Tag Archives: Dull Moment

Alisa Weilerstein (cello): Staatskapelle Berlin: Daniel Barenboim


Cello Concertos: Sir Edward Elgar & Elliott Carter; Kol Nidrei (Bruch)

DECCA 478 2735: TPT: 62’23”


Behzod Abduraimov (piano)

Liszt; Saint Saens; Prokofiev

DECCA 478 3301: TPT: 72’45”



Julia Lezhneva (soprano)

Il Giardino Armonico: Giovanni Antonini

Vivaldi; Handel; Porpora;Mozart

DECCA 478 5242: TPT: 60’48”


reviewed by Neville Cohn


Unlike, say, Mozart, Schubert and Chopin who died tragically young, Verdi was firing on all pistons into his eighties when he wrote Falstaff  – and Sibelius muddled drunkenly on into his nineties without having written anything of substance for years. But very few composers indeed have kept going well over the century mark as well as composing at a significant level. The remarkable Elliott Carter is a case in point. The US musician remained creative almost until his recent death at the age of 103. In, fact, between his 90th and 100th birthdays, he maintained a creative pace that many a composer decades younger would have had difficulty emulating, let alone exceeding.


In passing: imagine what Mozart might have produced if he’d lived another month – another week, for that matter: another symphony, perhaps, or a piano concerto. The same might be said of Schubert and Chopin. The tragic brevity of their lives on earth constitutes a massive loss to the world.


The long-lived Carter wrote his Cello Concerto when in his nineties. It’s played here by Alisa Weilerstein with the Staatskapelle Berlin conducted by Daniel Barenboim.

PACKSHOT Alisa Weilerstein - ELGAR & CARTER Cello Concertos

Like so much that Carter wrote, his concerto positively brims with intriguing ideas. There’s not a dull moment in his ever-changing sonic landscape and Weilerstein and Barenboim do it proud, seeming positively to relish coming to grips with its abundance of resourceful and engaging detail. It positively brims with novelty; it really warrants a good few listenings to respond to its multitude of musical thoughts.


I dare say that for many, the chief attraction of this recording would be Elgar’s Cello Concerto. That it is conducted by Barenboim adds a poignant dimension to the performance as the famous recording of the work with his cellist wife Jacqueline du Pre has assumed almost mythical status in the wake of the latter’s tragically lingering illness – MS – and death at far too young an age.


Weilerstein is a worthy soloist. The cello’s opening statement throbs with passion, the solo line gripping the attention from first note to last as the work’s evolving emotional landscape draws the listener ineluctably into Elgar’s unique and unforgettable sound and mood world. Throughout, Barenboim secures splendid responses from the Berlin Staatskapelle which provides a first rate accompaniment for the cello line.  There’s much that gives pleasure, too, in Bruch’s Kol Nidrei, his fantasia on the melody traditionally sung on the eve of the Jewish Day of Atonement. It’s a faultless offering at every level, its more introverted moments coming across with aching poignancy.


Another young musician reaching out for – and touching – the stars is Behzod Abraimov in a debut recording that ought to win him many admirers. He is sometimes compared to the legendary Horowitz – and his account of Saint Saens’ Danse Macabre is presented with the sizzling virtuosity and the sort of stylistic flair and diamond-bright tone that were so significant a factor in Horowitz’s playing. Here, Abraimov draws the listener effortlessly into the music’s eerie, phantasmagoric world .Cvr-0289478330

There’s much that gives pleasure, too, in Prokofiev’s massive Sonata No 6 with its bracing attack and follow-through and unerring sense of the composer’s idiosyncratic style. It has a confidence and brio that augur well for a stellar career.


A reading of Liszt’s Benediction de Dieu dans la solitude is less uniformly persuasive with the pianist taking up an interpretative position some little distance from the emotional epicentre of the music. The music’s mood of serene introspection was not always persuasively evoked. But there is compensation aplenty in Abduraimov’s reading of Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No 1 which comes across with blazing intensity that calls to mind the astonishing virtuosity which can be heard in Julius Katchen’s celebrated DECCA  LP recording from the early 1960s. Abduraimov’s staying power is impressive with much of the playing the epitome of  intensity and drive.


A debut  DECCA recording by soprano Julia Lezhneva falls into that rare category in which the singing seems not so much a learned, studied skill but rather an act of such naturalness, such spontaneity, apparently free of the slightest strain, so entirely in tune (no pun intended) with the genre, so altogether satisfying as to be beyond criticism in the conventional sense. Of course, for playing to leave an impression of such freedom and freshness can, paradoxically, only be the fruit of the most concentrated self-discipline. This is music making at the most august level. Bravissimo!Cvr-0289478524

The Cripple of Inishmaan (Martin McDonagh)


WAAPA  Roundhouse Theatre

reviewed by Neville Cohn


This production is as refreshing as a cold shower on a hot day.


