The Archduke: AFCM Opening Night
This review by Alan Junior won runner up in the Young Critics Awards 2012
At the end of a working week, Friday night, patrons of chamber music filed into the Townsville Civic Theatre to unwind and appreciate one of the finest opening nights to the Australian Festival of Chamber Music. The Archduke was a great variety of classical music, but also mixed with some more contemporary work like Sonata for two guitars – Nigel Westlake, providing something for everyone.
Phantasy Trio in A minor put the audience into a mellow mood as the notes poured from the strings of the instruments like honey into warm milk. Piers Lane certainly knows how to prepare an audience for things to come, arranging the night’s performances in such a way that he must be a man of great empathy for the devotees and aficionados alike.
Sonata for Two Guitars was a world premiere from this year’s composer-in-residence, Nigel Westlake. Perhaps the most notable work of the night, Westlake’s composition was created especially to be performed by Slava and Leonard Grigoryan. When listening and even watching the artists perform, the reason becomes evident. The Grigoryans are synchronised and know exactly where the other is at all times, taking cues through non-verbal communication. Even watching their anatomy and posture provokes a sense of gratitude for their playing, the composer, music, and humanity in general. The movements contain motifs of an exploration, sand, and the beach – matching how Westlake describes the work himself.
Before interval we heard Introduction and Allegro (Maurice Ravel) performed by seven artists – the fullest stage of the night. The stand out of course is the harp played by Marshall McGuire, not because of it’s stage presence, but the way it is included in the work, including a brief, blissful solo. The harp did not overshadow the violins or flute however, which leant a lot of drama to the work. The clarinet was very subtle, only somewhat present.
The night ends with a signature piece ‘The Archduke’ (Ludwig van Beethoven) performed by an amended Storioni Trio (Violin, Cello, Piano). Replacing Wouter Vossen on Violin was Natsuko Yoshimoto. It was perhaps a little evident she wasn’t part of the trio, yet the performance as a whole was not lacking. This more classical work was an appropriate conclusion to the opening night of the Australian Festival of Chamber Music, wetting the appetite of guests for the week to come.