17 June 2019

Fine romances

It was NCO again and this was exciting. We were playing the world premiere (in full symphony orchestra format) of Mike Dooley's first piano concerto. I'd heard it before in a smaller format but this was the full thing, beautifully melodic and inviting and played so well by Andrew Rumsay. Mike gave an excellent pre-concert talk, talking of his preference for consonance, or at least resolution of dissonance, complex with examples on piano. The work had some complex counts, too. Mike joked that he had a coffee cup with a caption of difficult counts - 11/16 and a few others - and apparently that's what we played. I'd missed playing Sally Greenaway with NCO so I was glad I didn't miss this one. Andrew is a Kawai artist, and Kawai had shipped in a new 8' grand for the event. And after interval, one of my most difficult but favourite plays, Rach 2. Madly romantic, teeming with ideas that are combined with sudden crossovers, slow to rabid times. Great fun and sweepingly attractive. The third movement is famous as providing the theme for the pop hit, All by myself / Eric Carmen. So, a great program with Mike's alluring new piano concerto played by Andrew combined with the romantic bliss of Rachmaninov Symphony no.2. What a great afternoon and a satisfying challenge.

National Capital Orchestra performed Mike Dooley (composer) and Rachmaninov under Leonard Weiss (conductor) with Andrew Rumsey (piano) as soloist. BTW, the bottom end was Roger Grime and Eric Pozza (basses). National Capital Orchestra, Mike Dooley, Leonard Weiss, Andrew Rumsey

15 June 2019

One house museum

House museums are lovely contained things and often oddly personalised being usually usually a collection of one person. Many are just a house with furniture but some are intriguing collections. John Soane's in London is famed as this. Closer to home, The David Roche Foundation in North Adelaide deserves to be. It was collected over many years by David. He came from a wealthy family, some of whom had started collecting earlier. He went to Geelong Grammar and was a famed dog breeder and judge. He'd worked although I have the feeling these were other interests: a classy menswear outlet and a time as aide to the SA governor. He'd met royalty and collected from the great auction rooms (Sotherby's and the like) and had agents sent to bid for him. He collected wisely and built his collection, mainly from C17th or thereabouts, so his Roman statues were copies of that era. He finally created and funded his foundation to maintain his excellent collection. It's been open to the public for 3 years-or-so. So what is it? Statues, porcelain, paintings, various oddities; works of significant previous ownership, like Catherine the Great, Princess who-ever. His old house is the venue, along with an attached museum rooms for some particularly special items or changing displays. Any house museum is reasonably sized, so not too tiresome. We were led through by a guide and offsider: obviously essential for security. The works are just there: close, no ropes. I was wary of knocking china off pedestals. Art pervades the house: bedrooms, kitchens, various dens, even the bathroom. The toilet has a sign saying not for use. The spaces are exhilarating and overwhelming. There are too many horses and dogs at one stage, but those were his interests. The Russian items were amazing, not least one painting that hung in the Hermitage and its space is still left blank (he has it legally). Catherine the Great's bottom likely sat in a few of the chairs. He certainly used some of the walking sticks in later years. And one of my favourite porcelains, The Music Lesson / Chelsea Porcelain Manufactory (Soft-paste porcelain by Joseph Willems from engravings by François Boucher), is held (also held by the Met [NYC] and NGV [Melbourne]). A huge pleasure.

The David Roche Foundation is a house museum in Melbourne Street, North Adelaide.

10 June 2019

More keys

This was a little unexpected. A free recital of French and Russian music on a Saturday afternoon at Wesley. The pianist was Anthony Chen and the recital was in preparation for his entry in the Lev Vlassenko Piano Competition. I didn't know of it but it must be worthy: certainly it has a decent prize. The music was modern and wildly virtuosic: the French half ran from Cesar Franck of 1884 through to Shostakovich on 1952. It was interesting to hear the development amongst the French pieces, from Franck to Ravel (1902) to Debussy (1915): to my ears, from a baroque structure (Prelude, chorale and fugue) through to deep impressionism in Debussy. On the Russian side, from Scriabin (1903) through Rachmaninoff (1917) and Prokofiev (1942) to Shostakovich. Not such dense impressionism but plenty of dissonance and huge energy. Prokofiev amused me with some interesting descriptions for the movements of his Piano sonata no.7 Bb min op.83: 1 Allegro inquieto; 2 Andante caloroso; 3 Precipitato. As for Anthony, he did superb justice to a mammoth program and played from memory. I could only sit in awe at the skills displayed. So, anther pianist, if in a very different world: Herbie Hancock one night, Anthony Chen the next afternoon. I am floored.

Anthony Chen (piano) played Debussy, Ravel, Franck, Scriabin, Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev at Wesley.

