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Lucy masters concert piece in three days

Violinist Lucy Macourt and pianist Andrew Rumsey. Photo: Peter Hislop

Music / “Andrew Rumsey and Lucy Macourt in Concert”, Andrew Rumsey, piano; Lucy Macourt, violin. At Wesley Music Centre, August 20. Reviewed by TONY MAGEE.

IN a last-minute change to the program, violinist Lucy Macourt stepped in with three days’ notice, replacing cellist David Pereira. 

Pianist Andrew Rumsey, already having cancelled the concert one month before due to covid, didn’t want to disappoint his audience again and after almost 40 phone calls chanced upon talented violinist Macourt to play with him – the first time the two have performed together.

The program, largely unchanged, was delightful, some of the pieces extremely challenging for both players.

However, Pereira did make an appearance fulfilling the role of welcoming guests and explaining the tragic situation that led to his having to pull out. His mother, having suffered a bad fall and being seriously injured just six days before, had died that morning. 

In a strange twist of fate, it turned out that the first half of the program was originally written for violin and piano anyway, so it was easier for Macourt to master Australian composer Amy Beach’s “Romance in A major, Op. 23” and the more difficult, complex and demanding “Sonata in A major” by Cesar Franck. A massive work in four movements that Macourt learnt in just three days and with only one rehearsal possible within their busy schedules.

Macourt’s playing was romantic, with bold rich tones also revealing a darker lower register. Her middle and upper registers are vibrant and she plays with extraordinary clarity and texture.

Her instrument is by Australian luthier Justin White, made in 2010, the factory being located in a small village named, astonishingly, “Fiddletown”, just north of Sydney in Hornsby shire.

Rumsey’s piano accompaniment was sensitive and supportive and the two players both mentioned that they immediately felt a sense of “connection” at the first and only rehearsal. This came through wonderfully in the actual concert as well.

The major work on the program by Franck followed, starting with a gentle and reflective “Allegretto” before moving into the “Allegro” movement, revealing complex and dramatic piano solo passages from Rumsey, all played with skill and flair. Macourt displayed a fluid, lyrical technique and tone, also playing many dramatic double forte passages. Her instrument has viola-like qualities at times, and appears to be of supreme quality and one that she feels very much in control of and is able to extract a huge dynamic range, from sensitise pianissimo to bold and rich forte sounds of great clarity.

The second half of the concert contained a range of short pieces, four by Australian composers. Canberra-based Sally Greenaway, present in the audience, introduced her two pieces, “Perhaps Tomorrow” and “Dawn of Evening”, in a most eloquent manner, leaving Rumsey to play the former as a solo on his unusual V-harp instrument, a musical reflection and depiction of the struggles, sadness and love of a person and their family and friends dealing with dementia.

Rumsey’s performance was gentle and reflective, playing respectful single-note phrases.

Macourt joined Rumsey, still playing his V-harp for the second piece, “Dawn of Evening”.

“Blue Silence” by Elena Kats-Chernin was a fascination in that she composed it to allow her child, who suffers from schizophrenia, to hear beautiful live music in the morning, before the disturbing inner voices in his head take over for the day. 

Kenneth Lampl’s “Mirrored from Far Away” was composed especially for Pereira and although he was unavailable to play it, the transposition to violin still sounded very beautiful, the two artists dedicating their performance to the late Mrs Pereira.

Composer Kim Cunio, head on the ANU School of Music, premiered “Hymn for the Fires”, a piece for solo piano, in which Rumsey gently played in a reflective, moving and calming style, paying tribute to those who lost their homes, businesses and in some cases, their lives, in several of Australia’s recent bushfire disasters.

After a frantic week of re-preparation, Rumsey and Macourt pulled off a stylish and excellently played large program of material of great variety, paying homage to many great composers, while also respectively remembering the sadness, loss and grief which brought about this sudden change of program.

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