Tag Archives: Perth Modern School Auditorium

A Winter Musical Feast

A Winter Musical Feast


Perth Modern School Auditorium


reviewed by Neville Cohn 

This was a splendid feast of fine music as, in the happiest of arts re-unions, former stalwarts of the Conservatorium of Music returned, too briefly, from their homes in Hungary, the United States and Canberra, to re-create the sort of chamber music excellence that was the norm for Perth in those halcyon days.

But the pleasure of listening to this high-level musicmaking was tempered by the realisation that shortsightedness on the part of those who directed the destiny of the Conservatorium of Music at the time deprived not only the city’s concertgoing community of an abundance of musical riches but, sadder still, Perth’s tertiary music students – our professional soloists, orchestral players and teachers of the future – of musical guidance beyond price. Certainly, since the disbanding of the Stirling String Quartet, Perth has not had a resident ensemble of this sort – and it is the poorer for it.

Dvorak’s Piano Quintet in A (to mark the centenary of the composer’s death in 1904) was given the sort of treatment that made one hope it was being recorded for posterity. Some minor blemishes aside, here was a performance in which each of the participants took up an interpretative position at the emotional and stylistic epicentre of the music. John Roberts was in magnificent form, drawing on a splendid range of tonal colourings with comparable contributions from husband-and-wife violinists Pal Eder and Erika Toth as well as Alan Bonds (viola) and Suzanne Wijsman (cello).

One of the most satisfying offerings came in a superbly assured account – for two pianos and percussion – of Gershwin’s An American in Paris. If the composer’s shade had hovered over the proceedings as pianists John and Jean Roberts in ensemble with Gary France, that portly wizard of the mallets and parping automibile horns, made an inspired way through this most idiosyncratic of American scores, it would surely have saluted artistry of the highest order. I’d gladly have listened to it all over again.

Music of a very different sort came in the form of the W.A.premiere of Perth composer Sandra France’s 3 Miniatures for Piano Trio, presented by Eder and Wijsman with Jean Roberts at the piano. This made for thoroughly agreeable listening.

Although the compositional devices and procedures resorted to – such as placing a writing pad over the strings of the piano or plucking them with the fingers – are hardly novel, the overall effect was agreeably engaging. The pieces came across as absorbing little essays about the darker emotions.

There is a violently argumentative quality to You’re Sitting on My Thoughts. The cello line in Playing in the Shadows is informed by a mood that is both sinister and melancholy, an atmosphere reinforced by eerie, high-register harmonics in ensemble with plucked piano strings. And in Stravinsky’s Book, violent pizzicati sound as if ripped from the violin and cello while the paper-damped piano strings produce a strangely spectral range of sound.

There were also miniatures for violin and piano by Tchaikowsky and Kreisler in which Eder was partnered by pianist Pauline Belviso, both breathing fresh life into these rather tired, encore-type bonbons, music that can so easily lapse into schmaltz. I’m happy to report, however, that in their use of rubato and lift to the phrase, Eder and Belviso gave us a performance of impeccable taste. As well, we heard Mozart’s Piano Quartet in E flat, K493 with Jean Roberts in top form in the important keyboard part.

Other musical delights in miniature were Koechlin’s Four Little Pieces for Horn Trio, a slight but charming quartet of musical frivolities given most pleasingly musical treatment by Darryl Poulsen (horn), Jean Roberts at the piano and Erika Toth who was visually striking in an unusual black and mauve jodhpur-style trouser suit.

Copyright Neville Cohn 2004

New I Voci Singers

New I Voci Singers

Perth Modern School Auditorium


reviewed by Neville Cohn

In the lead-up to its first overseas concert tour, John Christmass’ New I Voci Singers presented the program they will offer audiences during their performances in Germany.

Guests of honour were the Governor of Western Australia, Lt-General John Sanderson and Mrs Sanderson as well as the German Consul in Perth, Mr William Hassell and Mrs Hassell.

Over the years, concertgoers have come to expect high levels of performance whenever the indefatigable John Christmass is at the helm – and this farewell concert was no exception.

A bracket of three Stanford motets came across as a finely stated musical triptych in which vocal lines separated and coalesced in a beautifully controlled and meaningful way. Here, and throughout the evening, the choristers drew on a deep well of expressiveness which brought freshness to familiar notes.

This was again apparent in a consistently stylish bracket of popular songs, including Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm and Fats Waller’s Ain’t Misbehavin’, fine singing enhanced time and again by Alex Roberts’ thoughtful and stylish accompaniments at the piano.

In passing: this chamber choir sings these lighter items with such verve and impeccable grasp of style that serious thought should be given to preserving the best of the choir’s efforts in the genre on compact disc.

An instrumental interlude featured Philip Murray and Alex Roberts in a pleasingly musical account of Saint Saens’ Romance for flute and piano. And Mark Alderson came up trumps in the Toreador’s Song from Bizet’s Carmen, as did Justin Freind who, as always, sounded entirely in tune (no pun intended) with Gilbert and Sullivan’s Take a Pair of Sparkling Eyes.

The very rarely heard Gloria by Puccini was the most substantial offering of the evening with Christmass coaxing a gratifyingly unified response from his forces in both vocal and interpretative terms.

Throughout the evening, a succession of images appropriate to each work was projected on to the rear wall of the stage. These visuals did much to enhance the overall impact of the performance notwithstanding the effective blotting-out of the lower section of each image by the dark, wooden gallery that runs across the rear wall of the auditorium.

The New I Voci Singers have maintained a high profile during 2003, featuring, as they did, in ANZAC Day and Commonwealth Sunday ceremonies, two Mozart at Twilight concerts as well as the annual Best of British presentation at Perth Concert Hall.

© December 2003