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We’re only up to Issue 2 of Conversation, but life at the Con is already very much in full swing. Many groups and ensembles have performed their first concerts for the year. The week-long intensive exchange between the Con’s jazz department and visiting members from the Princeton University jazz department has come and been. And not to mention Karl Kramer is to begin his tenure as Dean of the Conservatorium this month. Exciting times! Naturally, Issue 2 has the distinction of being the first issue of Conversation for 2012 to include apologies and corrections regarding the previous issue. It should be noted that the scheduled screenings of Wagner’s Ring Cycle and the Con Christian Group have no affiliation – it may
have simply seemed that way due to the layout scheme of Issue 1. Also, apologies for the misspelling of contributor Charlotte Fetherston’s surname as Featherston (it happens all the time, apparently). You can check out Charlotte’s thoughts on practise room etiquette on pages 12 and 13. We also have an article on the Strathfield Symphony Orchestra (“the other SSO”, page 4-7), reviews, columns, a controversial crossword and more for you to enjoy. We hope you like it! Cameron Barnett Editor
hile it may not have a regular gig at the Sydney Opera House, Strathfield Symphony Orchestra is certainly known as a community orchestra on the rise. This year, with the appointment of Sadaharu Muramatsu as Principal Conductor and Artistic Director, Strathfield Symphony is looking forward to a year full of challenge, excitement and spectacular music. With concerts to include works such as Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, Sibelius Symphony No. 1 and Ravel’s Bolero, the 60-piece ‘Orchestra of the Inner West’ certainly has their work cut out for them.
The year started on a high, with a sold out, highly praised performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, with four soloists and the Wesley Institute Choir making the fourth movement just that little bit more ‘joyful’. The Ninth Symphony is a glorious yet challenging piece of work, with delicious musical moments across the orchestra throughout the entire piece. The opening of the first movement demands immaculate rhythmic precision
across the orchestra, the scherzo can fly along so quickly you could blink and miss it. The glory of the third movement lies in the musicality and control of the woodwind, and the fourth movement seeks to stretch all who play and sing. While Strathfield Symphony may only be a community orchestra, the musical standard of the performers, the friendly rehearsal atmosphere and the inspiring nature of Sada’s conducting make rehearsing, as well as performing, an incredibly enjoyable experience.
“It’s really the
friendliest orchestra in which I have played. It’s welcoming to all, non-pretentious, but yet ambitious and we generally have wonderful conductors.”
Paul Pokorny, Strathfield Symphony’s Concertmaster, has been with the Orchestra for 8 years. While he
also plays with other ensembles around Sydney, including The Metropolitan Orchestra and Balmain Sinfonia, he keeps coming back to Strathfield. This is because “it’s really the friendliest orchestra in which I have played. It’s welcoming to all, non-pretentious, but yet ambitious and we generally have wonderful conductors. Each concert is a journey.”
Like a lot of the musicians who play in community orchestras, Paul is not strictly a violinist by profession – he plays because he loves to and because he enjoys the music he is able to create with such an ensemble. However, it is his talent and understanding of the nuances of the violin that make him an excellent concertmaster and section leader, a position which Paul says requires the following qualities: “a section leader must be confident, reliable, technically able and be able to communicate non-verbally behind one’s back,
by one’s body language and movement of the bow and instrument. A leader must also be especially aware of the other section leaders and work together and listen during performance and rehearsals. The Conductor’s first musical resource in terms of part playability and what is possible is often the section leader. As Concertmaster, one has to be able to play all the notes (you can’t hide), be absolutely at one with the conductor, rhythmically and musically, and be capable of conveying some broad rhythmic guidance visually with body, bow and instrument. In addition, the concertmaster should have an acute awareness of all that is happening orchestrally.” His advice to aspiring concertmasters? “The first thing is to keep playing and trying to improve, but think about your own playing. Seek inspiration from a violinist’s sound you admire. Orchestras are great for sight-reading!”
