Da Costa (harpsichord)

Kees Boersma (cello)

TPT: 73’23”

Melba CD MR 301124

reviewed by Neville Cohn


Sonata in E minor RWV41:e5 (Telemann)

Sonata in E minor BWV1030 (J.S.Bach)

Sonata in A minor TWV41:a6 (Telemann)

Sonata in A minor BWV1034 (J.S.Bach)

Sonata in F minor (TWV41:f1 (Telemann)

Sonata in D minor Wq.132 (C.P.E.Bach)


Like the tuba and the double bass, the bassoon could be thought of as one of the cinderellas of music. Instruments such as these have been the butt of innumerable jokes but, played by master musicians, they are capable of an astonishing range of emotion and tone colouring. Years ago, I had the good fortune to attend a recital by Ludwig Streicher that near-legendary master of the double bass. His mastery of that intractable instrument was revelatory.


And like the tuba and the double bass, the repertoire available to the bassoonist is sadly thin. Of the six sonatas on this CD, only one was originally for the bassoon. All the others are transcriptions of sonatas composed for other instruments.


In the opening cantabile in Telemann’s Sonata in E minor, the bassoon produces a flawless ribbon of sound – and in the following allegro, Matthew Wilkie is impressively agile on the instrument and magically adept in tone colouring, although recorded sound has a shade too much echo. In the recitative-arioso, the trio’s corporate tone is everything one could have wished for, although the concluding vivace might have been rather more controlled. Here, there’s some evidence of strain at high speed.


Fans of the flute repertoire could well experience as sense of déjà vu on listening to an arrangement for bassoon of Bach’s much loved Sonata in B minor for flute and harpsichord. How beautifully the first movement unfolds. The concluding presto has been the graveyard of more than a few musical reputations. It is unforgivingly difficult music that requires an iron nerve and a cool head to bring off successfully. It’s triumphantly achieved here. Bravo!


In the opening triste movement of Telemann’s Sonata in F minor, the bassoon seduces the ear with gorgeously dark-hued tone. This is the only sonata on this disc that was originally conceived as a work for bassoon.


In C.P.E.Bach’s fearsomely exposed Sonata in D minor, Wilkie emerges at the end of the ordeal with honour not only intact but enhanced, especially because being unaccompanied, the slightest flaw can become embarrassingly apparent. I particularly liked the skill with which the teasing, insouciant nature of the second movement is conveyed – and there is musicality of the highest order in the concluding allegro.


Wilkie has the incomparable advantage of ensemble partners of exceptional merit. Neal Peres Da Costa at the harpsichord and Kees Boersma on double bass are masters of their art. They and Wilkie bring the stamp of high distinction to this compilation.