Canberra International Music Festival / Concert 11, “All of them, and one of us”, Australian Centre for Christianity and Culture, May 4. Reviewed by GRAHAM McDONALD.
THE thinking behind this concert is a little hard to discern. From the program notes, on one level it has to do with the remembrance of the war, and on another level it’s about indigenous remembrance with a central role for William Barton on didgeridoo and voice, but that was not explained further.
The concert was in memory of Major General Michael Jeffery, a former governor-general and enthusiastic supporter of this festival with several members of his family in attendance.
Whatever the rationale for the programming, it proved a most satisfying hour of music from Barton, violinist Veronique Serret, violist James Wannan and cello player Blair Harris. The first three works were solo works for each of the strings, interspersed with variations on a work by William Barton, which used solo didgeridoo, voice or a combination of both. Igor Stravinsky’s Elergy, from 1944, showcased a remarkably powerful viola, Cathy Millikin’s Crie, for violin and voice, was an unexpected combination of violin and wordless vocal and Kate Moore’s “Whoever You Are Come Forth” for cello had some subtle additions from Barton from a breathy didgeridoo. Barton led into this work with an evocative middle-eastern infused vocal, as each work flowed into the next without a break.
Czech composer Bohuslav Martinu’s Madrigal, from 1947, was written as a duet for violin and viola with Serret and Wannan working closely together throughout this interesting piece of music. Barton again provided a vocal segue with the trio accompanying, before the three string players presented the String Trio Op. 48 by the undeservedly obscure Polish composer Mieczyslaw Weinberg. The first movement handed the themes back and forth between the three musicians before a very pretty slow second movement. The third and final movement featured a strong and memorable melodic line with a cleverly written fade-out ending before a final breathy note on the didgeridoo provided a final punctuation.
This was a concert unusual in its concept, but cleverly put together as a whole, building in interest and intensity as it went along. Thoughtful programming.