BWW Review: FAUST, A MORTALS TALE at Union Hall
Reviewed by Ewart Shaw, Sunday 20th January 2019
Faust, the German scholar who signed away his soul in a pact with Mephistopheles, has inspired artists, playwrights, and musicians for four hundred years. This exciting concert, Faust, A Mortal's Tale, presented by Ashley Hribar, takes its inspiration from the 1926 film by FW Murnau. Australian pianist, Hribar, currently resident in Germany, frequently accompanies screenings of silent movies, such as Faust and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. This time it was just the music, with brief comments by the performer.
Hribar's repertoire blended the traditional, with works by Rachmaninov, Debussy, and Liszt, with jazz, rock, and two pieces where he strummed and hit the strings inside the piano. This was a really effective procedure for Black Earth, by Fazil Say, evoking the oud, and it was employed again in his encore, Leila in the Land of Carousels, by Anouar Brahem. Four short pieces by the Russian/French composer, Georgy Catoire, and a delicately measured Debussy, Claire de Lune, showed the ease with which he can deliver gentleness, but, while hell may not have broken loose in the rest of the recital, Hribar's dramatic and athletic playing was astounding. At every point, he demonstrated a phenomenal technique, at one point moving from the delicious Granados Oriental, from the suite of Twelve Spanish Dances, into Jelly Roll Morton's Fingerbreaker, hurtling straight into De Falla's Ritual Fire Dance. He followed this by using the Rachmaninov A Minor Etude Tableau as the prelude to his own fantasy on Stairway to Heaven.
The printed program promises a live score to the classic film, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, on Friday, February 15th. It's certainly recommended. Hribar's partly improvised accompaniment will add something very special to the classic film.
The concert served as a soft launch for a new Adelaide venue, though new is really only true of the branding. Many Adelaide theatregoers will recall it as the Promethean and, in a former life, it was home to the Liquor Trades Union. Now under the management of Elder Conservatorium graduate, James Pratt, it's called Union Hall. The stage has been slightly extended and the luminous lime green bar is still operational.
Speaking recently on 5EBI FM, Pratt explained that he's hoping that the Adelaide community will start using the venue, which fills a gap in the very short list of venues in the CBD. There's a plan to make it a centre for chamber music, but it's a versatile space, worth checking out.
Editor's note: This venue is not to be mistaken for the original Union Hall, the iconic art deco theatre that faced the Barr Smith lawns in the University of Adelaide, demolished in 2010 against mass protests and many people calling for it to be Heritage listed, in order to make room for a science block.