Following Strathfield’s first concert for the year, entitled Joy, Principal Conductor Sadaharu Muramatsu, more commonly known as Sada, is now gearing up to begin rehearsals for their next concert, Triumph. Born in Aichi, Japan, Sada has studied at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and has received an Honorary Doctorate in Music from Anglia Ruskin University in the UK. I asked Sada, who has studied conducting with maestros all over the world including Imre Pallo, Kurt Masur and Gianandrea Noseda, about music, Strathfield and his advice for young conductors. What was your first ever conducting gig? It was when I was 14 years old and I conducted “Superman”.
You’ve studied with several conductors around the world. Who would you say has been your greatest inspiration? I cannot choose one because all of the Maestros are great!
How would you describe your conducting style? My style? Well, I always think about ‘input’ and ‘output’. My body moves as the score requires, but my body also reacts to the sound that appears. It means I am in a constant state of awareness. What is your dream piece to conduct? It’s so hard to choose one. There are many dream pieces. One of them is St Matthew’s Passion by Bach.
How have you enjoyed working with Strathfield Symphony Orchestra? The standard of the orchestra is high. When I ask for a certain sound, they understand and react very well. I would describe the Strathfield Symphony Orchestra as a “Happy Orchestra”. Because when I conduct the orchestra, everyone looks happy and of course I am happy, too. What would you like to have achieved in five years’ time? I try to achieve success at every single rehearsal and concert, with the idea that then an even higher level of achievement will naturally follow. Five years ago I could not imagine what I would be doing right at this point! All I can do now and in the future is to put all of my energy in every rehearsal and concert.
Do you have any advice for young, burgeoning conductors? I believe I am also a ‘young’ conductor (ha ha)! I am trying to keep my ear open all the time.
Strathfield Symphony Orchestra’s next concert is Triumph, a family friendly concert which will feature such works as Smetana’s The Moldau, Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture and the perennial favourite, Prokofiev’s Peter and The Wolf. Performance are on the 23rd and 24th of June. If you think you would like to be playing rather than just listening, contact the Orchestral Manager at firstname.lastname@example.org to get more details. For more details, visit their website: strathfieldsymphony.org.au By Rachel White
n e e l i t e righ w
l gica o l o o usic opes t m y h … n t ma Wrigh rsation f o st en ve e fir ch Eile o Con h t hi ly t e is Her lings w egular b r ram ribute t con
y role here at Conversation is to boost the academic standard of this magazine, and indeed of the Conservatorium, by writing short reports on my latest research projects. Do not fear my dear reader! Your education is in safe hands. My papers are published on my website www.eileenwright.com and I am invited regularly to give lectures in the coma ward at Westmead Hospital. While other musicologists tend to ‘specialise’, which is just an excuse to stop reading widely, my area of expertise is the entire history of music from the earliest
notations (see my paper Mammoths or Symphonies: Playing the Cave Paintings of Southern France) to the very latest trends in contemporary composition (see also my paper I See Dead People: Hurel’s Spectral Music). Most recently, I have been investigating the ritual music of the Pissu-Take temple on the East coast of the upper-most regions of Southern Japan. I came across this strangely under-investigated topic when my good friend Janine told me that the taiko drum patterns that she heard in that temple reminded her of the bossa nova music of Brazil.
“Do not fear my
dear reader! Your education is in safe hands.”
particular pattern of flipper movement observed by sailors from both ends of the whale’s migration path was absorbed into local folk song and, as is in the case in the Pissu Take temple, into sacred music. In order to establish the accuracy of this hypothesis I will do some close underwater observation of the Phalse Whale and compare its flipper beats with those of the taiko drummers in Janine’s holiday footage and the rhythmic patterns discernible in the Latin Ballroom class at Petersham RSL club. I will report my findings to you in due course. That is all I have for you this week my dear students. In the next issue of Conversation,I will present to you my research on the aural perception of Debussy’s La Mer and how it is affected by the consumption of Parmesan cheese.
