Tag Archives: Perth Western Australia




Burswood Theatre



Perth, Western Australia

reviewed by Deanna Blacher


Riverdance opened last night to a packed audience in anticipatory mood.

One could feel the expectation shimmering in the air, an expectation  that was, for the most part fulfilled.


The cast were in fine fettle , beautifully rehearsed and groomed, dancing with ebullience and an infectious joi de vivre as well as  with a  precision of footwork, par excellence , throughout the evening.


Backed by four musicians and a pre-recorded  orchestral score and the Riverdance Singers, this show made for  foot- tapping, thumpingly exhilarating entertainment.


The pre-recorded sound at times drowned out the dancers footwork and live musicians.

This would have been nothing more than an opening night glitch that will be surely be adjusted as the season progresses.


All four musicians, percussionist Guy Rickarby, violinist Niamh Fahy, piper Eamonn Galldubh and Toby Kelly on saxophone were in top form with Niamh Fahy’s exuberant fiddling in particular that set hearts racing and toes tapping. She strode across the stage as if to the manner born, all the while never missing a note or producing anything less than perfect intonation.


Tappers Kelly Isaac and Gilbert L. Bailley II added a touch of humour to the proceedings, while well schooled flamenco dancer Rocio Montoya, with beautifully controlled arm movements and machine gun footwork, added elegance, dignity and a touch of authenticity to the cross-cultural mix.


Lead dancers Maria Buffini, Catherine Collins, Clara McGillan, Brendan Dorris, Alan Kenefick, and Padraic Moyles lead a very closely  knit dance corps. Dance director Brendan de Gallai and Dance captain Niamh Eustace obviously run a tight ship – and the results showed splendidly.


Set and lighting designs worked well for the most part but I was not enamoured of the open white light , employed in the finale of the first half. All it did was wash out the costumes and faces and leave a somewhat dreary impression on what was actually a stunning dance number.


The most effective lighting, music, choreography and costume combo was in ‘Thunderstorm’: scene five in the first half.

On the whole, this was quality family entertainment by dedicated artists and stage crew who have worked hard to give untold numbers of people around the world a spring to their steps and a lift to their hearts.


Bravo .



The Musicians’ Table


Ensemble Battistin

ABC Classics 476 6996

TPT: 49’49”

reviewed by Neville Cohn


The Musicians Table

The Musicians Table

Suite for flute, violin and continuo: Pierre-Danican Philidor  9’13”

Sonata for cello and cello continuo: Joseph Bodin Boismortier  12’35” 

Sonata for two violins in A minor: Louis Gabriel Guillemain  8’02”

Sonata No 2 for flute, violin and continuo: Jean Fery Rebel  8’13”

Trio Sonata in D Boismortier opus 50 No 6:  11’31”


There is no other place in Australia quite like New Norcia: a quaint monastic town north of Perth, Western Australia. Founded by Spanish Benedictine monks in the 1840s primarily as a religious and education mission to local Aborigines, it is now known as well for its fine olive oil and bakery.


With its first rate acoustics, the Chapel of St. Ildephonsus is an ideal venue for recordings. And this compilation is yet another in a series devoted to music of the French baroque, recorded by musicians steeped – and expert – in the tradition of period performance practice. This, though, is not for a moment to suggest that the performances are drably academic or tedious. On the contrary, recorded under the benevolent gaze of emeritus David Tunley, that pre-eminent authority on the French baroque, the performers wear their scholarship lightly; there is nothing remotely dry about these performances.


This recording is a cornucopia of musical delights, not least Boismortier’s Sonata for cello and cello continuo. Recorded sound quality is first rate with the most agreeable tonal bloom, an impression enhanced by phrasing of undeviating finesse. Moods are impressively evoked; the grave pace of the Sarabande could hardly have been  bettered and the Giga is most sensitively presented. An account of Guillemain’s Sonata for two violins makes for no less agreeable listening; it is a model of stylistic integrity, as are all the items of this CD. They come across as fresh as the morning, readings to return to again and again.


How fortunate we are in Western Australia to have in our midst musicians of such high order who routinely scale Olympus. Indeed, recordings such as these will remind listeners everywhere that, although Western Australia is very far away from the main routes of the international concert circuit, there are high-calibre musicians among us who are better than most and second to few. And that is abundantly evident in this fifth volume of recordings in the Perfection of Music series.

Andrey Popov

born Dobrich, Bulgaria February 1961              

died Perth, Western Australia June 2009                          


Andrey Popov grew up in a home filled with music. On both sides of the family there were many steeped in the music tradition. As many as fifteen cousins on his mother’s side were instrumentalists, some on violin, others on guitar or mandolin. A grandfather played the harmonium at weddings and public gatherings. Both Mr Popov’s mother Mrs Ljuba Popova and her brother became skilled accordionists.


