Review / Four Winds delivers eclectic program

music / “Four Winds 2018 Easter Festival”. Reviewed by CLINTON WHITE

Sideshow Alley, Emma Pearson and James Crabb. Photo by Ben Marden

SET in a verdant park of stately eucalyptus trees and manicured lawns near Bermagui NSW, Nature’s Concert Hall, with its rustic tree trunk columns, is a splendid recital space with an intimate atmosphere and fine acoustics; all the better to enjoy good music.

The first of these two Windsong concerts began with Puccini’s little-known “Crisantemi”, an introverted elegy to a friend. The cello rather dominated the Goldner String Quartet’s otherwise heartfelt performance.

Gerard Brophy premiere. Photo by Ben Marden

Next came the first of five commissioned world premieres. Australian composer Gerard Brophy’s “We Two Boys Together Clinging” is inspired by Walt Whitman’s poem from “Leaves of Grass”. The audience is left to decide whether it’s about same-sex love or blokes bonding, but the piece celebrates the relationship of the men who commissioned it – Steven Alwood (now deceased) and Mark Wakely.

Maria Raspopova, at the piano, and the Australian National Academy of Music strings accompanied David Rowden and Lloyd Van’t Hoff, whose clarinets intertwined superbly throughout the piece, just as a close relationship would suggest, but poignantly leaving only one playing at the end.

In Schumann’s opus 44 Quintet, the Goldners and pianist Ian Munro expertly drew every nuance of charm from this lovely piece, which Schumann dedicated to his wife, Clara, a fine pianist and composer in her own right.

Windsong 3 saw truly virtuosic performances from the featured artists, beginning with Schubert’s “Fantasia in F minor for piano four hands”. Tamara-Anna Cislowska and Ian Munro were a well-matched combo, Cislowska at the bass end giving it the kind of power and dynamics needed to enable Munro’s quite lyrical style at the top end to deliver all the romanticism Schubert’s piece intended.

Then it was a spectacular performance by Jack Liebeck (violin) with James Crabb (classical accordion) of Saint-Saëns’ “Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso”, written for solo violin and symphony orchestra. In this superb arrangement, Crabb provided all the orchestral colour needed for Liebeck to draw out every ounce of the piece’s unfettered exuberance. A spontaneous standing ovation was the result.

Ian Munro. Photo by Ben Marden

To conclude, pianist Ian Munro joined The Goldner String Quartet for Dvořák’s grand-scale “Piano Quintet No 2”. Although the second movement was a tad slow in places, the musicians gave this masterpiece an outstanding performance, with marvellous control of expression and players delivering the precision it demands. Another standing ovation was the result.

The two Windsongs sandwiched a bewitching concert, cleverly titled “Sideshow Alley”. With master of ceremonies, Guy Noble, suitably decked out and giving quintessentially over-the-top introductions, this concert was everything a sideshow alley should be – strange, funny, mysterious, artful, but with a twist. There were no bearded ladies, boxing shows, sword-swallowing or fire-eating.

This sideshow alley was one of musical acrobatics, gymnastics and impossibilities.

The bodiless head of soprano Emma Pearson tried valiantly to sing – difficult with no lungs –with accordionist, James Crabb, confusing her. Double bassist Rohan Dasika played Tom Johnson’s “Failing”, requiring him to play the abstract music and speak, at the same time, in a normal voice and pace, the completely unrelated words explaining how difficult the piece is. Trombonist Scott Kinmont, trumpeter Tristram Williams and clarinettist, Lloyd Van’t Hoff each produced impossible sounds. Tamara-Anna Cislowska used a piano, toy piano, woodblock and squeaky toys to create a lively cacophony, with lots of tapping, thumping and knocking on the piano casings. Even her rear end got involved in keyboard antics!

If the audiences at the Four Winds Music Festival were looking for an eclectic program, these concerts delivered.

 

 

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