This brought to my mind an article Eileen Wright that I had once read on Wikipedia about the migration of the Great Phalse Whale from the shores of South America to the Japanese archipelago. It is my belief that a
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thought I would write a little feature on this subject because the lack of etiquette and consideration for others using the practice rooms irks me a bit. I know that this issue affects most of us here at the Con, and not just performance majors: other students enrolled here have a right to use these rooms as well. I believe there to be around 400 students here entitled to make use of the seventy or so practice rooms, yielding a ratio of about 6:1. If you divide the day into normal working hours, we would all be entitled to use the rooms for one-and-a-half hours per day. This is really not sufficient practice time for music students; we need from 3
to 6 hours, depending on a range of things. So how do we cope with this limited supply versus demand?
Formal rules or good etiquette? You’ve all seen the rules poster inside practice rooms. It’s very long. Many of the rules are justified, such as not using the rooms for private teaching, and not eating in them (odours!!). However, the standingrule that a person can be kicked out of a room on the hour, “irrespective of how long you have been in the room” seems to me like absolute nonsense. You’re not going to kick someone out just because you didn’t get there in enough time to get a room. Especially not if they
are working hard! I really feel that the use ofthe Con practice rooms is a matter of ‘first in first served’ – and that’s sort of how life works as well. You need to put the effort in to get where you want to go, and take opportunities (is that an empty practice room I spy?) when they come by.
“So how do we
cope with this limited supply versus demand?”
The time when people get grumpy about practice rooms is when someone has set up camp in a room and is blatantly off doing other things. I’ve talked to people who get to the Con for a lecture, dump their stuff in a practice room, pop off to the lecture, and then are upset when the room has been overtaken in their absence…? Here is my suggestion as to how we could go about solving practice room angst.This year, the system is
set so that the air conditioning and the lights switch off automatically, on the hour, every hour. I propose that if your practice room lights are still off after ten minutes past the hour (e.g., 12.10pm), someone wanting a room is more than entitled to it. At my undergraduate university this was called the 10-minute rule, and it worked well. Of course, contention was encountered at times, but everyone was aware of this guideline, and saw the positive in it. I don’t want to sound like a moaner, but I know that many of you feel the same way. Please try to be courteous of other students. We all need to practice, and if everybody is respectful, we will all get enough time to do the practice we need to during the day. Charlotte Fetherston
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Copland’s Appalachian Spring & Mendelssohn’s Octet
n Sunday I was lucky enough to see the premiere concert of the newly formed Fitzroy Ensemble. The core members were all chosen for the prestigious Sydney Symphony Fellowship program last year, and this prior experience of working together was evident in what was a stunning performance of Copland’s ballet music Appalachian Spring and Mendelssohn’s Octet.
“The ethereal opening of the Copland was poised and showed true control, while the powerful sound of the forte belied their numbers.”
The ensemble work was precise under the leadership of guest Rebecca Chan (ACO). The ethereal opening of the Copland was poised and showed true control, while the powerful sound of the forte belied their numbers. The solos from the winds were beautifully played, perfectly evoking the lonely wilderness of the American North. The group’s sense of structure carried the ballet effortlessly through the eight continuous movements, capturing the different character of each; from the rustic Shaker melody to the soaring and evocative chorale of the coda.
Avid readers of this fine publication will note that the Mendelssohn Octet was reviewed in the last edition, as performed by the ACO. This performance not only matched the ACO’s but also, in some respects, surpassed it. The youthful vitality of the group was unrestrained, their attention to both harmonic nuance and melodic shape impeccable. The compositional depth of the piece shone through the wax and wane of their tension, the softest pianissimos matched by thunderous crescendos. The exuberant opening movement abounded with joy, followed by the most tranquil lullaby in the second. The scherzo skimmed along
with controlled vibrancy, and the spirited finale brought the concert to a thoroughly rousing close. Comprised mostly of ex and current Con’s, the Fitzroy Ensemble is a shining example of making your own work within the arts. See this group: it has the makings of a premier new ensemble.
