BWW Reviews: The Firm's CONCERT 1, SCHUBERT Delights Adelaide Audience

By: May. 30, 2013
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Reviewed 8pm, Monday 27th May, 2013
Elder Hall, Elder Conservatorium of Music, University of Adelaide, North Terrace, Adelaide, South Australia.

In 1996, four Adelaide composers joined forces to present concerts contemporary music, focussing on their own work. Initially their group was known by their four surnames but, as Chapman Smith, Kotlowy, Polglase and Grant sounded like a corporate body, they were soon nicknamed The Firm, and the name stuck. John Polglase and David Kotlowy eventually left the group and now composers and co-directors Raymond Chapman Smith and QuinCy Grant continue to stage several chamber music concerts each year.

They no longer focus entirely on contemporary music and each year features a particular composer. For 2013 it is the Austrian composer, Franz Peter Schubert (31 January 1797 - 19 November 1828), one of the early composers of the Romantic period. In his short 32 years Schubert composed an enormous amount of music, including over 600 lieder (songs), nine symphonies, including his famous Symphony No. 8 in B minor, the Unfinished Symphony. He also wrote many chamber works, operas, pieces for piano, and much more.

This concert was performed by soprano Emma Horwood, male alto Matthew Rutty, tenor Martin Penhale, and bass Timothy Marks, accompanied by Jamie c*ckon piano, who also played two solo works during the evening.

This superb concert opened with two vocal quartets Des Tages Weihe (Daily Blessing) D.763 from 1822 and Der Tanz (The Dance) D.826 from 1825. It was immediately apparent that the different timbre of a male alto gave the works a new perspective, a more homogenous sound when heard with the tenor and bass that seems to support the soprano voice, allowing it more freedom. Emma Horwood is one on Adelaide's most respected and popular sopranos and, with her supremely pure, resonant tone, she seemed to float and soar above that support in a way that I have not heard her before, when singing with the usual female alto voice included in a vocal group. The quartet paid great attention to the balance between the four voices and brought out the marvellous harmonies with clarity and precision.

Jamie c*ckhas established himself not only as a soloist, but as a most valuable accompanist, and his skills in observation and attention to the singers were very evident in this performance as he blended so beautifully with the singers, his approach to the songs perfectly matching theirs in style and intent.

This brought us to the first of the two solo piano performances, Moments Musicaux Op. 94 D.780 heft I, from 1826. This is the first in a set of six, and he played the second a little later in the concert. He managed to get right inside these short, but very imaginative and expressive three-movement pieces. His interpretations were richly rewarding for the audience, filled with emotion and capturing all of the Romanticism that one would hope for. c*ckclearly understands Schubert's music and invested himself in it wholeheartedly.

Between the two piano pieces came a duet, Licht und Lieber (Nachtgesang) (Light and Love (Nocturne)) D.352, and a lieder, Gesänge aus "Wilhelm Meister" Op. 62 D.877, with text by the great German writer, Goethe. Schubert only wrote two duets and this one has tenor Martin Penhale singing the first verse, soprano Emma Horwood the second verse, and they share the third verse and coda. The lieder is based on Goethe's poem, Mignon and the Harper, and the first section is a duet between the two characters, with the remaining three sections given over to Emma Horwood, and what a marvellous rendition of these pieces she gave.

The concert closed with two more contrasting quartets, Gebet (Prayer) D.815, and Die Geselligkeit (Lebenslust) (Society (Pleasure in Life)) D.609, the first a liturgical piece, the second filled with fun and gaiety. Once again the balance within the quartet and with the piano was exemplary and the two very different moods, from the reverential to the joyous gave a fine ending to an excellent concert.


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