World New Music Days
Sydney Conservatorium of Music, May 3
There are 88 keys on a piano, and they can be played in any combination from 1 up to 10 notes at a time, or 20 if you have two players. The ninth concert of World New Music Days explored the almost endless possibilities in a cracking showcase of pianistic and compositional brilliance. Starting with Osvaldo Golijov’s disarmingly simple ZZ’s Dream, and finishing with Carl Vine’s mind-blowing Sonata for Four Hands, the program covered a huge range.
The whole tone and pentatonic scales in Lauri Kilpio’s La Mer, La brume et le soleil and Jakub Polaczyk’s Visions from Light inevitably referenced Ravel and Debussy, one with complexity, the other with nostalgia. David Del Tredici’s Aeolian Ballade exemplified the sweet sounds and wistful tugs of neo-romanticism. And Another by le Don Oh was a muscular and passionate declaration of friendship, played with conviction by Jacob Abela, and Natalka Sheludiakova gave a blistering account of Rautavaara’s Fuoco. Central to the program was Daniel Herscovitch’s riveting performance of a truly individual voice with Elliott Carter’s Two Thoughts about the piano. Great stuff.
After a short pause World New Music Days’ resident musicians, Ensemble Offspring, took over with chamber music from Canada, Denmark, France and the Antipodes. The first work, Bruce Crossman’s Not Broken Bruised Reed, quickly established just how good these musicians are. Much of his work, and indeed much of the entire program, dealt with delicately nuanced sounds, fragile timbres and unforgiving rhythmic complexity. The performers played not just efficiently but with real style and charisma, making newborn works all their own.
Jeffrey Ryan’s Burn is a very strong piece, idiomatic yet surprising, while Christian Winther Christensen’s A Fall from the Perfect Ground is a fascinating mess of textures, and an interesting companion to Gerard Grisey’s seminal work, Talea. By the time they got to the finale, Paul Steenhuisen’s Copralite Analysis, my brain had exploded, leaving me staring at the soap bubbles – an integral part of this whimsical, post-modernist score — with childish wonder.