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3 September 2009

Melbourne Composers' League

Melbourne // VIC // 8.02.2009 & Hobart // TAS // 22.08.2009

Detail of Macarena Ruiz's 'Water Cycle' (2008) - artwork produced for the MLC Concert. Image: Detail of Macarena Ruiz's 'Water Cycle' (2008) - artwork produced for the MLC Concert.  

The 2009 activities of the Melbourne Composers' League included two concerts: the first a celebration of Peter Tahourdin's (1928-2009) 80th birthday with a concert of contemporary Australian and Chilean chamber music, and the second a winter-themed concert held in Melbourne and Hobart. The following two reviews, originally published in the Chile Magazine (August 2009) and The Mercury (25 August 2009) are republished on Resonate with the kind permission of the authors.

La Flor en La Colina - Chilean and Australian Composers Together

by John Griffiths

The opportunity to hear performances in Melbourne of recent chamber music by Chilean composers comes around all too infrequently. This is possibly one of the reasons that drew a very substantial audience to the magnificent BMW Edge at Federation Square in the heart of Melbourne on the afternoon of 8 February 2009. The result of prolonged planning by Chilean-Australian composer Andrián Pertout, the concert was hosted by the Melbourne Composers' League and sponsored by Arts Victoria with the support of broadcasters 3MBS FM and Radio SBS as well as the Consulate General of Chile.

For the occasion, Pertout assembled a remarkable ensemble that included some of Melbourne's finest chamber musicians including flautist Johanna Selleck, clarinettist Robert Schubert, violinist Isin Cakmakcioglu, Alister Barker and Chien-Hsiu Ong playing cello, pianist Michael Kieran Harvey, and percussionist Peter Neville. Their playing was of the highest standing and revealed a desire to achieve much more than a superficial reading of difficult contemporary scores. Their success was reflected in the warm and prolonged applause that accompanied each work on the program.

The program comprised nine works all composed since the beginning of the new millenium, four by Australian composers, another four by Chileans, and one by Pertout himself, therefore both Chilean and Australian. The most senior composer represented was English-born octogenarian Peter Tahourdin who spent most of his working life in Australia and made a great contribution as a teacher as well as composer. His Look at the Stars was composed in 2006 for an ensemble of flute, clarinet, cello and marimba. If this work was the one that received the most prolonged applause of the afternoon, it was possibly due to the presence of the composer in the audience and the desire of the public to recognise not only this work, but also Tahourdin's sustained contribution to new music in Melbourne over the last 35 years. (Editor's note: Sadly, Peter Tahourdin passed away in late July 2009.)

Works by Melbourne composers Haydn Reeder, Eve Duncan and Antonio Tenace were also featured in the program. Duncan's The Submerged City (2007) for cello and piano was the most recent work on the program, a reverie that attempts to reconcile dry heat with the coolness of water in a living underwater city. With a self-explanatory title, Haydn Reeder's Bird (2000) for violin and cello provided abstracted images of birds and their behaviour. The inclusion of Antonio Tenace's Awakenings (2007) showed the desire of the organisers of the concert to represent the next generation of young composers.

The concert opened with an arresting work by young Chilean composer Carlos Zamora from the regional city of Concepción. Each movement of his Tres momentos (2001) for solo violin was built around a specific idiomatic characteristic of the violin. Its success depends on the strength of the composition as much as the virtuosic demands it places on the performer. Currently head of the music school at the Universidad Católica in Santiago, Alejandro Guarello is a highly renowned composer in Chile. His N-oir-T (2005) is a single movement work for piano trio that plays on the words of its title 'can't-hear-you' to move through various beautifully conjured moments before dissolving into silence. This contrasted strongly with the humour of Eduardo Cáceres' Cha-Chá-Cha (2001) for solo cello with percussion. This is a work that resulted from the author's collaboration with the dance company Movimiento in Valparaíso. Despite a distinguished international career, Chilean composer Aliocha Solovera is also relatively unknown in Australia, and the inclusion of his work Voluble (2001) for violin and piano, provided yet another opportunity for us to hear music of great artistic subtlety and craft.

