Concert Review: Apollo’s Gift – Music and the Mind/ Twilight Musical Dialogues, Musical Luminati


Apollo’s Gift: Music and the Mind, 

Twilight Musical Dialogues, Musical Luminati

Adamstown Uniting Church, 

2 March, 2018

At an intimate, classical soirée, a model human skeleton, electrodes and computer avatars perhaps do not comprise the typical paraphernalia for such an event. Yet, the first of the Musical Luminati series, Apollo’s Gift: Music and the Mind, had these exact items on stage. With works by Elena Kats-Chernin, Carl Philip Emanuel Bach, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Johann Joachim Quantz, the concert featured flautist Sally Walker, neurologist/flautist Professor Eckart Altenmüller, organist Peter Guy, cellist Ben Crosby and physiotherapist Dr Bronwen Ackermann in this therapeutic, informative and enlivening program.

The concert burst into life with J.S. Bach’s trademark Toccata and Fugue in D minor’, performed by Guy, which subtly transfigured into the world premiere of Kats-Chernin’s Apollo’s Gift, commissioned by Sally Walker, with the addition of a flute melody that seemed to float out of the venue walls, as there was no flautist in sight. Simultaneously, there was a visualisation of an avatar skeleton on a screen projector, which seemed to be playing a flute. After this rather intriguing start, Walker revealed herself as both the flautist and avatar skeleton. She was wearing electrode sensors to visualise her own skeleton as she played on a software program used by Dr Ackermann called myoMOTIONTM, which features an anatomically accurate skeleton for insight into musician related injuries, recovery and performance enhancement.

After this most exciting display of modern medical technology, Professor Eckart Altenmüller was introduced to the audience. He spoke of his career as both a classical flautist and medical doctor, as well as his focus on the interplay between music and the mind. He spoke of how music can release “feel-good” hormones and chemicals in the body such as serotonin and dopamine, as well as reducing cortisol (stress) levels.

This stimulating talk was followed by C.P.E Bach’s Trio in B flat Wq.161/2 with Walker and Altenmüller on flute and Guy on organ. This reflective and healing work was performed with a keen sensitivity to the calmative aesthetic of Baroque music, with an intimate conversational presentation between the performers and the audience.

Budding young cellist Ben Crosby (who, serendipitously celebrated his 16th birthday on this night), performed J.S. Bach’s Prelude from the Suite No. 1 in G Major’ with an articulation, sensitivity and maturity which did justice to this representative work by the great master.

To finish the program, was Quantz’s Trio Sonata in A minor, featuring Walker and Altenmüller on flute, Guy on organ and Crosby on cello. This realization was a fluctuation between tempos, tight communication between players and a serenity in the elegantly played harmonies which was a perfect finish to the program. A charming encore of Minuet Orfeo by Christoph Willibald Gluck ensued, followed immediately by a resounding Happy Birthday tribute to Ben Crosby from both instrumentalists and the audience.

A distinguishing feature of this concert was a seamless collaboration between science and music. Both Professor Altenmüller and Dr Ackermann are world-class academics who devote their careers to music related fields of medical science. The addition of research presentation left the audience not only spellbound by the music, but very well informed. This interdisciplinary approach started Musical Luminati on a promising trajectory of invigorating concerts which are sure to be presented later this year.

Joseph Asquith for SoundLikeSydney©

Newcastle-based pianist, Joseph Asquith is a writer and educator who developed a love for music in his teens, while learning piano with Newcastle pianist/teacher Marilyn Wilson. Joseph subsequently completed his Bachelor of Music (Honours) in 2015 at the University of Newcastle, studying with Helen English and Rosalind Halton. 

Joseph has received private tutelage from renowned pianists Michael Kieran-Harvey, Andrew Chubb and Paul Hersh. He is a sought-after ensemble member/accompanist, skilled in various genres including opera, classical, folk and contemporary pop. 

Joseph has a love for musicology and writing about music. He established a reputation as a freelance music journalist in Newcastle, reviewing touring artists. As a writer he has liaised with prestigious national and international artists and ensembles including Imogen Cooper, Elena Kats-Chernin, The Sitkovetsky Trio, American Brass Quintet, and the Keleman String Quartet.


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