La Traviata – Sydney Harbour
ot since a bedazzled drag queen cut a long silk swathe through the Australian outback, miming Sempre Libera atop a bus, has there been such an ostentatious rendition of the aria from La Traviata as is currently on show in Sydney Harbour. As spectacles go, this one takes the pastries. Like an operatic Jesus, the show is staged on a giant silver platter suspended above the water opposite Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair, over which hangs a giant chandelier, a fabulous Sword of Damocles. The dancing matadors, sultry gypsies and free-wheelin’ carnival folk all appear in sumptuous attire, and the rollicking Brindisi was crowned with a dazzling fireworks display. There was a distinct thrill in seeing this sort of extravaganza outdoors. While passing ferries offered occasional (and curiously atonal) contributions in the form of foghorns, the balmy sea breeze
and sprawling city scene presented an amazing setting. There were, however, inconsistencies in the performance. Rachelle Durkin as Violetta (she is sharing the role with the more notable Emma Matthews) was dramatically and technically solid as the doomed lead, but her tone quality was inversely proportionate to register; mezzo mutton dressed as soprano lamb in other words. Gianluca Terranova ( Ji-Min Park is his opposite) was, vocally, truly impressive as Alfredo; his De Miei Bollenti Spiriti in the second act was a highlight. The acting, however, was as wooden as a longship; a shame, given Durkin’s moving portrayal. The orchestra, under the excellent Brian Castles-Onion, was in (mostly) fine form.
“There was a distinct
thrill in seeing this sort of extravaganza outdoors.”
Their overture glistened, the balance was perfect throughout, and their dramatic support was admirable. In all, given the setting, it’s definitely worth seeing this production (especially if Matthews is performing that night). Otherwise, just be sure not to listen to your favourite recording beforehand. Daniel Butler
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ENSEMBLE OFFSPRING ‘New Radicals’ Sydney Opera House
March 30 – April 1
icking off their 2012 concert season at the Sydney Opera House’s Utzon Room, Ensemble Offspring (led by Artistic directors Claire Edwards and Damien Ricketson) offered a program consisting entirely of Australian and World Premieres, bringing delightful new music to eager ears as they have long done.
Beginning the evening with Breakdown by UK-based composer and turntablist Matthew Wright, the performers almost violently sprang to life. Electric piano stomped out stabilizing rhythmic markers within a surrounding sound world of ecstatic slices and flicks by flute, clarinet, percussion, violin and cello. The work generated a fascinating mood, mixing a dizzyingly complex staccato polyphony with a solid core of dance-like groove. Next was New Zealand composer Michael Norris’ Save Yourself, a work specially commissioned by Ensemble Offspring.
Though the gestural structure of the overall work was effective, a floating texture of soft-synth laden “colour fields” (from concert program notes –Damien Ricketson) contrasted against aggressive string, accordion and woodwind layers, the real-time listening experience was somewhat distracted – the middle section of the work risked losing its interest and direction. Closing the first half was the mesmerizing Neon Forest Space by Norwegian composer Øyvind Torvund, a truly radical exploration of a traditional folk tune from his country. A colourful ensemble of clarinet, electric guitar, cello, electronics and unusual percussion galore (including Velcro, zippers, combs and an electric milk frother) travelled through a series of spectacular musical tableau, each dipped in the airy lyricism of the folk tune. One of the most striking effects created in the piece was a dreamy antiphony between the onstage instruments and a pre-recorded version of themselves, this underscored by an idyllic electro-acoustic track of spacious birdsong.
The second half began with a work for solo percussion by Istanbul born Australian composer Ekrem Mülayim entitled ‘and we chart the topography of a mo-
ment’, featuring a pair of knitted gloves donning small cymbals on each of the ten fingers. The work was filled with an air of ceremony and sombreness, one which was well sustained throughout – the composer’s background in visual arts and theatre were well infused with a solid musical intuition. Claire Edwards, who performed the solo, dweserves special mention for her serious and painstaking realization. Zeimbekiko 1918 by Yannis Kyriakides, who is currently based in the Netherlands, combined acoustic and electronic mediums to create a poignant musical dialogue between the musical past and present. The electronic material evoked the empty sighs and scratches of an old record player, whilst the electric guitar spiralled out melancholic chords in accompaniment to the coloratura melodies of the violin.
