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Canberra Today 8°/9° | Monday, July 4, 2022 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

‘Uplifting’ music with a French accent

“Once Upon a Time in Paris”. Photo: Emma McMaster.

Music / “Once Upon a Time in Paris”. At Wesley Music Centre, May 21. Reviewed by DANTE COSTA.

CLARINETTIST Thomas Azoury and pianist Andrew Rumsey performed a program of illustrious French repertoire along with other lesser-known pieces.

Accompanying the spirited music was a hint of Aussie larrikin humour as this duo presented a concert that was refreshingly uplifting.

Opening with a light-hearted rendition of “Cantilène” by Cahuzac, the duo immediately established a convincing stage presence. Their ability to play together and communicate on stage in of itself was impressive. It was refreshing to see such a real and authentic collaboration of such calibre. The duo presented a deep and abiding chemistry was evident in their playing and attention to detail – this was a prime example of real chamber music.

The next piece was “Sonata for Clarinet and Piano Op.167” by Saint-Saëns where the duo explored convincing contrasts in mood and character. The lively and spirited “Allegro animato” was complemented with exceptional grace by the dark and evocative “Lento” which Azoury performed on the bass clarinet. The “Molto allegro” was energetic and overall, a pleasant end to the piece.

Offenbach’s “The Doll Song” was played confidently and expressively. The comedic and quirky rhythms were played with precision as they conjured up one harmonious sound. Then the audience was treated to a sublime rendition of Debussy’s “La Cathedrale Engloutie” where Rumsey evoked the sights and sound of an old cathedral arising from the depths of the sea. He played with impressive technical control over dynamics and tone colours which greatly elevated the piece.

This was complemented nicely with the duo’s lyrical interpretation of Bozza’s “Aria in G Minor” and a convincing and smooth “Solo de Concours” by Messager. Azoury and Rumsey presented an arrangement of Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” on two small harps which was well received by the audience. Following a brief interval, the musicians resumed their position on the stage to present the next half of the program, beginning with Pierné’s “Canzonetta Op.19” which was conducted with great expression and clarity.

Ravel’s melancholy and stately “Pavane pour une Infante Défunte” was then performed on the piano by the duo as Azoury joined Rumsey at the piano. The magical harmonies roused the audience as the exquisite sounds filled the room. The resplendent melodies were well phrased, and dynamics were used imaginatively to improve the performance.

The real treat came with “Carmen Fantasy for Clarinet” which was met with a great deal of anticipation. Despite the piece’s great technical demands, it was played with conviction and great virtuosity. Azoury’s playing was expressive, seductive and confident as he maintained a well-rounded warm tone throughout all registers of the instrument.

Ending the concert with a spontaneous encore of Piazzolla’s seductive “Libertango”, the piano and clarinet duo brought a delightful curation of music to their audience which was met with rousing applause.

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