Tag Archives: Eileen Joyce Studio

Noeleen Wright (cello) Cecilia Sun (fortepiano)

Eileen Joyce Studio

reviewed by Neville Cohn



Cello and piano recitals are rare in Perth. And all-Beethoven programs that pay the closest attention to the stylistic minutiae of the period are rarer still. So this presentation was listened to with particular interest.

Noeleen Wright has devoted years of thought and practice to resurrecting the performing styles of bygone periods, notably the baroque era. I cannot recall hearing her before in music of Beethoven.

With Wright playing on a copy of an early-18th-century cello, with Cecilia Sun at the fortepiano, we were taken on a journey back in time as we listened to music as it might have sounded in Beethoven’s day.

With a bow dipped in the stuff of high inspiration and drawn with unfailing confidence across gut strings – and with Sun’s aauthoritative if occasionally error-strewn support on the fortepiano (a copy of a Viennese model of 1806) – we heard three of Beethoven’s sonatas – opus 5 no 1, opus 69 and opus 102 no 2.

I cannot recall hearing Wright to better advantage. In a presentation that bristled with authority, she gave point and meaning to some of the most elusive music in the canon.

At its most assertive, this was playing that was in the best sense tough-minded – passionate even – with, at times, a grainy, gruff tone quality that sounded entirely right as it brought the works’ more extrovert movements to pulsing life. This intensity of expression was only occasionally paralleled in the fortepiano part in playing that tended to take up an interpretative position some little distance from the emotional epicentre of the keyboard part as in the Rondo from opus 5 no 1 where the insouciant nature of the writing was most apparent in the cello line.

In that most ferociously demanding of movements – the fugal finale to opus 102 no 2 – both Wright and Sun emerged at its conclusion with musical honour intact. This was no mean musical achievement.

Copyright 2005 Neville Cohn

Robin Wilson (violin) Kemp English (piano)

Eileen Joyce Studio

reviewed by Neville Cohn


Is there a more beautifully appointed and positioned recital room in Perth – or Australia, for that matter – than the Eileen Joyce Studio? With its wood-panelling that covers three walls, the fourth all of glass and fronting a tree and shrub filled garden, it boasts as well an Augustus John portrait in pastels of Joyce and a number of watercolours of the great Australian musician as piano or harpsichord soloist with leading London orchestras at the Royal Festival Hall. Adding to the charm of the room are numbers of antique keyboard instruments including a chamber organ and a rare square piano. There is also a portrait in oils of Emeritus Professor Sir Frank Callaway in doctoral robes.

For all its charms, though, EJS was not an ideal venue for this recital. Despite its lid being raised only on short stick, a small baby grand piano proved annoyingly loud. But for all its substantial presence (perhaps the lid ought to have been entirely closed), it never quite overwhelmed Robin Wilson’s violin line.

The andante from Tartini’s Violin Concerto D86 was an inspired program opener, played very slowly but without losing a sense of onward momentum – a feat of real musicianship – with phrases shaped with unfailing finesse; it was like a consecration of the evening.

Beethoven’s Spring Sonata, too, gave much pleasure, music to which Wilson brought impeccable memory and, especially in the opening allegro, a line informed by a rich cantabile tone quality. Kemp English was an admirable piano partner, not least for managing to moderate keyboard sound sufficiently so as to ensure equitable internal tonal balance, no mean achievement in this lively acoustic. I particularly liked the rhythmic cut and thrust with which the scherzo was despatched.

Both the Tartini and Beethoven works were offered at so satisfying a level – clearheaded, stylistically apt and musically logical – that one looked forward with great anticipation to what was to follow. But the sure stylistic touch and choice of tempi that contributed to such splendidly musical playing in the Tartini and Beethoven works seemed largely to desert the duo in some of what was to follow.

Two pieces – Playera by Sarasate and Kreisler’s La Gitana -disappointed, the former too driven so that the inherent nobility of the music which, ideally, should border on grandeur, was almost entirely absent. Kreisler’s La Gitana, too, and Kroll’s delightful Banjo and Fiddle, that favourite encore of Heifetz, were taken at a speed too rapid to allow fine detail to be fully essayed and savoured. And Bloch’s Nigun, too, sounded overwrought at times.

