11 October 2017

Glories of the French Baroque

Brenda Rae and an ANAM orchestra directed by Benjamin Bayl

Friday 6 October 2017

Elisabeth Murdoch Hall

There was a cello on the southbound #1 tram. The left hand of its minder was practising – a concerto I learned later – on the case. Lightning Brain decided the cello was most likely on its way to The Con, The VCA or ANAM. It got off near Bank St: ANAM.

Cello - or part thereof

The cello was learning Dvorak. The concerto is 1894 – Very Romantic Czech. Last Friday its minder swapped that for early-ish 18C French Baroque – Rameau. Clearly that involved a completely different mid-set and a whole new set of techniques. I have wondered for some time, is there anything these ANAM musos won’t tackle; is there anything won’t perform brilliantly when they do?

True, they’re all music grads; true, they’re all rigorously selected by a tough audition but they are all more than technical skill. They are musicianship, they are musical intelligence, they are music-performance energy at a level that’s almost unheard anywhere else in this city. And all this was evident with Jean-Phillipe Rameau and Brenda Rae.

There’s a direct line from Rameau to Ravel: intelligence and dry-wittedness – acerbity even. If you don’t get that you bugger it. If you don’t get the dance Rameau wrote into the score you bugger it. Brenda Rae got it. Benjamin Bayl got it. The ANAM orchestra got it.
Ms Rae’s voice has the depth, the colour, the strength and the intelligence to sing – I mean really sing – Rameau*. Her singing up front beside the conductor showed her superb technique. So did her singing up the back with the woodwinds – as a member of the orchestra. This was not just an exercise in musical democracy but the best place to be the solo part of a sort of French concerto/ballet. But her stellar technique – the apotheosis in the sense of the elevation of someone to divine status – was saved until last: singing on her bum lasciviously removing her high-heeled Roman sandals.

Brenda Rae en-Baroque
Philip Lambert’s superbly researched and beautifully written treatise in the program notes talks about Rameau’s cracker-jack, foot-stomping dance tunes, clothed in richer, more imaginative music than the establishment. A lot of this concert made me laugh. Was I musically faux pas-ing? Lambert’s notes say not. When was the last time you laughed in a classical concert?
The Rae/Bayle/ANAM combination generated a semi-standing ovation. Why are Melbourne audiences so mean-minded in this regard? This performance demanded the full foot-stomping, bravo-ing/brava-ing, hands-above-your-head clapping sort of applause.
*If she sings more than one Rameau is she singing Rameaux? … Sorry!

19 August 2017

Adam McMillan in Recital at ANAM

Adam McMillan
South Melbourne Town Hall
Friday 28 April 2017

MOZART Sonata for Piano in A minor K310
CHOPIN Scherzo No. 2 in B-flat minor op. 31
RAVEL Gaspard de la nuit

Every once in a while I hear a musician who encompasses a suite of prodigious talents – technical and musical.

I knew about Adam’s prodigious virtuosic talent; it was no surprise today. But the repeat of Gaspard - I first heard him play it in late 2015 - left me gasping again. This is Ravel: dapper, perfectionist, every note carefully crafted and located. With Gaspard that’s a lot of locating. Adam’s job was to make sure every note emerged from its exact location – technically.

He did that again in this recital apparently without any stress even though the note/second rate is close to the human limit. Very soon though my ear stood back a bit from the canvas of notes. I got something very different. I began to get the pictures again: water ripples, a corpse swaying on a gibbet against that dark, dastardly, inexorable tolling bell, an evil nymph. And they’d been built in my head by Ravel’s and Adam’s notes.
It was extraordinary playing - beautiful, captivating.

Adam, 2017 : https://www.anam.com.au/whats-on/2017/recitaladam

Adam describes himself as an accompanist - teacher. Accompanists are a rare breed of musician, born not made, who, once they are technically adept, can play with another musician by getting inside their head; knowing what they are going to do before – sometimes well before – they do it.

Mozart - a rare minor key sonata.
Here then, came the big test: could he get inside Mozart’s head to find his piano sonata in A minor?

Adam, 2016 : http://www.limelightmagazine.com.au/features/paul-dean%E2%80%99s-brand-new-ensemble-q-hits-brisbane

The age of the two boys is about the same (22/23) but there is two hundred year time and culture gap, a huge type-of-instrument disparity and, I suspect a big personality divide. Mozart’s mother had just died but that awful event is set against the background of his dirty-minded, irreverent nature. Adam did something clever, something that he could only do when he knew the notes, the rests, the pedalling, the dynamics markings - all safe in his head. He ignored the score in front of him and took himself off into a private salon high up on the left hand corner of the ceiling. There, he and Wolfgang put their heads together.

