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Canberra Today 15°/17° | Wednesday, November 29, 2023 | Digital Edition | Crossword & Sudoku

Poetry made an unhappy match in Baroque concert

From Left, John Ma, Kimberly K. Williams, Marie Searles, Penelope Layland, Jacqui Malins and Peter Searles. Photo: Peter Hislop

“Apeiron Baroque X Poetry”. At Wesley Uniting Church, Forrest, November 12. Reviewed by HELEN MUSA.

APEIRON Baroque, violinist John Ma and fortepianist Marie Searles, have been pleasing Canberra audiences for the past year with their unique and often quirky forays into combining music with other art forms.

At Wesley Uniting Church, the duo ventured into the world of poetry in a program called “Apeiron Baroque X Poetry”, which should more accurately have been titled “Apeiron Baroque + Poetry”, for the two forms were never seamlessly integrated.

Ma is an affable host, chatting informally and amusingly to the audience as he tuned the three separate stringed instruments he would play.

Beginning with Isabella “Sonata Duodecima from Op.16”, Apeiron set the tone for beautiful music-making,  for which evidently most of the audience had come. This was followed by three shorter works by Mondonville, Pogletti and CPE Bach, chosen for the good reason that  Ma and Searles liked them.

Choosing  the approach of interleaving poetry with baroque music, Apeiron introduced  Canberra poet Penelope  Layland, co-editor with Lesley Lebowicz of the recently published collection of Canberra poetry, “The Book of Birds”, to read four poems from the work, but not her own. Each poem was followed by a short  musical interlude.

Later rising to the podium to perform poems about birds, often with references to recognisable  localities in Canberra, were other well-known Canberra poets Peter Searles, Kimberly K Williams and Jacqui Malins. In this segment the poems were read through  without music only at the end. Again,  none read their own poetry.

The afternoon concluded with Apeiron’s  performance of Uccellini’s “ Sonata over Toccata V, “detta La Laura  rilucente,” Op 4.

Poetry and music, Ma asserted several times, go together.

But poetry on the page and poetry on the stage are two very different things and, away from small poetry salons where intimacy is the keynote, more expertise in poetry presentation was demanded, with only one of the four poets able to capture fully the varying pace, nuance and tone of the words.

As well, the pairing of Baroque music and modern poetry proved an uneasy match. To state the obvious, contemporary music would have worked better.

But for the music lovers who had come to listen to Apeiron, there was plenty to delight.


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Helen Musa

Helen Musa

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