Review / Fabulous farewell from Rumsey and friends

Music / “Rumsey & Friends – New Directions”. At  Wesley Music Centre,  May 20. Reviewed by CLINTON WHITE

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NEW York’s Carnegie Hall is one of the major pinnacles for any musician to conquer. Young Canberra pianist, Andrew Rumsey, will conquer it in his debut appearance there on June 1.

To farewell him a capacity audience was in and enjoyed a very engaging concert, enhanced by his personable style, as well as his guest artists.

Rumsey started off with three lively and technically challenging pieces. Works by Poulenc and Rachmaninov bookended “Le Torbillon”, by local composer, Michael Dooley. Rumsey’s assured playing saw his hands flying effortlessly along the keyboard, tripping momentarily in the Rachmaninov, but overall delivering polished performances.

His first guest was flautist Laura van Rijn, who took the tempo right back. Of her three pieces, the highlight was “Orange Dawn”, by British flautist and composer, Ian Clarke. It expects some very unusual sounds for the flute – exotic Japanese Shakuhachi making way for flitting flocks of birds and running brooks.Van Rijn created vivid imagery with masterfully understated accompaniment from Rumsey.

Another guest was clarinettist Thomas Azoury who especially delighted the audience with his very middle-eastern sounds in “Sholem-alekhem, rov Feidman!”, a kind of rhapsodic Jewish dance by Hungarian composer, Béla Kovács.Azoury’s panache slowly built the tempo to a frenetic pace, all the while producing perfect clarity of notes and tone.

Then came a gentle tango, “Vuelvo al Sur”, by Argentine composer, Astor Piazzolla, with Rumsey joined by violinist, Mia Stanton, and cellist, James Larsen. They interacted nicely, with good tone and balance, each giving way to the other as required.

Classical guitarist, Matt Withers opened the second half with an introspective arrangement, by Roland Dyens, of the Lennon/McCartney classic, “Yesterday”. In his usual totally-at-one-with-his-instrument way, Withers created an air of calm with beautiful phrasing and a sensitive understanding of the arranger’s intent.

For the penultimate piece, Withers was joined on stage by van Rijn and Larsen for an arrangement they made of Arvo Pärt’s “Speigel im Speigel” (“Mirror in Mirror”). It evokes infinity, with a repeated chord motif on the guitar with over layered melodies mainly on the violin, and an occasional bass note growl from the cello in between almost inaudible harmonic playing. The trio drew well-deserved audience applause.

To close the concert Rumsey returned for the world premiere performance of Michael Dooley’s “Piano Concerto No 1”, written especially for Rumsey. With no room for an orchestra, accompaniment came from the violin, cello, flute and clarinet. The concerto is in three movements, and is light and transparent, much in the style of Leroy Anderson’s writing, but with a romantic period twist.

The ensemble played it brilliantly, although at times the overall sound did not quite work. The slow movement, written in memory of Dooley’s deceased parents, was a little slow and sombre, but with a lovely cello solo at the start.The outer movements were full of life and zing.

Rumsey took to it like a duck to water. He was confident in his playing and he relished in the many moods.He created much colour and light, delighting composer and audience alike.

An encore demanded, Rumsey and cellist, James Larsen, played “The Swan” from Saint-Saëns’ “Carnival of the Animals”. If a tad slow, it was a heartfelt performance, full of exquisite phrasing and sensitivity. It was a fitting end to an enjoyable bon voyage concert for Andrew Rumsey.

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