Feeling the ‘Love’, the audience went wild!

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Music / “Love, Kindness, Decency”, Australian Series One, CSO Chamber Orchestra. At the  National Portrait Gallery, March 12. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.

AUSTRALIAN music has a distinct sound, and in the CSO Chamber Orchestra’s concert titled “Love, Kindness, Decency” at the National Portrait Gallery last night the audience became immersed in these fresh concert works.

Consisting of just 10 string players from the Canberra Symphony Orchestra, the concert opened with “Dancing on Tiptoes” by the composer, arranger, cellist and singer Rachel Bruerville. 

The pizzicato cello echoed the sound of someone dancing on tiptoes. The rather simple and sweet music, which fitted the title of the concert, was over in two minutes. 

Stuart Greenbaum’s “The Rotation of the Earth” sounded like a cross between baroque and children’s music. It had a quintessential Australian sound as can be heard in the likes of a Peter Sculthorpe work. Its relative conjunct rhythms bounced along like a children’s song sung out by the strings and the leading cello. 

Sydney-based composer and performer Natalie Nicolas’ “We Won’t Let You Down” has several nice melodies flowing through it. That said, its disjunct rhythms helped to make it more interesting and add depth. This at times, sweeping and pronounced music showed a multi-coloured palette and inventive musical ideas. Nicolas, who was there, looked thrilled as she took a bow.

The world premiere of Cyrus Meurant’s work “When I stand before thee at the day’s end”, was something else. For solo violin and strings, the immediate strength of the work was heard in its soft and slow opening. The song of the solo violin played by Kirsten Williams who also directed sounded out beautifully over the strings through the progression of a deeply rich tune. 

As Williams was playing, her score began to move due to the air conditioning. It looked like the score would blow off her stand, until the former curator of music at the National Library of Australia, Robyn Holmes, who just happened to be sitting in the front row saved the day by stepping up to crouch down behind the stand and hold the sheet music from blowing away. 

This never detracted from this deeply rich and stunning music or the exceptional performance. The audience went wild and gave a standing ovation, even though it was the middle of the concert. Meurant was compelled to take several bows.

Peter Sculthorpe’s “Third Sonata for Strings Jabiru Dreaming”, Movement Two, was brought together well by every string player. This music still enthrals.

Ella Macens who composes and performs and studied composition with Paul Stanhope was there on the night to hear the world premiere of her work “Superimposition”. Her music showed a depth of class in compositional style through the deep opening bars. The balance between the string sections spoke loudly of a composer who knows music and how to create affecting tone colours. This full, lush work would be even more amazing played by a full string orchestra. The composer took her bows after the performance.

Paul Stanhope’s “Nephesh for string nonet” was conducted by Louis Sharpe. Over two movements, the first titled “Prayer”, felt slightly confused as it moved quickly through varying styles, yet an underlying theme cut through. That was the bass acting as a lynchpin through this Hebrew themed music. The second movement “Dance”, stepped its way through many technically stylistic flourishes to end the concert on a dynamic upbeat.

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