Review / Enthralling, beautiful and perfect playing

Music / David Pereira & Edward Neeman in Concert. At the Larry Sitsky Room, ANU School of Music, June 29. Reviewed by CLINTON WHITE

Cellist David Pereira… plays velvet tones, warm expression and thoughtful interpretation. Photo by Peter Hislop

WHAT a gem David Pereira is!  When he begins to play his luscious cello, his audiences are drawn immediately into a sense of eavesdropping a very private but generously shared world of velvet tones, warm expression and thoughtful interpretation.  

His playing becomes so personal for each audience member, all others seem to fade into a kind of opaqueness, like ghostly figures in a fog.

And for this concert Pereira teamed up with pianist Edward Neeman, an alumnus of the ANU School of Music now living in the US.  The teaming was perfect, for Neeman complemented Pereira’s every mood and colour.  Their playing was so enthralling and beautiful the works themselves became almost secondary.

Two highlights of the concert were world premieres. The first was Pereira’s piece, “Poem for Zoe”, written for his six-year-old daughter. The cello opened with very convincing distant didjeridoo, complete with sound effects, with the piano playing in an ethereal, melody-free fantasy style, evoking the night sky and the stars. Then guest artist, singer April Mills, joined with the words of Pereira’s poem “Zoe’s Unicorn Song”, about her imaginary unicorn friend, Rosie. Mills’ young, light voice fitted the song perfectly, giving it a lovely child-like character.

The other WP was by the new director of the School of Music, Prof Kenneth Lampl, “Mirrored from Far Away”.  It was a beautiful, soft, slow, melodious piece that Lampl summed up as one of “longing and redemption”.  It’s mournful, lyrical beauty, though, was more like a Romanze. Neeman and Pereira played it with such sensitivity, it had the composer wiping away tears. There may well have been others in the audience doing the same.

But there were plenty of light moments, too, when Neeman’s pianist partner, Stephanie Neeman, joined him at the piano for two duets. The first, a tango from Samuel Barber’s “Souvenirs” opus 28, had plenty of passion and intensity. The second, “Serpent’s Kiss” from the suite “The Garden of Eden” by William Bolcom had foot-stamping, percussive slapping of the piano casing, whistling and even tongue clucking along with pianistic gymnastics, a bit of tango, a bit of grand tarantella, a bit of beguiling and bewitching and some bizarre key changes just to catch us off guard in yielding to the temptation to eat that forbidden fruit.

Bookending all of that were cello sonatas by the Russian composers Sergei Prokofiev – his opus 119, written in 1949 in neoclassical style – and Sergei Rachmaninoff – his opus 19, written in 1901 very much in the romantic style.  Very different in styles, each was demanding in its own way and Neeman and Pereira rose to the challenges brilliantly.

There’ll be more ANU School of Music staff and alumni concerts in the future.  If you want some top-shelf entertainment, make sure you catch one.

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