8 June 2019

Many happy returns

It might be 12 years late, but I finally saw Herbie Hancock here in Canberra. I missed him last time. Twelve years, but the band is little changed: Herbie, Lionel Loueke, Vinne Colaiuta, James Genus (was Nathan East). Herbie is 79 but you wouldn't know it. This was authentic, power-charged music with references to his history, some great solos and driving rock-strength grooves. Herbie played Korg Kronos and a fabulously forcefully-miced grand piano and a Roland keytar. it looked like Lionel played guitar but the solos sounded like synth (I had to look twice at his first solo) with perhaps traditional guitar sounds coming through quietly in chordal acompaniment. Nary a pick passed his fingers: this was all fingered chords and single notes. James was busy, bassy and a little bass-endy and lost in the mix (at least from where I sat) until he took to soloing where his sound was eminently bell-like clear, playing mostly finger style, but also thumbs or classical-like finger style. Then Vinnie, solid and strong, not overly polyrhythmic if more adventurous in solos (two) which featured some incredibly challenging ostinatos an stabs from the band. Lionel did several solos with loops, richly complex, and accompanied by his voice in harmonised. Herbie did vocoder voice, too, that strangley otherworldly vocal sound. James blew out everyone with another stunning looped solo and his other was no work of slouch. Various tunes form Herbie's history appeared for a line or two through the concert, then diffused into grooves, perhaps to reappear and diffuse again. The Headhunters era featured, but there were others too, better recognised by others of the jazzer family who attended. But it was a full house and there aren't so many jazzers in Canberra, so there were lots of unknown faces with a few jazz regulars amongst the crowds. They were all impressed. Two promised to burn their instruments next day (hopefully the instruments have survived). Suffice to say, this was a lesson in strength and power, complexity and familiarity, richly arranged but still open and fresh. A blast.

Herbie Hancock (keys, vocals) played the Canberra Theatre with Lionel Loueke (guitar, vocals), James Genus (bass) and Vinnie Colauita (drums).

6 June 2019

Good hands

One week Wesley scholars; following week ANU Open School. I caught a selection of Open School players at Wesley. These are the H-course/prep students, so Year 11/12 on a range of instruments each playing a short chamber piece, two with professional accompaniment. They are keen: so keen that one had to have rush off to an exam and the program order was changed to allow him to play. First up, a Doppler rondo played by Luka and Jenni on two flutes with Geoffrey on piano. I think it was Luke who had the exam. Lovely, tuneful piece with strangely different flute tones. I guess flutes do have diverse tones, as any instruments do, but I seldom hear tow together like this. Then a movement of a Mozart Oboe concerto by Gudrun with Anthony in accompaniment. Mozart can only be a pleasure. Then a seriously challenging work, Joshua playing Scriabin Sonata Fantasy no.2 G#minor (what key is that!). Stunning and daring and well done. The flautist Jenni returned to play a solo piece, Clarke Great train race (1993), that so obviously spelled out the sounds and tempos of trains. Played from memory. Then Rohan on trumpet with Anthony accompanying on Turrin Caprice for trumpet and piano, strong and toneful. And to finish, Isaiah playing a solo violin Bach Partita no.1 Bmin. A great range of materials, all well played, all showing the seriousness of the kids doing this. My favourite was the stunningly challenging Scriabin (G#min?) but I enjoyed it all immensely. It seems our musical future is in good hands.

ANU Open School of Music students played a concert at Wesley. The performers were Luka Ruwette (flute), Jenni Pittock (flute), Gudrun Drake (oboe), Joshua Clift (piano), Rohan Heffernan (trumpet), Isaiah Bondfield (violin) with Anthony Smith (piano) variously providing accompaniment.

4 June 2019

From Forrest to the nation

This was perhaps my favourite concert by FNCO, the federally named Forrest National Chamber Orchestra. They played so well and the music was so lovely. First up, Corelli Concerto grosso op.6 no.4. It's well known and a great pleasure and was nicely done. Then Nimrod from Enigma. I remember playing it within the whole Variations and its presence stood out on arrival with its glorious gentility. Then a few Piazzolla tunes, Oblivion and a tango. For me, the Ortona Porteno tango had more complexity and thus more satifying, but both were inviting and latin rhythmic. Then Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis which seemed very complex and subtle and difficult to pull off, but I thought they did a great job. And to end, Metallica (!?) as interpreted by Apocolyptica (a cello quartet) and arranged by FCNO member, Duncan McIntyre, for this format. The amplification didn't quite do it justice, but the effect was intriguing and the whole was surprisingly melodious. An unexpected end to a very satisfying concert by our locals in Forrest.

Forrest National Chamber Orchestra (FNCO) variously were directed by Gillian Bailey-Graham and Shilong Ye (conductors) with soloists Rebecca Lovett, John Dobson and Shilong Ye (violins), Elisha Adams (viola), Nicky Philipse, Frances Stevens and Duncan McIntyre (cellos).

3 June 2019


Bob Sedergreen is a Melbourne jazz piano name that we know well but I've only caught hima few times. The latest was at Eric Agaye's Jazz Haus playing with Eric and Mark Sutton. Bob has a long history so it was apt that he presented a history of jazz piano. Well, really only a string of tunes by various pianists in jazz history with a little commentary and some very nice playing. The whole band was great. The style easily suited Mark and Eric. Fourteen tunes, one each from Earl Hines, Fats Waller, Monk, John Lewis, Horace Silver, Bobby Timmons, Duke Ellington, BIll Evans, Herbie Hancock, chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, Jo Zawinul, AC Jobim, Abdullah Ibrahim, and, as an encore, an original by Bob himself. It was a romp. Plenty of known tunes - 500 miles high, mainden voyage, Waltz for Debbie, Mercy3, Django, Jitterbug waltz, In a mellow tone, others. Some interesting stories, about Cannonball Adderley's pianists, Monk's Australian visit , Ellington's band selections, Herbie's interests in maths and engineering, Rocky Mountain music. Eric told a great story of meeting up with Stanley Clarke as a teenager and being invited to the first gig of RTF at the Scientology headquarters. I particularly enjoyed the story of Aldullah Ibrahim's (once Dollar Brand) music and how phrases have meanings. So a fascinating night for the stories and the great playing all round, especially from Bob who had to play such diverse pianistic styles.

Bob Sedergreen (piano) introduced and played the music of a string of famed jazz pianists with Eric Ajaye (bass) and Mark Sutton (drums) at the Jazz Haus.