30 April 2017


This was the first concert of the Canberra International Music Festival 2017 and it was a veritable potpourri. No surprise there; it was promoted as the Gala opening : a world of music. obviously touching on a range of performers and styles coming up in the festival. Festivals are not easy things to organise and I was surprised by some of the names: they hadn't been on the brochure, released well before the program. But nothing lost: these were great and fascinating players. First up was Luminescence Chamber Choir with William Barton on didj, a world premiere called Beaver blaze, based on White Australia, the poem by Oodgeroo Noonuccal. The theme of the Festival is Revolution, after all, and this was profound. Then Lisa Moore starting with Bach then through a lithe and flighty Schumann Bird as prophet to end with a modern piece by Rzewski. He was a new name for several I spoke to (me too) but he was also well received by several: my little survey suggested a discerning and adventurous audience. I was particularly taken by Lisa's estimable sense of time: firstly in the firm and resolute Bach then in the delicate, featherweight Bird as prophet. Then my passenger, Alex da Costa and his Strad, played some duos with Roland Peelman. Phenomenal technique, wonderful loud tone. Yes, it's a Strad but you need technique to get that from it. Stunning tone and chops, playing Vitalia, Prokofiev Montagues and Capulets, Tchaikovsky, de Falla. There's a good bit of performance here and prodigious capability and an alluring instrument to boot. Then interval and an Australian premiere from composer Chen Yi, currently at the ANU School of Music, Yangko, played by Alex with Roland and another on Chinese percussion. Interesting to hear Alex doing something outside the mainstream: no surprise that he did it with ease. The Simon Bolivar String Quartet are visitors from Venezuela. They played Shostakovich String quartet no.8 C min op.110 with satisfying intonation and lovely moving instrumental focuses. Again, very well received. And an end with a composition by ex-Canberra now-Brisbane bassist and composer, Robert Davidson, with renowned didgeridoo player, William Barton, Landscape, played by string quartet, guitar, didj and harpsichord. I'm looking forward to hearing more from Robert later in the programs. Then drinks and a celebration of the opening of the festival. As always, CIMF looks fascinating and cleverly themed, let alone its musical capability and profundity.

The CIMF 2017 opening gala concert featured William Barton (didgeridoo), Clive Birch (bass vocal), Luminescence Chamber singers, Alexandre da Costa (violin), Minh Le Hoang (guitar), Lisa Moore (piano), Roland Peelman (piano, harpsichord, percussion) and the Simon Bolivar String Quartet with members Alejandro Carreno and Boris Suarez (violins), Ismel Campos (viola) and Aimon Mata (cello).

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