Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Music Monday June 2

WASO's new movie concerts are proving a huge success. This weekend (Friday and Saturday nights)the orchestra will perform the soundtrack to Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The St George's Cathedral choir will provide the Elvish voices. My mum is going to this so it must be good!

On Sunday 23rd June the Darlington Chamber Series continues with Brahms  Piano Quartet in G minor and  Dohnanyi's Serenade in C. Graeme Gilling is on piano with WASO string players.

WA Opera will profile its emerging artists on Wednesday 26th June with their Morning Melodies concert at His Majesty's Theatre. The program of favourite arias will draw a crowd. Perfect for retirees and those who like soup and sandwiches after a concert on a chilly winter morning.
June 28th and 29th is the top pick for me this fortnight. WASO clarinet player Allan Meyer will perform Copland's jazz inflected Clarinet Concerto with the orchestra. The pleasant program is rounded out with Beethoven's Coriolan overture and Symphony No 4. And yes mum is coming to this one too! 

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Denis Kozhukhin

Life changed for pianist Denis Kozhukhin in 2010 when he won the Queen Elisabeth Piano Competition in Brussels and was catapulted into the hectic world of international touring.

This weekend the 26-year-old will perform with the WA Symphony Orchestra as part of a month-long tour that includes Adelaide and Japan. It's an exhausting schedule but Kozhukhin wouldn't have it any other way. "Being a musician is not a profession, it is a style of life. It is consuming but it is a rich life and being able to share the music is special," he says.

The Russian pianist says there was no magic formula for winning the competition that launched his career, just a lot of time, nerves and adrenaline.

"It was the result of everything I had worked on the year before. Competition is mental agony because the stress is so high. If you don't know how to control your nerves it is very difficult."
Kozhukhin was born into a family of musicians and schooled in traditional Russian piano technique, initially from his mother, from the age of four. He attended the Balakirev School of Music (founded by his father) and continued his studies with Dimitri Bashkirov.

"Those years were wonderful," he says. "They were the golden years of piano teaching in Russia when there was a concentration of great talent, masters who spent their life giving to their students. It was not just about technique but the way you make the sound."

Kozhukhin's Russian polish will be on display with WASO when he performs the third piano concerto by his compatriot Prokofiev. The high-energy concerto is Prokofiev's most optimistic and lyrical, with melodies in the slow movement depicting the endless Russian horizon.

"Here Prokofiev is full of life. The last movement is extremely powerful and energetic, it rolls faster and faster and it doesn't end it just explodes. The audience will have the experience of touching something young, pure, energetic and kinaesthetic," Kozhukhin says. It is also technically challenging, a reminder of why Prokofiev was called the pianist with the iron finger.

"Prokofiev's technique was very percussive. There is lots of syncopation in the third movement and the bar line feels like it is moving. It is very important to listen to the orchestra; I have to have a little conductor inside myself."

Kozhukhin will also perform a solo concert on Monday as part of WASO's new international recital series. On the program is Prokofiev's Sixth Piano Sonata, one of 10 sonatas considered to be the most demanding music written for piano. Kozhukhin recently performed the complete sonatas in Tokyo and London and his debut recording with Onyx Classics with the same repertoire received a five-star review in BBC Music Magazine.

He describes the sixth sonata as an important historical document. It is one of Prokofiev's three War Sonatas written in 1940 in response to Stalin's reign of terror.

"It is brutal physically and emotionally; it takes something from me every time. The War Sonatas are related to a historical event about my country and its suffering. People should know this, it is an important document." The recital also includes works by Haydn, Franck, Schubert and Wagner's arrangement of Liszt's Tannhauser Overture.

Denis Kozhukhin performs with WASO at Perth Concert Hall on Friday and Saturday nights. He will give a solo recital at Government House Ballroom on Monday night.

This article copyright The West Australian newspaper 2013.

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Australian String Quartet - best yet

How is it that someone just 31 years old was able to write music that traverses the soul? Schubert wrote his Quintet in C major just before he died and its brooding intensity reveals profoundness beyond his years. The Australian String Quartet gave a darkly glowing performance in a concert that was the best I’ve heard from them in years. It was also a farewell concert for two of its members, violinist Anne Horton and cellist Rachel Johnston who seemed to play with extra intensity.


First violin Kristian Winther grows more musical charisma every concert. His assured leadership elucidated the depth of Schubert’s multifaceted music, from the humour and aggression in the syncopations of the opening movement to the edgy folk feel which became alarmingly brutal in the finale. Cellist Timo-Veikko Valve (principal cellist from the Australian Chamber Orchestra) integrated seamlessly with Johnston and brought strong attack to the fast passagework in the finale. The adagio movement was the heart of the work, with Horton and violist Stephen King spinning an introverted and achingly slow melody to the accompaniment of pizzicato cello.

Haydn’s String Quartet in D major was an ebullient opener to the concert. Winther demonstrated why the piece was nicknamed ‘Lark’ with his singing violin soaring above the other instruments in the first movement. The sighing adagio revealed flawless ensemble and the finale sizzled.

The quartet revelled in the acerbic, interesting sounds in Bartok’s Third Quartet, with sliding glissandos, bowing with the wood and other extended techniques. Any whiff of folk melody was given prominence, making the dissonant sound world a little more palatable. Occasional snippets of humour were shared with the audience as a cheeky aside. The coda was given plenty of elbow grease by Johnston and Winther shredded the hairs in his bow in his attack of the final chords. This was the concert I have been waiting for from this ensemble and a high note for Horton and Johnston to end on.

 This review copyright The West Australian 2013