Before the music started at this Australia Ensemble concert, Dene Olding gave thanks to the late Justice Jane Mathews for all her support to music in Sydney and that the evening’s music was dedicated to her memory. Jane loved attending concerts and mixing with the musicians. She was also a fan of Richard Wagner’s The Ring Cycle and early this year announced that she had clocked up number 64. Such stamina! Jane was a most generous person in her praise of musicians as well as her financial support and this great patron will be greatly missed.
The enduring memory of this concert on September 14 was the mesmerisingly beautiful cello playing from Julian Smiles in the slow movement of Mendelssohn’s String Quintet Op.87/2. Weaving a spell over the audience as if it was music from the composer’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Smiles had so perfectly lulled the listeners that we were hardly prepared to be jolted into the frenetic world of the Allegro molto vivace. Dene Olding and Dimity Hall, violins, set a cracking pace in the finale and were equally matched by violists Irina Morazova and Justin Williams, and Smiles. This was live concert music at its exhilarating best – fun and full of energy.
In a work that struggles to move away from an introspective approach to music and sweetly indulges in soft and dark colours, clarinettist David Griffiths, cellist Julian Smiles and pianist Ian Munro gave a perfectly measured performance of Brahms’ Clarinet Trio Op.114. That the clarinet and the cello are a partnership made in heaven is often remarked, but that Munro could somehow join in the mellow sound-world and coax from the piano equally sombre hues was a thing of magic.
The concert started with a new work by a composer best known for TV and commercial music, Jessica Wells. The full ensemble including flautist Geoffrey Collins gave a thoroughly committed performance of her work, Heartbeat.
Rounding out the program was Jacques Ibert’s Deux Interludes, innocuous music but one that allowed Collins to show his legendary tonal control.