Frequently, ‘themed’ concerts have a tendency to not deliver all that is promised and to a point this was so with the Australia Ensemble’s program. However, there were some true delights in this concert. Foremost was the four movement Concertino (1925) by Janacek. The opening movement was a vehicle for hornist Rob Johnson to display his immaculate tone. Johnson and pianist Ian Munro entranced the audience with music that was simple and yet strangely mysterious. David Griffiths on Eflat clarinet was thrilling as the protagonist in the ensuing section and this led to Ian Munro taking centre stage in the third movement with a perfectly weighted cadenza. The structure of this late work, Janacek was 71 when he wrote it, gave much satisfaction with its whimsical approach to orthodoxy and its capacity to surprise.
It was the first time that I have heard the music of Prague based Miroslav Pudlak in concert. His Sextet (1996) explored simple repetitive ideas in an equally simple ABA format but it was delightful music and at 10 minutes did not outstay its welcome. It was a great vehicle for the performers to let rip with a bit of ‘speed’ and the audience lapped it up. At the time I thought it was a perfect concert opener – a bright and breezy overture style work.
The main work, and occupying the entire second half of the concert, was the Piano Quartet in Eflat Op. 87, by Dvorak. Dimity Hall – violin, Irina Morozova – viola and cellist Michelle Wood opened the first movement with a rich, glorious string tone and it augured well. Again Munro was technically assured and brought out much of the nuance beneath the endearing melodies and yet somehow the final feeling was one of being at a performance that did not transcend the printed page.