“...the performers almost violently sprang to life.” The final work, ‘on and off and to and fro’ by Danish composer Simon SteenAndersen, brought many unheard (and likely unimagined) sounds to life. Three megaphones were used to selectively amplify the acoustic instruments within the ensemble of clarinet, vibraphone and cello. They soon, however, broke from
this auxiliary role and rose to musical dominance, “generating their own material in a cadenza of sirens, foghorns and feedback” (from concert program notes –Damien Ricketson). The megaphone sirens were rather exciting when they arrived... Though this work was filled with unconventional sound sources (in addition to the megaphones) they were always used with sure purpose and sincere musical aims. Matthew Gambrill
OPERA AUSTRALIA Turandot - Sydney Opera House
January 17 – March 19
hen I think about the early 90s, I picture a wasteland of style. Floral leggings worn with sneakers and turtle neck sweaters, denim jackets carefully paired with Hawaiian shirts and those weird shoes that the Spice Girls wore. Which is why I was astonished to learn that Graeme Murphy’s production of Puccini’s Turandot is 22 years old. It is one that is wonderfully choreographed, timeless and brilliantly stylish, whose momentous sets designed by the late Kristian Fedrikson create spectacular drama. Our very own Anke Hoeppner made a formidable Princess Turandot, whose stunning tonal quality and perfect articulation terrified her subjects and her audience into submission. Tenor Carlo Barricelli
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created a heroic but sensitive Calaf, performing a commendable interpretation of the much anticipated Nessun Dorma, but perhaps not to the acclaim that his predecessor Rosario La Spina received. However, it was soprano Hyeseoung Kwon, as the faithful slave-girl Liu, who stole the show. Her devotion and selflessness, far from the forbidding Turandot, made her the audience favourite. Kwon’s exquisite purity and delicate phrasing, particularly in her tender performance of Tu che di gel sei cinta, eventuates in a suicide so distressing that every person within a five kilometre radius was most likely in tears. Most impressive too was the huge chorus that was as exciting in its chilling fortissimo eruptions as it was stirring in its whispered reflections, as well as the orchestra’s stylistic accompaniment under the guidance of conductor Arvo Volmer.
“It is one that is wonder-
fully choreographed, timeless and brilliantly stylish, whose momentous sets designed by the late Kristian Fedrikson create spectacular drama.”
What struck me most about the production, however, was its ability to remain relevant and timeless 20 years after its original conception. I read something in a recent issue of ABC’s Limelight magazine questioning the relevance of classical music in today’s world. It came to the conclusion that classical music is never relevant, nor is it irrelevant. It doesn’t need to be. Turandot remains as artistically masterful as it was 90 years ago, and will continue to be recognised well into the future. Similarly, Murphy’s interpretation of the opera is so inspired, considered and artistic that I wouldn’t be surprised if it is reawakened again 2 decades from now. Meggie Morris
OPERA AUSTRALIA Così fan tutte Sydney Opera House
March 8 – 26
n contrast to the ‘timeless’ Turandot, Opera Australia’s production of Così fan tutte is very ‘now’. In endeavoring to make Mozart’s comedy accessible to a broader audience, director Jim Sharman has somehow brought the theme
of ‘fiancé-swapping’ into the modern world using an English translation by Jeremy Sams. The set, designed by Ralph Myers, is both simple and inventive; making use of slopes and angles to offer distorted and unusual perspectives to the audience.
Despite my initial misgivings, Sharman’s Così fan tutte was hilarious. Stephen Smith and Samuel Dundas, as Ferrando and Guglielmo respectively, make a delightful pair of trouble-makers. Both voices were wellmatched and their ‘swagger’, as the young people call it, was both entertaining and strangely charming. Sharon Prero and Sian Pendry also made a great double act as betrothed sisters Fiordiligi and Dorabella. But perhaps it was the pairing of the mischievous Despina and meddling Don Alfonso that encouraged the mischief and waywardness that provided the most entertainment.
“Both voices were
well-matched and their ‘swagger’, as the young people call it, was both entertaining and strangely charming.”