A cast of 3rd-year WAAPA acting students embraced Mc Donagh’s play with relish.


Director Patrick Sutton has done wonders in securing memorable responses from his youthful cast – and while lilting accents did not always sound entirely convincing, the actors breathed often engagingly raucous life into the play.cripple photo stitch


In a nutshell, the story revolves around the eponymous hero – Billy Claven (played with very real understanding of the role by Felix Johnson) – who is seriously handicapped, lurching pitifully about the stage. He comes across as a gentle, likeable soul who, notwithstanding his disability and perhaps intellectual limitations, goes through life with a touching grace. His idea of a good time is to watch cows in the fields. To the surprise – and chagrin – of some of the townsfolk, Billy auditions successfully for a projected cinematic role. He is also doted on by two ageing spinsters who run a very modestly stocked general store.


Rushing about the stage tirelessly and loudly is Michael Abercrombie who seems positively to delight in playing the garrulous gossip Johnnypateenmike. This blabbermouth is the perfect foil to Rose Riley’s Mammy O’Dougal, Johnny’s nonagenarian, whiskey-sodden, bedridden mother whose awesome alcohol intake would surely kill off lesser mortals. Her cackles and astonishing imbibing brought the house down.


Cecilia Peters does wonders as Helen McCormick, altogether persuasive in conveying the character’s startling lack of grace and more than a hint of rebellious violence.

And there’s a touch of tragedy to Oscar Harris’ Babbybobby, whose wife has died of TB.


Cripple Stephen HeathThere’s not a dull moment in this engaging and often touching romp. Not the least of the pleasures of this production is the quality of its ensemble, the interplay of the protagonists; it lifts the performance well above the ordinary.


Simeon Brudenell’s lighting design is consistently effective.

Graduate Dramatic Society



The Man from Mukinupin

New Fortune Theatre, UWA

reviewed by Neville Cohn


For those who look forward to GRADS’ Shakespearean offerings on UWA campus, there are only the leanest pickings from the Bard for 2013 – a few moments from Othello presented as a play within a play in Dorothy Hewett’s The Man from Mukinupin. Jack and Polly


Peopled by a range of often-odd citizens who live in Hewett’s imaginary town in the back blocks of W.A., the play makes for an absorbing theatre experience. And it says a great deal for director Aarne Neeme and his large cast, that momentum was so efficiently maintained in a play that, unless carefully managed, can all too easily die of inertia. Not so here. It unfolded beautifully. It hadn’t a dull moment.


Above the Mukinupin council chambers at stage rear were positioned a number of musicians who did sterling work in both mood evocation and backing of vocals, although overly repetitive keyboard figurations in music prior to the play proper were an essay in dullness.


Small country towns, just as big cities, invariably have their share of inhabitants who’ve experienced disappointment and deprivation. And who more so than Clemmy (played by Yvette Wall), a former circus tightrope walker – a small star but a star nonetheless – who survives a fall that has crippled her. She gets about with a crutch and limps badly.   Her manner cleverly evoked an aura of past glory, regret tinged by despair.

                                                         Jack, Mercy and Polly

Cameron Taylor was altogether impressive as Jack, the young grocery shop assistant clearly deeply enamoured of his boss’ daughter. When World War I breaks out, he joins up with all the enthusiasm of a young patriot doing his duty without, perhaps, the realisation of what really lies before him and so many of his generation.


As Jack’s love interest, Polly, Bonnie Coyle was entirely convincing. With the fresh-faced innocence of youth, she made of Polly a delightful personality.


Hewett calls for a large cast and some not only double up but triple up as does Kenneth Gasmier who delighted as a fussy cum pompous travelling salesman on the lookout for domestic bliss. He has an eye on Polly. He’s also an orange-robed Othello in a tiny travelling theatre troop as well as – quel horreur! – a flasher in trade-mark raincoat and very little else.


No less convincing was Rosemary Longhurst who seemed positively to relish her twin roles as Clarry and black-garbed widow Tuesday. Peter Fry, too, was beyond reproach as shopkeeper Eek – and his alter ego Zeek. And Liz Hoffmann came up trumps as Eek’s wife Edie, ear-trumpet and all.


