Tag Archives: Royal Schools Music Club

Wild Utopia Callaway Auditorium

Wild Utopia

Callaway Auditorium

 reviewed by Scott Rheede  

Bearing in mind that at the Easter long weekend, many of the members of the Royal Schools Music Club would have been away at holiday destinations around the state, the turnout to hear the recently formed ensemble Wild Utopia was entirely respectable on an otherwise deserted University of W.A. campus.

Wild Utopia is made up of three Perth-based musicians, women who are as versatile as they are gifted. Each, in her own way, has made valuable, varied contributions to the music life of Western Australia, not least cellist Melanie Robinson who has, inter alia, worked for her alma mater, the W.A.Academy of Performing Arts, teaching music to students in the Aboriginal Theatre Course in the remoteness of the Kimberleys.

Cathie Travers (piano accordion) and Jessica Ipkendanz (violin) have such high profiles in music that they don’t need any introduction at all.

Ipkendanz’s Mosquito Dance made intriguing listening, ushered in by a single, high pitched note ending abruptly with a little trill that instantly reminded one of the characteristic sound of one of those kamikaze insects about to strike. From this rather frivolous beginning, the work flowered impressively with rich, minor-mode sonorities and melancholy melody lines that brought Hebraic cantorial singing to mind. On first encounter, though, one sensed the need for some judicious pruning of a piece that sounded a shade long for its material.

I liked Ipkendanz’s reworking of an episode from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet, with its instantly recognisable, macho, striding motif of proud Veronese nobles. Here was a transcription at a way station well on the way to completion. This is an arrangement I would very much like to listen to again.

A transcription of Delibes’ famous Flower Duet brought freshness to familiar notes in an account that included Ipkendanz and Robinson treating the melody line in vocalise fashion – and very well they sang, too, to a discreet accompaniment on Travers’ accordion and hushed cello pizzicato. And in an arrangement of part of the third movement of Galliano’s Concerto for accordion and strings, Travers came impressively into her own. Spleen, another Galliano composition, had an extemporaneous, intense quality that sounded entirely right. So, too, did Travers’ arrangement of Piazzolla’s Fugata, another delight, with a groove box providing a rhythmic underpinning to music that, with its baroque contrapuntal intricacies, would surely have prompted an approving nod from the great J.S.Bach himself had his shade hovered over the proceedings at Callaway Auditorium. Earlier, we heard Traver’s probing arrangement of Piazzolla’s Preludio 9, one of the Argentinian master’s darker essays with its sombre, sighing theme.

Gypsy Groovebox, based on a remembered fragment of an Hungarian folk melody, provided extrovert, impassioned and eminently danceable music that set the pulse racing.

This presentation bore the stamp of distinction which augurs well for Wild Utopia. Its imaginative treatments of standard repertoire and its own original work make for compelling listening.

Copyright 2004 Scott Rheede

Royal Schools Music Club 75th Anniversary Gala Concert

Royal Schools Music Club 75th Anniversary Gala Concert

Callaway Auditorium


reviewed by Edmund Percy



In years of concert going, I cannot readily recall an event that so warranted the adjective ‘gala’. How rare it is nowadays to encounter an audience in all its formal finery, a striking departure from conventional concert dress these days where such downmarket apparel as tracksuits and sneakers are far more often encountered than evening suits and evening gowns. Certainly, this sartorial splendour was altogether appropriate at an event marking two important milestones for the Royal Schools Music Club: its 75th anniversary year (no small achievement at a time when many other music societies have either vanished or are withering on the vine) and the launch of the RSMC’s Scholarship Fund. The importance of the latter ­ launched with customary urbane charm by Emeritus Professor David Tunley ­ can hardly be exaggerated. In a legendarily tough profession, practical assistance in the form of monetary grants is important. Professor Tunley pointed out that it is hoped to raise $20,000 in order to make available a sum of some $2,000 in alternate years.

A host of Perth’s leading musicians volunteered their time and expertise to the fundraising initiative. Roger Smalley was in fine form at the piano; his account of Poulenc’s Les Soirees de Nazelles was a model of its kind. From a bracket of lieder by Mahler (settings of poems from Des Knaben Wunderhorn), Elisa Wilson took up an interpretative standpoint at the emotional epicentre of ‘Wer hat dies Liedlein erdawcht?’, singing as if the words really meant something. In the piano accompaniment, though, one felt a need for rather greater clarity of exposition and a closer identification with the mood of the music. Pianist Anna Sleptsova was a stylish and fluent soloist in an Etude Tableau by Rachmaninoff and also offered a performance of Debussy’s ecstatic L’Isle joyeuse. Dunhill’s Suite Op. 93 for flute and piano is typical of the composer’s rather bland style. Flautist Emily Gunson and Lisa Rowntree at the piano did their best to give point and meaning to a less than consistently inspired score. One would have hoped to hear the duo in a work rather worthier of their abilities. Paul Wright and Suzanne Wijsman played Ravel’s Sonata for violin and cello and at evening’s end, Elisa Wilson in ensemble with husband John Kessey (tenor) and with Tim Cunniffe at the piano, seemed positively to relish their presentation of the ‘Drinking Song’ from La Traviata, Romberg’s ‘Wanting You’ and riotously funny versions of ‘Were You Not to Koko Plighted?’ from The Mikado and ‘O soave fanciulla’ from La Boheme.

RSMC President Christine Sanders welcomed the audience that filled Callaway Auditorium to capacity, Club Patron John Winstanley at the piano accompanied the anthems in emphatic style and Co-Patron Margaret Winstanley proposed a gracious vote of thanks for a more than usually worthwhile evening of fine music and congenial company, its organisation a tribute to the dedication and logistical skills of the tireless Judy Thonell.