As Jane explained at the beginning of the concert on Friday night, Symbiosis, from Ancient Greek meaning “together” and “living”, it is the close and often long-term interaction between two or more different biological species.
“These hour-long programs are designed to cast a light on the symbiotic nature of chamber music performance: breathing together, thinking together, and witnessed at close range by the listeners.” – Jane Sheldon
Jane, James and Jason did just that. Voice, Clarinet and Viola are all incredibly unique instruments (or “species”), on an elementary level being from different instrument families – vocal, wind and string respectively. While naturally displaying these unique characters, they unified to express a new voice, allowing for a depth of colour and variation that brought light and understanding to the music and further to the nature of chamber music.
The interplay between the players varied due to the nature of the works & depth of interpretation and understanding
Particular stand outs in the program for me were Rebecca Clarke’s Prelude, Allegro and Pastorale (1941), Larry Sitzky’s Seven Zen Songs (2005) and the works of Jack Symonds, particularly Die Engel (2013). Through the program, the interplay between the players varied due not only to the nature of the works but also the depth of interpretation and understanding from the performers. In Elliott Carter’s setting of the Poems of Louis Zukofsky, I felt the words sung were enlightened by the charismatic voice of the clarinet, where in Clarke’s work, the distinctive sounds of the Clarinet and the Viola blended to create a unified yet diverse sound.
Discovering the Viola d’amore
Set to the text of Rainer Mari Rilke, in Symond’s Die Engel, this was the first time I had heard the Viola d’amore. For those who may be unfamiliar with this instrument, as James explained, it was originally intended for the 18th century aristocracy – “everyone had their viola d’amore!” – however in the 19th century it became an instrument reserved for the love song of an opera. It was then rediscovered by Hindemith in the 20th century. In this piece, the delicate sound of this instrument draws the listener in and helped to intimately express.
Refreshing programming with clear & solid purpose
There was a clear and solid underlying purpose to the programming and overall concert which I find refreshing amongst much of what we hear in today’s somewhat conservative concert halls. Further, being a player myself, it is the breathing and thinking together that excites me most about small chamber music and from the first notes and throughout the concert I connected to this. The vibe both before and after the concert confirmed, the greater audience was not only seeking this style of concert but were impressed by it execution.
The next Symbiosis will be held in New York, featuring Lisa Moore on piano and Eileen Mack on clarinets. Go to Jane’s websiteto stay tuned. I hope myself to see this chamber project return to Sydney in the not too distant future!