Tag Archives: Decibel Levels

Piano Grande!

Government House Ballroom

reviewed by Neville Cohn

If you have not previously heard of Bo An Lu, make a note of the name. If his account of the first movement of Tchaikowsky’s Piano Concerto in B flat minor is anything to go by, this sixteen-year-old is on a fast track to the stars.

Seemingly unruffled by one of music’s greatest challenges – and a TEE exam the following day – Bo An employed fearless fingers to hurl massive blocks of sound, Zeus-like, into the auditorium. By any standards, this was a remarkable achievement not least for expounding Tchaikowsky’s musical argument in so lucid, mature and heroic a way. Mark Coughlan provided excellent backing on a second piano.

Fazioli  pianos are few and far between in Perth – and to have two of these magnificent and very costly concert grands temporarily under a single roof would have been a first for the city. And nine fine musicians fronted up to put these instruments to the test with both players and pianos emerging with honour enhanced. This was a piano extravaganza to cherish.

A gem of the afternoon was Romance by Rachmaninov. A particularly tricky logistic challenge for three musicians and six hands at a single keyboard, it was an admirably expressive offering by Graeme Gilling, Emily Green-Armytage and Lyn Garland.

Very much noisier Rachmaninov – his Suite No 2 for two pianos – was essayed by Green-Armytage and Adam Pinto who generated very high decibel levels for which the Ballroom was really too small a venue. The Concert Hall would have been preferable for this.

There was also some delightful insouciance in the form of  Poulenc’s L’embarquement pour Cythere which came across courtesy of Garland and Coughlan.

Also at this concert marking Zenith Music’s 40th anniversary, was the quite remarkably poised seven-year old Shuan Lee who, with his father Yoon Sen Lee, gave us an arrangement for two pianos of themes from Yellow River Concerto and Homeland.

Gilling and Coughlan also played, most sensitively, Percy Grainger’s Blithe Bells – a re-working of Bach’s serene Sheep May Safely Graze – and were joined by Garland and Pinto in Smetana’s Rondo in C, frankly charmless music that sounded a simulation of peasants engaged in a heavy-footed, bucolic dance. There was also music by Mozart in the form of a movement from a sonata for two pianos played by Kathy Chow, another gifted 16-year-old, and Yoon Sen Lee.

At this memorable offering by of some the city’s most accomplished pianists, the crowded audience included many of Perth’s leading piano teachers.

Barry Palmer, whose speech had the inestimable advantage of brevity, paid tribute to the Cranfield family who have made so singular a contribution to the music life of the city.

The Three-Cornered Hat – Spanish Fantasies


Slava Grigoryan (guitar)

Southern Cross Soloists

ABC Classics 476 6887

TPT: 70’ 50”

reviewed by Neville Cohn

Three-Cornered Hat

Three-Cornered Hat


Chiquitita la novia (Obradors); 5 Tonadillas (Granados); The Three-Cornered

Hat (Falla); Two Romances ( Luis de Milan); Castilian Lyrics (Rodrigo); Verlaine Songs (Brophy); Chamber Concerto (Shaun Rigney)


It is the instrumentalists who score highest in this attractive compilation. Guitarist Slava Grigoryan is in top form, not least in an accompanying role in a bracket of Tonadillas by Granados. Of course, the original score calls for piano accompaniment to the vocal line. But although the guitar lacks the tonal power of a piano, the accompaniments are played with a stylistic understanding and fragile beauty that go a long way to compensate for the guitar’s lower decibel levels.


In a suite drawn from Falla’s The Three-Cornered Hat, it is again the instrumentalists who take the lion’s share of the honours in a performance that is an absolute delight with clarinet and horn particularly on form, the latter exceptionally so in the Farruca. From first note to last, there is the most delightful engagement with the music. The CD is worth having for this alone. Paul Dean’s arrangement of the Falla original is masterly in that it preserves the essence of the original to a quite remarkable degree..


Gerard Brophy’s Verlaine Songs make for most appealing listening, too. Soprano Margaret Schindler does wonders with the spoken text in Your Voice, Deep and Low, informing each note with a most compelling, darkly bodeful quality. Grigoryan is well to the fore, too, with profoundly expressive playing in The White Moon, each note registering on the consciousness. And a heart-easing lift to the phrase underscores the dreamy, languorous, Andalucian-style interior mood of  It’s True. I rather think that Falla would have loved it. Peter Luff, whose horn playing is like a golden thread through this compilation, wonderfully enhances in A Great Black Slumber that brings Brophy’s work to a close.