Review / Exquisite music sets the tone for ‘Flowers’ series

Music / “Monet’s Flowers of War”. At the James O Fairfax Theatre, NGA, September 29. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY

“Monet’s Flowers of War” ensemble, from left, Jane Rutter, Tamara-Anna Cislowska, Chris Latham and David Pereira. Photo by Peter Hislop

OPENING the three-part concert series titled “The Flowers of War”, were perhaps four of Australia’s best musicians in their field.

David Pereira on cello and Tamara-Anna Cislowska playing the piano began this part of the series titled, “Monet’s Flowers of War”, with Debussy’s bright and arresting Finale from his “Cello Sonata” (1915), as the impressionistic artworks of Claude Monet transitioned across the screen in the James O Fairfax Theatre at the NGA.

The program consisted of 14 works from six composers. All pieces were grouped in sections named after things that either inspired or defined Monet’s impressionist paintings, such as The Floating World and The Lotus.

Ravel’s Modéré from his “Piano Trio” (1914), brought in Christopher Latham on violin to join the cellist and pianist in this sweetly dark piece. Even with just a trio of players, Ravel’s vivid orchestration shone through.

The composer Lili Boulanger who died at 24 in 1918 didn’t get to write a lot of music, but what she did compose stood out. Boulanger’s short work titled “D’un jardin clair from Trois morceaux for piano” (1914), had a slightly jazz-influenced feel that also created the sound of Impressionism.

Her “Nocturne for violin and piano” (1914), came next. This romantic and expressive work existed in pure passion. While only a short work, it left its mark, like a lovers kiss.

The charismatic Australian flautist Jane Rutter joined the other players for an arrangement of Debussy’s “Pour L’Égyptienne from Épigraphes antiques” (1914-1915). The instantly recognisable sound of the flute, especially when handled so skilfully can change the atmosphere of any room. This arrangement, receiving its Australian premiere added a touch of Arabic song to the evening.

Jean Cras’s “Paysage Maritime” (1917), arranged for flute and piano had a much darker tone to it than the previous work. The French composer Jean Cras was also a career naval officer whose works were partially inspired by his sea voyages.

Composer Philippe Gaubert was also a distinguished performer on flute. He enlisted in the French army in World War I and saw action at Verdun. His “Nymphes à la fontaine from Medailles antiques” (1916), brightened up the mood. His melodies floated through the theatre like lilies on a pond.

In his second work “Soir sur la plaine from Deux esquisses” (1914), we got to hear the mellow and artistic tones of Rutter on flute. This piece was full of beautiful passage work and its sound sang of the Floating World.

The final pieces of the night by Jean Cras titled “Mystérieuses from Âmes d’enfants” (1917), and “Danze tenere”, arranged for all four instruments, soared with luscious melodies and rich harmonies, and it brought in Rutter on the piccolo and it cut through the sonority most strikingly.

In a performance with no interval or applause between pieces as it was recorded for posterity, the combination of exquisite Impressionistic music and imagery set the tone for what will be a memorable concert series.

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