The trio Soave sia il vento was beautifully balanced, and though it sounded slightly peculiar in English it was the sombre highlight of a mostly comi-
cal opera. Vocally, Prero was the standout, displaying flexibility, power and emotional connectivity that sometimes left her colleagues behind. Commendation must also go to the Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra who, under the direction of conductor Benjamin Northey, were polished and seamless.
As entertaining as the production was, there was also something slightly disturbing about watching opera singers perform in swimsuits. There were also some gimmicks fashioned to bring the opera into the modern world, but distracted from the work itself. The most off-putting of these was a wedding videographer filming members of the audience, whose surprised (and side-tracked) faces were projected onto the stage. Instead of watching whomever was performing at that time (point made), I was preoccupied with praying that my face wouldn’t pop up in all its zoomed-in glory. I came out of the production both amused and confused. I didn’t understand why a production had to be so forced into the modern world. My opera-going compatriot asked me if I had noticed that there were unlikely to be more than 10 under30s there. I understand that Sharman is pushing the boundaries of pre-conceived notions about what an opera should be, and that he is attempting to open the doors of the Sydney Opera House to a younger generation, but I’m not convinced his production of Mozart’s Così fan tutte will be performed again in 22 years. Meggie Morris
n o s ’ t n a
o h c w at the april 4
LUNCHBREAK CONCERT - STRING UNIT 1.10pm Verbrugghen Hall (by donation)
ALUMNI AND STUDENT PERFORMANCE SERIES Piano Contrasts 2: Stuart & Sons + Steinway pianos 6.30pm Recital Hall West (free)
COCKTAIL HOUR Let’s Dance! Louise Johnson (harp) and Louise Dellit (flute) 6pm Recital Hall West JAZZ IN THE CAFÉ Craig Scott & Friends 7.30pm Music Café
LUNCHBREAK CONCERT Jazz Unit 1.10pm Verbrugghen Hall (by donation)
CONSERVATORIUM OPEN ACADEMY Rising stars 11am Recital Halls East and West (free)
ALFRED HOOK LECTURE SERIES Dr Neil McEwan AM The Mysteries of Gregorian Chant Revealed 4pm Recital Hall East (free) CONDUCTORS’ SERIES John Cage Centenary – SCM Modern Music Ensemble Daryl Pratt (director) 6pm Music Workshop
COCKTAIL HOUR Complete Beethoven Sonatas for Violin and Piano – 1 Evgeny Sorkin (violin) and Gerard Willems (piano) 6pm Recital Hall West COCKTAIL HOUR The Fairer Sax Michael Duke (saxophone), David Howie (piano), Alison Mitchell (flute) and Anna Duke (saxophone) 7:30pm Recital Hall West
1. Archetypal violin virtuoso who was reputed to have strung his instrument with a wife’s intestines 2. German operatic composer who is frequently referred to as being anti-semitic 5. The most controversial violinist in the world today 7. Comments made by this composer about the 9/11 attacks being a ‘work of art’ were, surprisingly, taken badly out of context 10. Composer of 4’33”, also wrote for prepared piano and cactuses amongst other projects 12. Infamous opera by Strauss on a play by an infamous dandy 14. Musicologist and originator of the ‘Beethoven Rape’ controversy 15. The cover of a recent album by this composer, featuring a photo of the 9/11 attacks, induced a furore 16. Punk rocker whose performances famously included nudity and bodily functions
1. Con Ex-Dean Kim Walker was publicly accused of this several times 3. This album by Prince sets the tone for the rest of the crossword 4. This French singer released a single entitled ‘Lemon Incest’, a duet with his daughter 6. This conductor’s performance of a section from ‘Tristan and Isolde’ in Israel provoked both cheers and boos 8. Opera by John Adams about the hijacking of an ocean liner, ‘The Death of....’ 9. The riotous premiere of this work by Stravinsky luckily didn’t escalate into a mas11. This Orff work has, in the past, been associated with beer and fascism 13. Violinist whose racy debut album cover was apparently justified by the Bach solo works within
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