The newly refurbished foyer of the Sir John Clancy Auditorium provided a welcoming grand entrance for the Australia Ensemble’s fourth subscription concert of 2019, Cool Fire.
The concert was themed around contrasts not only within the works themselves (especially the piece by Paul Moravec, from which the concert takes its title), but also with the choice of the compositions, where classical is contrasted with contemporary.
The members of the Australia Ensemble played to their usual exceptional standards, with guest flautist, Lisa Osmialowski and guest oboist, Huw Jones joining with pianist Ian Munro to perform the delightful Trio for flute, oboe and piano by Miriam Hyde. At times the oboe and flute seemed to be playfully chasing one another in ornate arabesques. Written in 1952, this prize-winning work did not follow the modernist trend of the times. Instead, Miriam Hyde wrote from the heart in a more traditional style.
This contrasted with Paul Moravec’s Cool Fire for flute, string quartet and piano. Written in 2001, it began with a hectic first movement, played energetically by members of the Australia Ensemble and guest flautist, Lisa Osmialowski. The high-pitched flute and violin provided contrast to bass notes played on the piano. The central movement Tenderly Singing embodied just that, where the piano seemed to be quietly meditating, waiting to join in with cool, serene and delicate passages for the other players. The piece ended with a dynamically played explosive movement of energetic fire.
We were brought back to earth by another contrast in style with the more familiar Mozart Oboe Quartet in F. Written in 1781 for the virtuoso, Fredrich Ramm, it was performed by a contemporary one, Huw Jones, 238 years later. He demonstrated superb control in this graceful, elegant work, as did the members of the Australia Ensemble.
This concert of contrasts was completed with Gabriel Pierné’s Piano Quintet in E minor. He wrote it in 1916-17 and dedicated it to Fauré for his broader outlook on music education. It is a sumptuous work of unusual rhythms, which the members of the Australia Ensemble played with enthusiasm, energy and perfection.