Perhaps these rather intemperate presentations might have been due to the stress of the moment because on the CD which features Wilson and English, the playing of these pieces is very significantly closer to the emotional epicentre of the music.

But there was more than adequate compensation in other offerings such as the blues movement from Ravel’s Sonata for violin and piano, the violin line having about it a jazzy wail that sounded entirely right. The Meditation from Massenet’s Thais, too, was given an intensely expressive reading as was Rachmaninov’s Vocalise, the latter unfolding in a consistently meaningful way.

© Neville Cohn 2005

David Leisner (guitar) Eileen Joyce Studio

David Leisner (guitar)

reviewed by Neville Cohn


Eileen Joyce Studio


American classical guitarist David Leisner had a career rich in promise both as recitalist and concerto soloist until an arm, disabled by illness, put paid to his concert-giving for more than a decade. But sheer grit and literally years of concentrated effort to re-learn and re-master the guitar have paid off in the most substantial way.

Leisner’s renewed command of the instrument was glowingly evident at his recital for the Classical Guitar Society of W.A.. In this sense, Leisner is yet another in a succession of remarkable musicians who have triumphed over seemingly insurmountable disability. (Another guitarist, Django Reinhardt, for instance, had his left hand badly burnt but, deformed fingers notwithstanding, evolved into a superb interpreter in the jazz idiom.)

Leisner’s program was no easy ride. No soft option for this guitarist. No. This was one of the toughest assignments imaginable for even the most impressively equipped of musicians. And Leisner came through with pennants proudly flying.

An account of Bach’s famous Chaconne in D minor was peak of the evening. Originally conceived for unaccompanied violin, it is one of western music’s most glorious achievements, an epic that has been transcribed for a number of different instruments. Larry Adler, for instance, played it on the harmonica – and Brahms made a piano arrangement of it to be played by the left hand only. Leisner has made his own transcription for the guitar – and what an awesome offering it was, with a command of the instrument so complete and seemingly effortless that the instrument seemed more an extension of Leisner’s being than an inanimate construction of wood, varnish, glue and metal strings.

Certainly, his clarity of exposition, an ability to focus on the Chaconne’s myriad intricacies without losing sight of the work’s grand design – and the range of tonal colourings drawn upon – made this one of the most uplifting guitar offerings I’ve experienced in years. It’s a lengthy work, one of Bach’s noblest offerings, and the audience paid Leisner the honour of listening to him in absolute

Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera’s Sonata for guitar occupies a very different mood and sound world. Here, Leisner could barely be faulted, adapting to the work’s stylistic subtleties as if to the manner born, expounding its often villainously demanding musical argument with an irrefutable logic and often-blazing virtuosity. Here, as throughout, Leisner played from memory.

There was also a guitar sonata of uncertain provenance. It is believed to be by one Stephen Pratten (1799 – 1845) but music historians are doubtless yet to spill oceans of ink debating its exact origins. Whoever wrote it, it’s an appealing, charm-laden work, often sounding uncannily like the guitar equivalent of some piano sonatina by Diabelli or Dussek. It deserves a permanent place in the repertoire.

A fascinating program included arrangements of two Schubert lieder from Schwanengesang, the ubiquitous Standchen and Die Post, the haunting, bittersweet strains of the former a pleasing curtain raiser. The galloping, six-in-a-bar measures of Die Post, though, were less consistently convincing; not all the repeated notes ‘spoke’.

And of a suite of four pieces by Leisner himself, Ritual was particularly pleasing, coming across as a slowly unfolding extemporisation which gradually grew in intensity. Episode, too, made interesting listening, with its nervy quality, its syncopated rhythms and intricate work high on the fingerboard.

All in all, this was one of the most satisfying recitals so far this year, presented in near-peerless fashion by a grandee of the guitar.

Copyright 2004 Neville Cohn