As is often the case in remote places, gossip is a currency sometimes valued greater than gold and there’s a good deal of it, spoken in low voices, in Mukinupin – and Hewett’s touch here is faultless, her lines again and again having the stamp of sometimes uncomfortable truth.


If this production of The Man from Mukinupin is anything to go by, GRADS are likely to have a very good year.

Photos by Merri Ford and Maddy Connellan


W.A.Youth Orchestra

Perth Concert Hall

reviewed by Neville Cohn




Mahler’s massive Symphony No 1 is a challenge to even the most experienced of professional orchestras. How, I wondered, would an ensemble of young people, nearly all still in their teens, fare in traversing one of the toughest and most exhausting of all orchestral terrains?





Let it be said at once that for sheer commitment, this young orchestra deserves laurels. And Christopher van Tuinen’s calm podium presence and steady beat did wonders in coaxing a unified response from his forces, no small achievement considering the relative inexperience of the players and the many challenges the score poses. No less to WAYO’s credit, was the particularly meaningful contribution of the brass section which, more often than not, brought a professional sheen to its playing. Tempi were finely judged throughout and, crucially, the shifting moods of the work were evoked with more than ordinary skill.


I listened with pleasure to the playing of Joel Bass, winner of the 2012 Woodside Concerto Competition.


Hovhaness’ Fantasy on Japanese Woodcuts is not for timid soloists. It is villainously treacherous and requires way-above- average skill with the mallets and an iron nerve to negotiate its intricacies – and this Bass did with professional aplomb. There was not a dull moment in a performance I cannot too highly praise not only the physical command this young musician brought to everything he played but his remarkable ability to reveal the demon that lurks behind the concerto’s tidal waves of notes. Throughout, van Tuinen took the WAYO through an accompaniment which was finely gauged to not only accommodate each subtlety of the solo part but also the challenges posed by the score. Bravo!


credit: Jon Green 

Mozart’s overture to The Marriage of Figaro was less uniformly persuasive. Certainly, the strings needed a more uniform tonal sheen. But this should not discourage the orchestra from tackling more works of the classical era which might to advantage figure more prominently in WAYO’s programs. They require a disciplined focus, the practice of which can only be to the long-term advantage of the orchestra.

Pictures at an Exhibition (Mussorgsky)

Pictures at an Exhibition (Mussorgsky)
Scott Davie (piano)


Piano Sonata No 1; Fragments;

Oriental Sketch; Piano Piece in D

minor; Piano Piece in A flat


ABC Classics 476 3166


reviewed by Neville Cohn



Scott Davie provides one of the most satisfying recordings of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition currently available on compact disc. His musicality runs like a silken thread through the performance.

Recorded sound is exceptionally fine – it is in the best sense “real” – allowing the listener to savour Davies’ interpretative probings to the full. There’s not a dull moment in a performance brimming with insights that make even the meanest succession of notes eminently listenable.

The Promenade episodes that dot the score are a case in point. In lesser hands, they can so easily sound routine, even humdrum. Not so here. In turn strident and gentle, they are like fine musical sorbets that provide the aural equivalent of clearing the palate between courses at a sumptuous feast.

If ever there was a work in which the first rate is inspired by the third rate, it is this. Had Mussorgsky not written this work – triggered by drawings and paintings of his friend Victor Hartmann – it is almost certain these quite ordinary efforts would long since have disappeared into history’s rubbish bin. But Mussorgsky’s wonderfully imaginative work – written in homage to his friend who ahd die aged a mere 39 years – ensures that his friend’s lacklustre drawings will be thought of as long as this keyboard masterpiece remains in the standard repertoire.

Consider Davies’ account of Bydlo. How masterfully he suggests – in the most unequivocal of terms – the ponderous, lumbering nature of a ox-drawn wooden cart. The Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks is another gem, its insouciance coming across with featherlight buoyancy. By contrast, Catacombs, with its overlay of a tolling, treble-register bell, has about it an all-encompassing mood of desolation, of sadness beyond sadness.

In the first movement of the Rachmaninov Sonata, Davies marshals its tsunami of notes with remarkable success, giving to this epic utterance a sense of structure that would elude most others game enough to play it. Certainly, the wildness that lies at the heart of much of the first movement is impressively conveyed. Davies, too, manages to make the meretricious note spinning that is the finale sounds far better than it really is.

In a bracket of miniatures, Davies does wonders with Fragments coming across as a hushed essay in wistfulness. And one could hardly imagine a more sympathetic interpreter of the Piano Piece in D minor, its mournful essence judged to a nicety.

Copyright 2006 Neville Cohn