Concert Review: Twilight Musical Dialogues – Russia/ Walker/ Cislowska/ Kats-Chernin/ Donaghoe

Tamara-Anna Cislowska, Sally Walker and Elena-Kats Chernin in Twilight Musical Dialogues - Russia
Tamara-Anna Cislowska, Sally Walker and Elena-Kats Chernin in Twilight Musical Dialogues – Russia

Our friends in Newcastle have been busy with a concert series curated by Sally Walker. David Banney tells us what he thought.

Twilight Musical Dialogues –Russia

Adamstown Uniting Church (Newcastle)

June 23, 2017

Sally Walker (flute)/ Tamara-Anna Cislowska (piano)/ Elena Kats-Chernin (composer, narrator)/ Youth Cameo: Zachary Yoshinaga Donoghoe (clarinet)

Sally Walker’s Twilight Musical Dialogues have been an innovative and welcome addition to Newcastle’s musical calendar.  With three full houses in a row, it is clear that Novocastrians have embraced this concert series in which a unique approach is used to present great music.  In each concert the stage is reconfigured as a drawing room, complete with sofa, hatstand and coffee table.  Each program is a mix of music and conversation, inviting the public to be not so much an audience, but a group of friends (albeit a pleasingly large one) gathering to experience chamber music of the highest quality.  Each concert celebrates the music of a particular region, with refreshments before and after the concert that complement the music.

For the third concert in the series, Russia was the focus, with Sally Walker joined by two of Australia’s best-loved musicians, Tamara-Anna Cislowska and Elena Kats-Chernin.  The concert opened with some short works from Russia, including arrangements from Peter and the Wolf and Scheherazade, delightfully played by Walker and Cislowska.  The central part of the program focused on the music of Elena Kats-Chernin, demonstrating the humour, pathos and beauty of this outstanding composer.  A delightful aspect of this bracket was a performance of Moth-Eaten Rag, in which the composer played the piano, accompanying young Newcastle clarinettist Zachary Donoghoe.  Here is clearly a name to watch – apart from his technical control and faultless intonation, the greatest delight of this performance was Donoghoe’s mastery of the silences that define this deceptively subtle work.  A revelation to everyone was Tamara-Anna Cislowska’s prowess as raconteur, and the selection of Kats-Chernin works closed with a never-to-be-forgotten performance of the Russian Rag, a signature work of the composer, in which her dialogue with both composer and audience transformed a concert into an event, bringing to mind Victor Borge at his best.

The final scheduled work on the program was the Sonata for Flute and Piano, Op. 94, of Prokofiev.  A work that makes colossal demands on both instruments, this was an inspired and exhilarating performance from beginning to end.  Cislowska the raconteur was forgotten, making way for a virtuoso display that was a perfect match for the colour and vitality of Walker’s extraordinary flute playing.

But wait, as they say, there was more.  Before the Prokofiev it was announced that Kats-Chernin would disappear backstage to compose a work during the performance of the sonata, and the audience was invited to pick three notes upon which the new work would be based.  Going beyond the brief, Kats-Chernin produced not one but three delightful miniatures, which served both as welcome encores and an opportunity to raise money by auctioning them to the audience.

David Banney for SoundsLikeSydney©

David Banney enjoys a busy schedule as performer, composer and educator.  His radio show, Banney’s Baton Banter, a weekly chat about music and life with ABC1233’s Paul Bevan, recently reached its 300th episode.  David is Artistic Director of Newcastle’s Christ Church Camerata and Co-Artistic Director of the Newcastle Music Festival.  He has conducted many of Australia’s leading orchestras and ensembles, and worked with soloists including Roger Woodward, William Barton and Amelia Faruggia.  As a composer David is a past winner of the ABC Young Composer of the Year Award, and his compositions have been performed throughout Australia and broadcast on ABC Classic FM.  David’s research has centred on the concept of symmetry breaking in music.  A plenary lecture on the subject at the International Symmetry Festival in Delft (2013) lead to his election to the Executive Board of the International Symmetry Association, and he received his PhD from the University of Newcastle in 2015.


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