The concert by the Sydney Conservatorium of Music Modern Music Ensemble (MME) on 6 September was one where the overall effect was greater than the component parts. It is of the utmost importance that the best of the students at the Sydney Conservatorium are given expert guidance by their staff and conductor Daryl Pratt does that with a deft touch and he leaves the audience with the impression that there is shared community spirit of exploration in the presentation of these new works. MME performs at a level that belies the fact that this is a student ensemble and there was fine ensemble playing throughout the concert.
Two sax solos and a soprano
The compositions in this program were of the ‘easy-listening’ new music variety and possibly are good fare for people wishing to be introduced to some of the developments of 20th century musical thought. Indeed, the most interesting aspect was the performances and here there was much to enjoy. Foremost of the three soloists was the soprano Rowena Cowley whose sensitive interpretations of the poems of Judith Wright gave shape to The Stubborn Heart by George Palmer. His imitation of the early 20th century English pastoral school style of writing with its references to film music and to salon music doesn’t ruffle any feathers nor does it create any frisson.
Composer and Performer in one!
Even though the rhythmic, melodic and harmonic language in the two saxophone ‘concertos’ by composer/performers Jeremy Rose (Iron in the Blood) and Katia Beaugeais (Terra Obscura) was more late century, they too inhabited a sound world that might be better suited to music other than the concert hall where drama and musical argument help sustain the attention of the audience. From the performance point of view Rose and Beaugeais were excellent interpreters of their own works.
Fabulous young talent
Apart from the soloists special mentions should go to some individuals in the MME. Prominent amongst these was the trumpeter Benjamin Blunt who handled a mix of styles with great clarity and Jeremy Tatar’s delicate, highly accurate piccolo/flute playing. There was some entertaining writing for percussion in several of the works and Gabriel Fischer and Mitchell Hunter Sloan wonderfully conveyed their skills and delight at the task in hand.
The MME covers important ground in Sydney and they deserve greater attention.