Out came pathos, anguish, wickedness (in the nicest sense) and impudent, cheeky music.

Here’s the second movement, Andante cantabile con espressione:

Adam emerged on Friday (18 September) night with the ANAM orchestra conducted by Matthias Foremny playing the acerbic, witty, metronomic piano line in Kurt Weill’s Der Silbersee Suite. Another style, another way of thinking that Adam seemed to slip into with complete ease.

I'd go a long way to hear Adam play.


23 November 2016

Beethoven’s 111

Laurence Matheson

Melbourne Recital Centre Salon

Thursday 17 November 2016

It’s been said that, at an international level, playing the right notes is a given. Laurence gave us all the right notes in Beethoven 111 but that was only the beginning.

It was the energy of his playing that set this recital apart from the merely excellent. At times it was as if he had been captured by the tension in the score so that his whole body, from his hands to his feet, exploded.

The F minor Fantaisie of Chopin is highly chromatic and often furious but in this performance every note was in its place and every phrase was defined crisply and cleanly. There is a beautiful figure in this piece that involves a succession of single notes building an harmonic structure of extraordinary delicacy and beauty. We heard this without affectation and without egocentricity. Its execution depended on Laurence’s trademark virtuosic pedalling that allowed one note to be fluidly succeeded by the next to construct the lyrical colour. Each note was defined but the pedal kept it alive to build on the next without muddying the note before.

The recital was essentially about three fantasies even if one, Beethoven’s Opus 111, is in sonata form. The wonderful characteristic of Opus 111 is that it’s very philosophical but in what respect, exactly? I had no help from the visuals: shiny black piano, black clothes head to toe, a complete absence of florid hand gestures unless that includes an occasional left-fist nose rub. The music was able to (was allowed to) to speak for itself.

Lawrence’s was a performance of intense emotions: rage? frustration? hope? resignation? packaged like a controlled coiled spring (again). His playing in this was as sharp as broken glass – harsh even – but still finding Beethoven’s underpinning lyricism. Laurence had listened to Beethoven say, ‘Don’t rush me. Take your time. Let me speak. My incredible mind is better than your incredible mind so don’t try to be clever. You’ll bugger my work.’

Between these two, programmed musicologically rather than sequentially, we heard As It Were by the Melbourne award winning academic and composer Elliott Gyger. This fantasy was built on ideas of Beethoven's Opus 26 and 110 sonatas. It’s a piece that I found difficult to comprehend at one hearing; I’d like to hear it again especially in the context of its inspiration. Clearly Laurence comprehended it; the composer seemed pleased with the performance.

It was his musical intelligence and his technical skills made this playing so exciting – and deserving of a much bigger audience than one hundred or so in the Salon (although it was wonderful to have a private recital).

Laurence won the ANAM Director’s prize for 2015 and is now an ANAM Fellow. This recital, curated by Marshal McGuire, was a wonderful celebration of that prestige.

It was the intersection of music, science and chess. Bloody brilliant!

 Laurence Matheson v Eric Neymanis 1-0

31 October 2016

It's time - for marriage equality

GetUp. Support it/them!

Peter Kahil,
Member for Wills

Hi Peter,

Let me add my congratulations to you and the Federal ALP in deciding to vote against the marrige equaity plebiscite.

I see no reason why anyone apart from  the federal Liberal Party caucus, who created the plebiscite problem, should be expected to fix it.
Howard changed the Act by a simple parliamentary procedure, Turnbull and the despicable, hypocritical Liberal Party ‘delcons’ barking at his heels can unchange it with a free parliamentary vote.
And I. by the way, expect you to vote for marriage equality.
I married whom I wanted to; Ian, my widowed mate is about to marry whom he wants to. Jason, my gay mate and Sue, my lesbian friend should be able to marry the person they love.

Best regards

11 October 2016

No reply, other than the automated, yet.
No information relating to marriage equality on http://peterkhalil.com.au/

24 May 2016

Premier Daniel Andrews has apologised for ‘abominable’ historical laws that made homosexuality punishable with jail.


