So often when reviewers write about a concert where there is new music most of the writing concerns the compositions and the performers are largely ignored. As nearly all of the compositions in this concert were of only fleeting interest I will spend more time discussing the excellence of the performance.
Soprano Alison Morgan brings clarity and confidence to her vocal line
Soprano Alison Morgan is one of Australia’s most dedicated advocates of the music of ‘now’ promoting composers of this country and from abroad, but she should be acknowledged for more than that, as she is one of the small group of consistently excellent soloists in this city. Her work with fellow soprano Jane Sheldon and as soloist in Rosalind Page’s Ravensongs exemplified why so many Australian composers have been so keen to work with her and the members of her regular group, Halcyon. She brings a clarity and confidence to her vocal line and even though there was a lack of variety in her tonal approach in this concert, that was probably the fault of the selection of works – slow and mostly inhabiting a simple minor tonality.
Cellist Geoffrey Gartner imbuing the line with a sumptuous sound
The instrumentalists, harpist Genevieve Lang Huppert, cellist Geoffrey Gartner and on keyboards, Colin Taylor and one of the gems of the local piano world, Josephine Allan played all that was expected of them though I wish that more could have been offered. The writing for the instruments and indeed for the voices was all at the simple or undeveloped end of compositional technique. In Ravensongs, Gartner had several small though undramatic solos but he made the most of them imbuing the line with a sumptuous sound.
Late 20th century plainsong
New York based soprano Jane Sheldon was soloist in Kaija Saariaho’s Lonh. Much is made of Saariaho’s music in Europe and even in the USA and it fits into the intellectual end of the sound world that has been promoted by Avro Part and his ilk – a sort of late 20th century plainsong. All very easy and it never offends anyone. But nor does it excite or create interest either at the time of listening nor in the memory.
Jane Sheldon, Alison Morgan and Geoffrey Gartner were perfect protagonists
Jane Sheldon and Alison Morgan along with cellist Geoffrey Gartner were perfect protagonists in the ‘near nothingness’ that is the music of Morton Feldman. Voices and Cello (1973) explores simple ideas playing with semitones, fifths and octaves and yet it amazes with its innovation and freshness. It seems as if he makes a virtue of non-structure but in fact there is great logic in all he does and he draws the listener into a world of his design. It was a gentle introduction to the concert and is the only work that lingered past the end of the performance.
Sine & Syrinx – Jane Sheldon, Alison Morgan and friends | St Bede’s, Drummoyne January 18, 2015