This recital by the Sirius Chamber Ensemble was as much about words as it was music. Each of the five works had spoken text and their success as integrated compositions was due in the main to the quality of the music. Abschied von der Erde by Schubert was, as one would expect, the standout both musically and in it overall effect. Performed evocatively by Taryn Srhoj with pianist Claire Howard this is a little gem and one that the group could happily program again in the near future.
Andrew Batterham’s Eden was a showpiece for flautist Melissa Coleman, full of expertly despatched jazz inspired riffs and high speed runs, with Ian Sykes taking the role of narrator. At times the music/text fusing seemed a little wayward but it is ultimately an amusing work and was well received.
Audiences in Australia have been exposed to a good deal of the music of New Yorker David Lang. His Music for Gracious Living for string quartet and speaker was a strange piece – declamatory text and repetitious music – but it fitted the narrative of the concert. The text was superbly delivered by Nigel Turner-Carroll and the string players, led by Vanessa Tammetta made as much as they could with the material.
Melbourne composer Joseph Giovinazzo’s Matilda for four winds and speaker was a work that captured the audience’s attention. In two movements, the first is a dense little scene setter before the movement with the speaker. Here the music is appropriately simpler allowing the text, performed by Taryn Srhoj, to be heard ‘through’ the music. This composer deserves more performances in Sydney.
As I reviewed the mini tone poem The Death of Badr (2014) by Paul Smith at its first performance in 2014 I will direct my comments about the performers. Perfectly balanced and nuanced solos from Melissa Coleman, Ian Sykes and Claire Howard in the unaccompanied movements were a delight as was the playing of Hannah Murray, Alison Evans and Steve Meyer in the 4 ensemble movements.
It would be great if Sirius could perform the Andrew Batterham, Joseph Giovinazzo and the David Lang works in an art gallery setting where the audience could come and go as if through the music and text.
These musicians do the composers they perform a great service with caring, exciting and authoritative performances.