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. Bárcenas 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 Bárcenas

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.

27 February 2016

Voyage to the moon

Victorian Opera
Elisabeth Murdoch Hall
19 February 2016
then Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, Perth, Adelaide

Spectacular range – low tenor to mid-bass with no head to chest voice break. Low notes retain their clarity with no growl. Rapid vibrato that suits baroque singing. He makes the hideously difficult rapid runs seem effortless (Difficult? Where?). Mostly, though, it’s the rich beauty of his voice that is captivating.

Jeremy Kleeman as Magus

Towards the end of 2013 Lisa Gasteen finished a week of intensive teaching with the eight Vic Opera/MU Master of Music course students. She ripped into young Mr Kleeman (in the most gentle of ways, of course). His body language suggested he was not amused. She wouldn’t have bothered if she knew he wasn’t worth it. We could hear his wort then. Doubtless she could.

I next heard him singing The Pudding – the Magic variety – in a bowler hat. Then in an interminable Handel Opera – part of Brisbane Baroque. He was good and very good, then. But in The Moon he was superb.

I have a vested interest in the Master of Music course that was part of; we support it. I’m very glad we do because it produced – it keeps on producing voices of the quality of Jeremy’s. His parents are partly to blame. They give him that wonderful collection of genes that are the foundation of a brilliant singer. And his incredible hard work and intelligent approach to singing is doing the rest.

Of course Christina Smith’s stunning costume helped – a lot: a full length black and gold brocade coat that was purpose-built for his long, lean frame. Matt Scott/Peter Darby’s wonderful lighting measured the mood and responded. But (I have to have a grump) I would have liked surtitles.

And it was right, very right, that the longest individual ‘aria’ applause was given to Phoebe Briggs’ seven-piece ensemble. These super-talented musicians gave us the great gift of superb music-making.

Rachael Beesley, Zoë Black,Simon Oswell, Phoebe Briggs, Molly Kadarcauch, Kirsty McCahon, Emma Black

We’ve come to expect perfection from Sally-Anne Russell – her Gluck aria with Emma Black  was riveting – and Emma Matthews. They seemed completely at home with the Alan Curtis/Calvin Bowman pastiche. If nothing else the score demonstrates the incredible depth of opera-music talent in this country.

Sally-Anne Russell, Jeremy Kleeman, Emma Matthews, Pheobe Briggs behind the harspichord, Kristy McCahon behind the double bass.

Voyage was so right. If anyone doubts that Richard Mills and Vic Opera can’t (still) mount a world-class opera they weren’t there.

Now … I’m off to break open the piggy bank. There’s a fresh crop of young singers for VO to mentor.

The History of Emotions is conducting a major research project on Vic Opera's Voyage to the Moon.
The Voyage to the Moon researchers are Jane Davidson, Joe Browning and Frederic Kiernan, based at the University of Melbourne. Jane Davidson is Professor of Creative and Performing Arts (Music) at the Faculty of the Victorian College of the Arts and Melbourne Conservatorium of Music, The University of Melbourne, and Deputy Director of the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions (CHE). Joseph Browning is a ethnomusicologist and postdoctoral research fellow at CHE specialising in the shakuhachi, central Javanese gamelan, and ethnographic approaches to Western art music. Frederic Kiernan is a PhD candidate at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music and research assistant at CHE.

08 February 2016


State Library of Victoria
8 February 2016
LetThemStay rally

I was (and still am) angry enough about the Australian Government's (= Turnbull / Liberal Party) policy on asylum seekers and the Australian Labor Party’s scramble to “me too” the lock-'em-up policy to dig out my First Dog tee shirt and tram it to the State Library for Get Up’s rally.

Old and leftie he may be, but he votes.

Old farts don’t demos.
They don’t do they?

Old farts and young farts were angry and chanted 'Let them stay'. They (nearly all) vote.

Old farts have a few advantages, to whit,
  • they have fewer years left than they have used and they want to use them well
  • they don’t give a shit what people think of them
  • they have well-oiled political hypocrisy detectors
  • they vote.

Delicious irony: Sir Redmond Barry - of Ned Kelly fame, now immobile in bronze - presides over a protest rally. Like Mr Turnbull, he was significantly outnumbered.

I cannot – will not – vote for a party that will return the 267 refugees presently in Australia back to Nauru.
I cannot – will not – vote for a party that incarcerates refugees in the hell-holes we pay for on Nauru and Manus Island.
I cannot – will not – vote for a party that institutionalises cruel and inhumane treatment of innocent people.

Not in my name Mr Turnbull; not with my money.