music / Canberra Symphony Orchestra, ACTEWAGL Llewellyn Three, Llewellyn Theatre, July 18. Reviewed by GRAHAM McDONALD
THE concert was led by composer, conductor and performer, Dan Walker. The conductor also chipped in and played with the Luminescence Children’s Choir later. You can tell Walker feels this music well through his almost dance–like conducting.The performance started with two iconic pieces by Marenzio and Gesualdo. One of the beauties of this young group of eight singers is their ability to stay in unison. And they showed just that on the night. They are so together that even their body movements were in sync.
The music of Monteverdi in his “La Sestina”, composed in 1610, owns a delicate sensitivity that is not overly adorned by ornamentation. His music resonates with the voice of an insightful and articulate composer who understood the human voice well.
The concert then moved on to a much more modern composer in the next work. “Two choral compositions” by Ildebrando Pizzetti (1880-1968). These could have been written with the music of Debussy or Ravel in mind. While indeed modern, it might easily be mistaken for early music.
It contrasted with the Monteverdi well. Its modern sound came through in the almost spoken lyrics on occasion. It was much more polyphonic, and at times, the tenors having separate lines.
Dan Walker gave us some amusing and insightful comments on each piece. Monteverdi’s “Lament for Ariadne” is an extended, and the only remaining section of his lost second opera. In the first movement of the lament, Walker explained how Ariadne woke one morning to find her lover gone. It was beautifully sung.The second movement, “o teseo mio”, began with a softly sung call and response of Ariadne’s lover’s name, Teseo, (Theseus). And then, the “Dove e la fede”, which began with a flourish, then soon faded to a calming hymn-like chant.
The final movement in Monteverdi’s Lament was, “Ahi che non pur risponde”. This was a tricky piece for the group. After a false start, they got it very right. It sings of the lament about one who loves too much. How wonderful it would be to hear the complete opera.
The next piece, by Gesualdo didn’t stand out. But, the final song, “lo non so pero morto”, by Giaches De Wert, is a fascinating piece. It tells the tale of a young man who may be dead but comes back to tell his lover that he is set free from his mortal prison of unrequited love.
After a short pause, the Luminescence Children’s Choir performed a few brief but lively songs. It’s easy to see how they are going to be a force that keeps the name and quality of Luminescence going for many years. Their exuberance and dedication clearly seen on their faces and heard in their voices.
Afterwards, AJ America, mezzo soprano and founding director of Luminescence, launched their 2017 season. They have an extensive and busy year planned. Conducting workshops, collaborations with The Song Company, performances at the coming Canberra International Music Festival, High Court appearances, a special program called “Songs my mother taught me”, and a Christmas concert.