While a lot of people were across town listening to Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana, music I have heard many times and used to near death on television ads, I chose to take myself east and hear one of my favourite pieces of the very late Romantic period in a program featuring eine kleine Nachtmusik (no, not Mozart).
Australia Ensemble has variety in every program
What I like about the Australia Ensemble is the variety in every program – it’s not all music for the same sized ensemble, but often duos, trios and larger. The core string members from the Goldner Quartet are like the engine room of the ensemble but not every splitting of the quartet worked me in this concert. Turina’s Circulo, with three quick movements in one day – dawn, noon and twilight – was a whirlwind Spanish piano trio, performed with tremendously tight ensemble work. Don Bank’s three jazz pieces for clarinet and piano were like a sorbet after the frenetic first piece and it was great to hear David Griffiths playing in sync with Ian Munro’s fantastic jazzy piano. Dallapiccola was a new soundscape for me and was not my favourite piece in the program, possibly a little too tranquil, albeit performed with great ensemble.
Showing off a great friendship
I could listen to Indian ragas all night, particularly the amazing music of Ravi Shankar. The Enchanted Dawn, an incredibly virtuosic work for flute and harp, showed off the great friendship of Geoffrey Collins and Alice Giles – what a treat! A great finish to a nicely programmed first half of the concert.
Schubert’s Notturno is one of my favourite works when needing a good dose of late classical Shmaltz. I love Schubert’s late trios, having studied the D 898 in detail at university. However it didn’t quite work for me in this concert – the balance between the two string players and piano at times was disparate, but the big acoustic of the Auditorium may have been to blame.
Beautifully played by the Australia Ensemble
It’s not very often you get to hear a performance of Arnold Schoenberg’s amazing sextet Verklärte Nacht (Transfigured Night), particularly in its original configuration and played so beautifully by the Australia Ensemble. After waiting all night for this feature work, we were not disappointed. Inspired by a poem by Richard Dehmel’s, Schoenberg in his pre-atonal phase wrote this piece after meeting his future wife. It’s almost Wagnerian in sound and power, and so much better in it’s original form than the chamber orchestra and piano quartet versions. It’s an amazing story of love and forgiveness, and the emotions of the music as it transfigured through the story were very evident on the faces of the six string players. The two cellists stood out in this performance, each egging the other one to tell the story – if I didn’t know the two players you would be forgiven for thinking there was a bromance going on in the lower strings. You could have heard a pin drop as the last notes were played – the audience let the notes soar before the enthused applause commenced. Looking forward to hearing more from the Australia Ensemble this year.
Australia Ensemble Transfigured Night | 19 March 2016 | Sir John Clancy Auditorium UNSW