For decades, we were obsessed with the private mysteries of men.
And so we jailed them.
We harmed them.
And, in turn, they harmed themselves.
Speaker, it is the first responsibility of a government to keep people safe.
But the government didn’t keep LGBTI people safe.
The government invalidated their humanity and cast them into a nightmare.
And those who live today are the survivors of nothing less than a campaign of destruction, led by the might of the state.
A rainbow flag is seen above Parliament House in Victoria 24 May 2016

For the laws we passed.
And the lives we ruined.
And the standards we set.
… we are so sorry … humbly, deeply, sorry.”
The Honorable Daniel Andrews MP
Premier of Victoria

for Kirk
for Karen
and for David

22 April 2016

Lucia di Lammermore: two men will die tonight

Victorian Opera
Her Majesty’s Theatre
Tuesday 19 April 2016

A couple of thousand people came to a complete halt; nobody shuffled, nobody coughed, nobody unwrapped lollies. Nobody, except a few people on stage, moved. On stage, the movement was from Lucia’s friends – worried, uncertain what to do, while Jessica Pratt aka Lucia slowly and gut-wrenchingly went mad. Essentially, Richard Mills and Orchestra Victoria were superb, too. More than superb really, because they played in a pit that sounded like playing under melted lead. It took all the skill of Dr Mills and the pit orchestra to produce a sound that didn’t decay in 2 microseconds or less, to give the singer first-class support. Including the glass harmonica's beautiful, ethereal, unworldly sound was a brilliant idea (but the player is uncredited). Why OV-Richard and Jessica didn’t get a long, standing ovation at the end of the act is a mystery. Theirs was a most beautiful singing-accompanying performance: Jessica and Richard in each other’s head.

Jessica had all the promo resources; she had the lead part, she was the local girl come home again from La Scala and she had the stunning, magical, world-class voice. We knew that from her Traviata last year. She alone was going to be worth the price of the ticket  and so she was.

There were two other local singers on stage who didn’t quite qualify for photo opps in a white, blood-drenched dress. Some blokes would-of but not these two: they'd been Victorian Opera Developing Artists; they were graduates of the Vic Opera/MU Master of Music program. I’ve followed their development and their careers from ‘good-singer’ to’ superlative-opera-star-level-two (shared dressing room)’. That’s what they were on Tuesday.

Michael Petruccelli is a Schubert lieder wunderkind; so in some ways, inevitably, that was seen in Arturo. It seemed that Michael's singing was grounded in his lieder experience – emotional, expressive, richly lyrical. It was all there in the score and Michael found it. Not over-dramatic, not suicidal, just beautiful singing and being a total shit – chatting up pretty birds – ignoring his wife who was enveloped in emotional turmoil, barely able to see the parchment through tears while she signed the marriage certificate without him by her side. From the soles of his white boots to the top of his white feathered hat Michael was a loathsome figure. The surprise is not that she stabbed him; it was that she didn’t stab him sooner. If he’d sung more of his opening aria to her he’d have won her and the tragedy that was Lucia would not have happened.

Michael Petrucceli
Source: http://www.michaelpetruccelli.com/

That was not a possibility for Edgardo. He was inevitably doomed from the moment the curtain went up. Carlos E. B├írcenas was brilliantly cast – a skill that Richard Mills is recognised for. Carlos was suited physically, vocally and as an actor to the part of the fatally hopeless lover.

Carlos had worked on Lucia with Jessica in Italy over Christmas so they understood each other totally and credibly. Like Lucia 45 minutes before, he slowly went mad: a Mad Scene without the white dress. His performance in the last act suffered from some pretty awful direction. Half out of his mind with anxiety he begged information about his beloved from a courtier (so far so good) tapping him on the shoulder (credibility = zero). 

Carlos had an horrendous part: alone, grief-stricken that Lucia’d broken her vow to him, hearing the wedding celebration over in the castle, he had to slowly (that was the tricky bit) lose the will to live without his love and then find the courage to stab himself. And who sought to comfort him, to prevent him? Nobody. He was despised, rejected of men. Alone, surrounded by courtiers, he stabs and dies – a truly tragic figure in the best model of Romantic opera.

Carlos E B├írcenas

There’s a risk on casting unknowns such as Michael and Carlos: they don’t attract the press and therefore the crowds. But they weren’t unknown. They are graduates of the best opera school in the world. They had been worked in all aspects of opera till they dropped. They’d come out of the Master of Music program with star quality. They just has to wait until the firmament came along. And it did in the superb (if you ignore the directing) Victorian Opera production of Lucia.

19 April 2016

George Brandis Attorney General of Australia (Liberal Party)

Brandis's view alone, theguardian 19 April 2016 http://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2016/apr/19/george-brandis-says-climate-science-not-settled-but-csiro-should-act-as-if-it-is alone is enough to justify getting rid of this gang of big-business-serving, stupider-than-neandertals (with apologies to our co-ancestors).

The science of anthropogenic climate change is as much settled as the science of aeronautics that underpins his government-funded helicopter trip.

Your're an idiot George. 
You're a disgrace. 
Go away. Now. Please  stop embarrassing us in front of the rest of humankind.