In a small and quaintly repurposed venue in Newtown, Ensemble Offspring presented a one hour concert of miniatures written over the last hundred or so years from an exquisite performance of Alban Berg’s Vier Stucke Op.5 (1913) to local composer Peggy Polias. She was represented by her 2017 work Hive and five movements were performed, two for electronics that faintly hinted to gamelan music, a solo each for clarinet and piano and a duo.
Six sections of Hymnos (1967) by Peter Maxwell Davies allowed the performers to burn off a lot of virtuosic energy. This work and that of Jörg Widmann (Five Fragments from 1997) explored soundworlds that were most common in the later part of the 20th century and it was obvious that Jason Noble and Ben Kopp were having loads of fun. They thrilled the audience with their exhilarating playing and occasionally battering them with walls of uncompromising sound.
Good music is often found victorious in the crucible of the concert environment and a work that stood out in this recital was Andrian Pertout’s Elegia based on Dulcie Holland’s ‘Elegy’ for flute & pianoforte (1963) and Nostalgia based on Raymond Hanson’s ‘Concerto for trumpet & orchestra’ (1948). These two movements from his monumental solo piano work Luz Meridional (2012) are remarkable for their clarity and content. Delightful stuff! It would be great to hear this important work in its entirety in Sydney in the near future.
On leaving the concert two audience members engaged us in conversation and a young American string player resident in Amsterdam and on holiday in Sydney said his favourite works were the solo clarinet piece by Cassie Wieland – Hands from 2017 and Pertout’s piano music. Maybe he just loved the clarity of solos and both were superbly performed and maybe it was the honesty of the performers that so impressed him. Whatever, he takes away a memory of a fine night of music-making in Sydney.
Jason Noble is a whizz on clarinet and showed a huge palette of techniques and musicianship entrancing all with superb dynamic control. His ‘very, very soft’ playing was exquisite.
Ben Kopp tackled some seriously complex and demanding music as if it was simplicity itself. And yet, when required he showed his introspective and romantic side was equal to his brilliance.
I was pleased to attend a concert in a new venue in Sydney. It reminds me of the 1970’s when new music was played in all sorts of environments – galleries, parks, warehouses etc and it is wonderful to see musicians being able to take on projects in a venue that does not cost a fortune in rent – often the single biggest cost for so many concert promoters.
This series is an important addition to the vibrant cultural life of Newtown.