Andrey Popov

Andrey Popov


On the paternal side of the family were many gifted singers. A great-grandfather sang in the choir of the Alexander Nevsky church in the Bulgarian capital Sofia.  Priests, too, figure prominently on the family tree, including the so-called Red Priest described as a modern Bulgarian Robin Hood who ended his life on the gallows. He is not be confused with that even more famous Red Priest, the Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi.


As a child, little Andrey would accompany a neighbourhood friend to the latter’s piano lessons during which the little boy would pay the closest attention to what his friend’s teacher was saying, soaking up what he heard via a form of musical osmosis. Real piano lessons followed with a local who had made good in the outside world. Little Andrey thrived. Later, his progress at Varna Specialist Secondary Music School was so impressive that he was offered a scholarship to study in Poland – but his parents declined this offer to their gifted son.


As the boy’s well educated and relatively well-off parents were considered “unreliable” by the Bulgarian communist regime, the young man was obliged to serve his compulsory military service at one of the harshest training camps in Bulgaria. And it was there that two fingers were broken while being trained to use a Kalashnikov firearm. This injury, surely as devastating psychologically as painful physically, effectively blocked his admission to the Sofia Conservatorium of Music. This was a huge blow for a young man nurturing hopes of a concert career. Instead, he enrolled in the Plovdiv Institute of Musical Pedagogy and after graduation he returned to his home town to head the Children’s School of Music.


Hugely successful as a teacher in Dobrich, many of his students went on to become laureates of competitions at home and further afield, some going on to distinguished careers as performers. All the while, Andrey maintained a career as a concert pianist, often giving recitals with his violinist wife at hotels and piano bars in the Black Sea resort town of Albena. Both in Bulgaria and, later in Australia, he would receive letters from former students telling of their many successes.


Political and economic upheavals from 1988 resulted in the Dobrich school closing due to lack of funding, and Popov was out of a job. Opening a private teaching practice did not appeal so he came to Australia alone, his wife choosing to remain in Bulgaria.


A very new kind of musical life began for Andrey Popov in Western Australia where, for the first time, he ventured into the world of dance as a rehearsal pianist, a calling to which he shaped like fine wine to a goblet.


Leading ballet teacher and examiner, Diana de Vos, recalled her first meeting with Popov in 1997 when, with that other fine ballet instructor Leslie Hutchinson, she auditioned Popov for a post accompanying classes at the Terpsichore Dance Centre. “His piano skills were first class; he was a brilliant addition to our staff”, she recalled. “His music was quite inspirational, affecting us all emotionally. He knew, almost instinctively, what was required.”


Serendipitously, Popov had found a new, hitherto unexplored, path in music, going on to work at the Graduate College of Dance and the W.A.Academy of Performing Arts. Heather Baskerville, regional co-ordinator Royal Academy of Dance, recalls the pleasure his playing gave to so many, working, inter alia, for the Cecchetti Ballet Society and the many activities of the Royal Academy of Dance. She also remarked how, on more formal ballet occasions, Popov would routinely dress “in a black dinner suit to help lift the mood of the occasion and in doing so elevated, yet calmed, the otherwise nervous candidates.”


One of many amusing anecdotes concerned the intense nervousness of a student about to go on stage. She asked for something to calm her to which Popov responded by giving her two small white tablets which she was told to suck very slowly as she played. The performance was brilliant and the student, gushing in her thanks for the pills which had soothed her nerves, asked her teacher: “What were those marvellous tranquillisers?” Pokerfaced, he told her “Tic Tac, peppermint flavour”.


His was an idiosyncratic sense of humour, his responses invariably delivered dead-pan. Heather Baskerville recalls seeing Popov clutching a number of coloured pencils. She enquired what they were for. “You’ve heard of Schubert’s Unfinished Symphony?”, he asked. “Well, I am writing Popov’s Unstarted Symphony”.


Yet another anecdote gleefully recounted concerned a fellow dance repetiteur who routinely used generous amounts of hand cream before playing the piano. The class was followed by one Popov was to play for. He seated himself at the keyboard, played for a moment or two on the now-slippery keys before exclaiming: “Look how lucky I am. I am playing in yogurt”.


Many of Popov’s friends in the dance world talk of his enterprising cooking skills.

Parties hosted by Popov and his mother Ljuba were, by all accounts, memorable events – and for all the right reasons. Fascinated by Asian spices, he would often experiment with this or that combination of flavours to tempt dinner guests.


The last years were blighted by increasingly serious illness, much of it the result of heavy smoking, an addiction he was unable to overcome. There were stays in hospital and long periods when work was impossible. Friends rallied around the household in Bedford. There seemed a visible improvement. Then, unexpectedly, there was a heart seizure that proved fatal. The good die far too young.


At the funeral service, there was a touching reminder of Andrey Popov’s artistry as mourners listened to a recording he had made of selections from the ballet repertoire.


Andrey Popov is survived by his mother Mrs Ljuba Popova and a brother in Sofia.


Neville Cohn Copyright 2009