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.