With the unpredictability of Sydney weather of late, it was an act of faith to pick a date and schedule a performance of ‘beautiful summery music’. But the weather gods were kind, and Sunday was a glorious day that provided the perfect context for this concert at The Flute Tree in Sydney’s Leichhardt.
Established professional musicians with lengthy and impressive resumes
The three performers are all long established professional musicians with lengthy and impressive resumes. Christine Draeger played flute in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra for some years and has worked with several other Australian orchestras. Susan Blake, cellist, was senior lecturer at the Sydney Con until her recent retirement. Pianist John Martin has worked with well-known singers and instrumentalists for over three decades. All three have extensive recording experience.
The Flute Tree is fast becoming a favourite venue
The Flute Tree is fast becoming one of my favourite venues for chamber music. It is small and intimate, and reminds me that most of the music I hear played was first presented in salons, cafes, private homes, or at Court, and not in large concert halls. I love being so close to the musicians and experiencing the intimacy of the music.
The program ranged from the music of CPE Bach (who died in 1788) to a piece by Richard Rodney Bennett (died 2012), and three 20th century composers.
Music that touched the heart like Bach desired
The opening work was CPE Bach’s Hamburger Sonata, so named because he wrote it in Hamburg. It was his last solo sonata, composed about two years before his death. This turned out to be my favourite piece on the program – when I closed my eyes I could see a young boy skipping along a riverbank on a beautiful summer’s day, whistling a tune. Christine Daeger played flute with a lightness and wonderful clarity on the top notes, while the cello and piano seemed to be stroking the flute’s tune. Their balanced playing fulfilled CPE Bach’s desire for his music to ‘touch the heart’.
Daeger’s flute played around Bennett’s Summer Music and with it
We then jumped forward to the 20th century with Bennett’s Summer Music scored for flute and piano, showcasing the influence of his immersion in jazz as much as classical repertoire. The three movements are titled Allegro Tranquillo, Siesta, and Games. Typical of jazz, first one instrument takes the lead and then the other. In the second movement, Siesta, John Martin seemed to be playing something vaguely familiar and calming in the opening chords and again midway. The third movement was totally different again with the piano laying out the theme and setting a spritely pace while Daeger’s flute seemed to play around it and with it – my favourite piece in the program.
Dvorak’s Silent Woods was played with a superb integration of sound
Silent Woods by Dvorak started out scored for four hands on one piano. Ever mindful of what might have more appeal and therefore generate more income, Dvorak produced a version for piano and cello. Susan Blake’s wonderfully rich toned 18th century Grancino cello sounded glorious and the two instruments were played with a superb integration of sound. It is hard to imagine this could have sounded anything near as good with two pianists and no cello!
Hayden is a delight and it was no exception in these fine musicians hands
The major work in the afternoon was Josef Haydn’s Trio in G major, generally considered a joyful and ‘sunny’ key. Its unclear why Haydn scored it for flute rather than violin (some say he was writing for the London aristocracy who were much taken with the flute), but the music is extremely lyrical, energetic and in the last movement quite virtuosic. Hayden’s chamber music is always a delight to the ear and in the hands of such fine musicians today was no exception.
Summer is just around the corner
The last two pieces were both written in the 20th century though quite different in style. John Ireland’s Amberley Wood, a piano solo, conjured geese flying in formation across the English countryside in my mind’s eye. The music was played in a very meditative way by John Martin. In the final item he was joined by the flute and cello to close the afternoon with Piazzolla’s tango-inspired Primavera Portena (literally Buenos Aires Spring) – originally scored for Piazzolla’s quintet it was arranged for trio but it is not quite the same without the bandoneon that provides a distinctive South American flavour.
After a little Mozart for encore, we were invited to enjoy refreshments. All in all, a first class performance by three Sydney musicians with distinguished careers. Walking out of the air-conditioned venue I was reminded that Summer is indeed just around the corner and that beautiful summery music is the order of the day!