John Garran sent this to me as a comment but it’s too good a review to slip past as merely a comment. Especially as he has put into words pretty much exactly what I thought after the (same program) concert on Tuesday. In particular, who would have thought a four minute piece for side drum could be so utterly compelling, and who would have thought a double bass could make a melody sound so effortless?
Here it is:
Having followed the Fellows for a few years I wondered about the sense of expanding the program to include (OMG) brass and (my God) percussion. But while I was sort of convinced last year, this initial concert was quite extraordinary. The opening Stravinsky Fanfare joined Fellow Jenna Smith with SSO Principal Trumpet David Elton. It was a brief meeting of equals. Then the winds played some Francaix. Perhaps there were a few rough edges, but hell, they’d only been playing together a short while. It was musically sound and great fun. Then Sami Butler blew us all away with a fantastic display of virtuosity on the snare drum (and a few bits of wood besides). If this guy turned up at the door of the Australian String Quartet looking for a job they would surely have had to do some serious thinking about incorporating him into the team. Brilliant. The strings then got to showcase in Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dances. Sure, we’ve all had a crack at these, amateur and professional alike, but this was a bit better than most. Bridget O’Donnell took the lead with an assured and folksy style that set the scene beautifully. but this was perhaps to be expected: she has form, first with AYO, then last year with both the SSO Fellows and the Verbrugghen Ensemble. But this work gave both Martin Alexander the opportunity to display a wonderful round tone in his viola interventions, and some great work by Alanna Jones high on the fingerboard of her double bass. It was a pity the two cellos didn’t have a chance to display their wares. Their parts were pretty ho hum for the whole event. Lets hope they get an opportunity to show off later in the year.
After some competent brass and a solo Marimba work, everybody came together in a wonderful arrangement of two Brahms Hungarian Dances. While it would have been better in a dingy Hungarian dive, over a bottle of Egri Bikaver, the whole crew delivered a truly gypsy style that could only entrance. Bridget O’Donnell again shone through as Zigeunerboss, carefully adjusting the breathing spaces to suit, while of all the rest Kim Falconer on flute produced some memorable elements. Kim is this year’s AYO Principal Flute.
Can’t mention them all, but these guys are excellent and inspiring musicians. We should all watch out for their concert through the year.
What he said.