The title of the program, La Flor en La Colina (The flower on the hill), derives from Andrián Pertout's composition of the same name, composed in 2004 for an ensemble of flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano. Derived from a Croation klapa song, the work is not only a gesture to the fact it was composed to be premiered at the International Society for Contemporary Music (ISCM) World Music Days in Zagreb in 2005, but also to the composer's affinity with Croatian culture perhaps springing from his part-Slovenian heritage. Since its premiere it has been performed numerous times around the world in Hong Kong, New York, Sydney, Santiago, and Sichuan (People's Republic of China).

In total, the concert was a great success. Not only was the standard of the music and the performance very high, but the public response made it abundantly clear that this was a most welcome contribution to musical life in Melbourne.

This article was previously published in the Chile Magazine (August 2009) and is published here with the kind permission of the author.

Event details

'La Flor en la Colina' - New Chamber Music from Australia and Chile
Johanna Selleck (flute), Robert Schubert (clarinet), Isin Cakmakcioglu (violin), Alister Barker (cello), Chien-Hsiu Ong (cello), Michael Kieran Harvey (piano), Peter Neville (percussion).
Works by Andrián Pertout, Peter Tahourdin, Haydn Reeder, Eve Duncan, Antonio Tenace, Carlos Zamora, Alejandro Guarello, Eduardo Cáceres and Aliocha Solovera.
BMW Edge, Federation Square, Melbourne, VIC
8 February 2009
Event details in the AMC calendar

Rewarding Feast of Winter Music

By Elizabeth Ruthven

All works in this winter themed concert demanded rigorous, precise technique from their exponents, who came direct from an identical concert in Melbourne the previous night.

None showed more versatility than Michael Kieran Harvey, whose display of grace and élan in Brendan Colbert's ephemeral Quicksand contrasted with his intense interpretation of Helen Gifford's Menin Gate. The latter performance was dedicated to the late pianist Geoffrey Tozer. Barrie Webb's artistry on trombone was apparent in Scott McIntyre's Gen Sh Lsi and Paul Moulatlet's meandering Vortex 1 with marimba.

Wing-Wah Chan's M+, for trombone, piano and contrabass, represents a walk through West Kowloon's Museum Plus, with bold melodic statements and contrasting moods. In Eve Duncan's Crab Feast, a petulant piano and self-absorbed percussion suggested two lovers in discourse, while Bruce Crossman's Double Resonances employed a variety of percussive effects in competing exchanges. Silvia Simons has crafted a well-defined soundscape of wintry effects in Ice Flowers in Black Nights Singing for piano, contrabass and percussion.

All combined for Riesenschritte, a joyful, frenetic fanfare by Andrián Pertout full of syncopation and optimistic key changes. This was a rare opportunity to hear new chamber music, most not yet available in recordings.

This article was previously published in The Mercury 25 August 2009 and is published here with the kind permission of the author.

Event details

Melbourne Composers' League
Barrie Webb (trombone), Michael Kieran Harvey (piano), Anita Hustas (contrabass), Peter Neville (percussion)
Works by Brendan Colbert, Helen Gifford, Scott McIntyre, Paul Moulatlet, Wing-Wah Chan, Eve Duncan, Bruce Crossman, Silvia Simons and Andrián Pertout.
Conservatorium Recital Hall, Hobart, TAS
22 August 2009
Event details in the AMC calendar

Further links

Melbourne Composers' League website - (www.melbournecomposersleague.com)
Andrián Pertout's AMC profile - (www.australianmusiccentre.com.au/artist/pertout-andrian)
Brendan Colbert's AMC profile - (www.australianmusiccentre.com.au/artist/colbert-brendan)
Helen Gifford's AMC profile - (www.australianmusiccentre.com.au/artist/gifford-helen)
Eve Duncan's AMC profile - (www.australianmusiccentre.com.au/artist/duncan-eve)
Bruce Crossman's AMC profile - (www.australianmusiccentre.com.au/artist/crossman-bruce)
Peter Tahourdin's AMC profile - (www.australianmusiccentre.com.au/artist/tahourdin-peter)
Haydn Reeder's AMC profile - (www.australianmusiccentre.com.au/artist/reeder-haydn)

John Griffiths has built his academic career around researching and performing early Spanish instrumental music.  As a vihuelist and lutenist he has performed throughout the world, and his musicological work has maintained strong links with his artistic practice. His academic studies at Monash were complemented by performance studies in Germany, Spain and Switzerland, and since 1980 he has directed early music studies at the University of Melbourne. 

Elizabeth Ruthven writes about music for The Mercury in Hobart.


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