This was the third and final of the series for 2013. The first had the theme of modernism. Alan Holley, the curator and one of the featured composers said there no theme in the third recital but I detected both modernism sitting alongside programmatic music with a modernist edge. Like the first concert (I didn’t make the second) it featured some extraordinary musicians.
Flautist Christine Draeger made a return appearance playing an Alan Holly piece called Birds of Opal.
It was certainly modernist in feeling but it featured runs and leaps and touches of melody. Indeed the melodic purity of birdsong was a feature of this piece. It was played with the sure touch of a highly experienced instrumentalist.
This was followed a song by Elizabeth Drake that was sung unaccompanied by Karen Cummings. Lovely words! Attractively sung! It had cabaret feel about it. I wanted to hear more.
In introducing the third piece, Hammering 1, composer Alan Holley confessed that it was mainly the player that would be ‘hammered’. He was not exaggerating!
We then heard the most extraordinary virtuosic performance from Oboe player Shefali Pryor. In three movements, the first featured shrieks, interspersed with melodic movements, and stunning circular runs. There were more of these runs in the second movement. The third movement was more melodious and legato: repetitive, but with unexpected shifts, but with an overall feeling of melancholy. The technical demands in performing (rather than just playing) this piece are formidable. The playing was breathtaking both metaphorically and perhaps literally (at least on Shefali’s part). I knew Shefali Pryor’s work from the SSO and the ACO, but the technical command of her instrument in solo mode, must put her among the ranks of the very best players of that iconic orchestral instrument: the oboe.
The tempo shifted back to melancholia in the piece played and written by trumpeter Christopher Perrin.
The piece was reflection of the day the great tsunami befell Japan. It begins with melodiously with a muted feeling of sadness about what is to happen that day. It then shifts quite dramatically to match the emerging disaster including voiced sounds of people drowning. A poem was then read reflecting on cherry blossoms in full bloom being drawn into the vortex of the tsunami. Did they become mist or clouds? This was the most programmatic piece of recital in the hands of a sensitive man able to express feelings through his instrument.
Young flautist Katie Zagorski took us back to the period between Richard Meale the assertive modernist and the later Meale with his gift for melody without entirely abandoning his radical past. The piece Melisande is, in part, a reflection on Debussy’s Pelleas et Milisande and certainly has a Debussy feel about it, and then shifts into the more modernist mode of early Meale. Katie Zagorski displayed beautiful control in the piece in both its more lyrical and less lyrical manifestations.
Saxophonist James Nightingale, playing an Alan Holley piece called King Street, completed the recital.
I immediately thought what on earth could one do with the contemporary city version of King Street unless it was nostalgic revisiting of the street when it had bookshops. But it turned out to be King Street Newtown, perhaps one of the most varied and cosmopolitan streets in contemporary Sydney. I listened carefully for the familiar sounds of that street. The piece starts slowly and then there are bursts of more urgent sounds including those resembling car horns (or so I thought). James Nightingale, on an alto saxophone, took us on Holley’s journey with an assurance of a man who knows how to evoke feelings. It was fine ending of the recital with more than little programmatic modernism.
Even the most sceptical will find much to enjoy –
I must say I really enjoyed these concerts and again an audience that covered all demographics sat enthralled in close proximity of musicians, either at the top of their respective games, or well on their way to that destination. Perhaps there was an over representation of works of Alan Holley, but there was variety and virtuosity aplenty. I look forward to another series at this venue with an intimacy and acoustic that ensures even the most sceptical will find much to enjoy.