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Bringing the classics home

Thoroughbass performs “Home and Hearth”. Photo: Peter Hislop

Music / “Home and Hearth”, Thoroughbass Classical. At Wesley Music Centre, June 19. Reviewed by TONY MAGEE.

THROUGH discoveries from the Sydney Living Museums collection, harpsichordist and pianist Diana Weston and her colleagues have put together a program of music that would have been performed and enjoyed by the early white-settler inhabitants of NSW.

The domestic piano of the day, the square piano – so named for its rectangular shape – was imported in large quantities, roughly 10 per ship, which made the performance of lieder, other songs, sonatas and chamber music possible in the home. 

This formed the basis for this concert featuring Ms Weston on piano, Tara Hashambhoy on violin and soprano Danielle Grant.

Putting aside the mainstream lieder repertoire of Schubert using texts from Goethe and Schiller, the players instead presented his lesser-known lieder from texts of McDonald, Scott, Spiker, Mayerhofer, Claudius, Lappe, Rückert, Rochlitz and Schlegel.

Grant sang these gently reflective pieces well, her soprano voice filling the room with ease. “An die Laute D905” told an amusing little story of a young man wooing his lover with soft strains on his lute, entreating the instrument to play softer, softer, so as not to alert the neighbours!

In “Lachen und Weinen D777”, Grant achieved the high-point of her repertoire with impressive double forte high-register passages. Throughout the Schubert songs, her German diction was admirable.

“Sonata in A major for pianoforte and violin” by Ignace Pleyel, also a noted French piano manufacturer, is a bright and happy piece. It was an enjoyable performance by Weston and Hashambhoy and unusual in that the piano takes the dominant role for most of the sonata, the violin following.

“12 Variations in E flat major for piano” by Joseph Haydn was played satisfactorily by Weston, executing musical ornamentation well, however her honed harpsichord technique does not transfer well to the piano. Lack of expression and unimaginative phrasing marred the enjoyment of this piece. Some of this was also evident in the Schubert accompaniments.

Closing with a selection of Scottish folk tunes, researched and made into an accessible volume by Haidee B Harris, the players were at their best in these. 

“MacGregor Aruaro” and “Ca’ the ewes to the know” were both delightful, the violin part being an added obligato by Ann Carr-Boyd. The three players acquitted themselves well, the latter piece being a most beautiful song.

An encore of Schubert’s “An die Musik” with text by Schober rounded out the afternoon, the very small audience giving appreciative applause.

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