The opening of the James Ainslie Recital Hall at Ainslie Arts Centre last weekend was marked by two significant concerts. Designed by JS Murdoch, architect of early buildings, such as old Parliament House and Gorman House, the building, we discovered, owed its mathematical proportions and design of windows rafters and struts to the precepts of Freemasonry.
“ The Violin Sings” on September 16, introduced a new duo “The Divine Spark” – pianist Tamara Anna Cislowska and violinist Christopher Latham, who said this was his first full-length recital in 12 years. Featuring compositions in the Russian idiom, the first half was described as quintessentially “Soviet.”
These were Georgian composer Giya Kancheli’s “Time… and again”, an extraordinary piece full of light, shade and passion that ended in near-silence. Kancheli is often called “King of Pain,” a theme that underscored the entire program. The second work, Gorecki’s “A Little Fantasia,” is unusual for its repeated “Joachim” chord and was performed with feeling.
The second half was not Soviet, but “Russian” – two works normally associated with the cello, but rearranged for violin and piano. Rachmaninov’s “Cello Sonata” gave Latham’s new violin a chance to perform at its lower range and Cislowska an opportunity to show what a dynamic player she is.
The final work, Elena Kats-Chernin’s “Blue Silence” was written in response to her son’s illness in the hope that it might “make him better”. This contrast to the Rachmaninov completed an evening where music transformed pain into beauty.
On the second night, September 16, Canberra’s innovative chamber ensemble The Griffyn Ensemble, focused on music about the solar system. The program interspersed more serious music by composers such as Stella Sagvik and artistic director Michael Sollis, with lighter numbers such as David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” (“Ground control to Major Tom”) and The Beatles’ “Across the Universe”, where the sounds of asteroids were reproduced on a plucked mandolin. The evening provided opportunities for percussionist Wyana Etherington, clarinettist Matthew O’Keeffe and flautist Kiri Sollis as featured individuals. Soprano Susan Ellis confronted Alan Hovhaness’ “Saturn” and Sollis’ “Ransom” in a boldly attractive manner.
This original evening ended quietly with the mysterious “Neptune” section of Gustav Holst’s “The Planets”.