Tag Archives: Fettle

UWA Choral Society




Winthrop Hall

reviewed by Neville Cohn


photo Denise Teo

There would have been more than usual interest in a performance by the University of Western Australia Choral Society at the weekend as this was Jangoo Chapkhana’s  debut as director of this long- established choir.


It was an impressive presentation with Handel’s Ode for St Cecilia’s Day memorable for often-splendid choral corporate tone and tempo choices that sounded intuitively right.


 A cornucopia of musical delights included trumpeter Jenny Coleman’s vividly realised contribution in ‘The trumpet’s loud clangour’. And after intermission, Evan Cromie, too, did wonders on the trumpet.


Incidentally, collectors of musical trivia might be interested to know that Handel’s Ode was premiered at a time when England was at war with Spain – and the work’s  many martial flourishes would have stirred the blood of a goodly number of English concertgoers at the time.


Confident attack, well maintained momentum, phrasing of finesse and clarity of diction augur well for a choir that sounds refreshingly alert and revitalised as in ‘From harmony’.


An orchestra led by Daniel Kossov gave us finely managed dotted rhythms and clean lines in the overture and a gracefully stated  Menuetto. Strings, overall, were in excellent fettle.


I liked the tenderness that informed much of ‘The soft complaining flute’ but singing was not always quite on the note here.


There was much that gave listening pleasure, too, in Bach’s Magnificat in D with the choir once again strikingly in form – and evoking what one commentator has so perceptively described as the work’s “unearthly jubilance”. Stewart Smith was beyond reproach at the organ.  


In ‘Suscepit Israel’, vocal soloists Stephanie Gooch, Sarah-Janet Dougiamas and Meredith Wilkie sang to fine effect with Robert Hofmann coming into his own in ‘Quia fecit’. David Woodward brought a supple and musicianly voice to his arias. Earlier, we heard pleasingly idiomatic contributions from recorder players Jordi Corall and Tamara Gries in ‘Eurientes implevit bonis’.


In ‘Fecit potentiam’, singing oscillated between spot-on brilliance and incoherence.


There was also a deeply felt presentation of Bach’s O Jesu Christ, Mein Lebens Licht.


In passing: for the benefit of those concertgoers  – and critics – who make a point of arriving in good time for events such as this, could something be done about latecomers who thoughtlessly walk into the hall mid-aria or chorus, their footsteps on the uncarpeted wooden floor providing a thoroughly unwanted clattering obbligato to Bach and Handel’s best efforts? What is the point of having ushers on duty if they do next to nothing about this maddeningly intrusive practice? 

Concentration Camp Music..


Works by Viktor Ullmann, Robert Lannoy, Marius Flothuis and Jozef Kropinski



Francesco Lotoro (piano) and friends



KZMUSIK CD8  232525



TPT: 63’27”



reviewed by Neville Cohn


 Marius Flothuis                                                                Viktor Ullmann

Although the greater part by far of this compact disc series is devoted to music written by composers who perished while incarcerated in nazi concentration camps, a number of musicians survived the camps and went on to productive musical lives.


One of these is Marius Flothuis who, initially a music critic, was also assistant artistic director of Amsterdam’s famous Concertgebouw Orchestra in 1942 when he was deported to Amersfoort before being transported to the notorious Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Flothuis died in 2001 in Amsterdam.


He wrote a number of works while in the camps, such as his piano duets opus 21 and a sonata for solo violin. But it is his Sonata da camera for flute and piano that provides some of the most beguiling listening with flautist Pasquale Rinaldi and Lotoro (piano) in excellent fettle throughout. I particularly liked the beautifully expressive stream of mellow flute tone in the opening cadenza – and the plaintive quality of the second movement is finely evoked by both players. The brilliance of the concluding rondo is a fine foil for the melancholy Lamento which precedes it.


Another survivor was Robert Lannoy who died as recently as 1979 in Lille. Conscripted into the French army, he became a POW in Czechoslovakia, the Ukraine and Stalag  XVIIB in Austria. He made numerous escape attempts but they were all foiled. After the war, he produced a large body of work in his native France. Lannoy’s Berceuse comes across in rather too heavy-footed a way for a lullaby, an impression reinforced by a surfeit of tremolo from the piano.


Berlin-born Josef Kropinski survived Buchenwald and lived on until 1970. He was a prolific composer. Pianist Francesco Lotoro, who works tirelessly to place on disc as much music as possible which was written in confinement, has painstakingly reconstructed fragments of 14 short piano pieces which include three each of mazurkas and tangos. The pieces are most musically played but melodically, harmonically and style-wise they are unremarkable, formulaic and predictable and have little intrinsic worth.  But, as with all music in this series, these keyboard miniatures cry out for recognition as music that came into being in uniquely terrible and terrifying circumstances.


Kropinski, incidentally, was astonishingly prolific; his output includes more than 300 songs as well as string quartets and much else for piano solo.


Lotoro brings a great deal of energy to a piano version of the overture to Ullmann’s opera Don Quixote Dances the Fandango. The orchestral score is lost, so we have to be content with a piano reduction that survived the camps.  There is a great deal of rather noisy tremolo in this intensely dramatic piece. There’s also a tantalisingly brief fragment from a projected two-act opera about Joan of Arc – and a dozen lieder which make up Der Mensch und sein Tag. Angelo de Leonardis and Lotoro take us into a world of deep emotion here but for those who are not German-speaking, a translation of the text into English would have been most helpful. Certainly, it would have made the listening experience that much more meaningful.