New Music Sounds Good… indeed it does

The Tempo Rubato stage before the lights are dimmed.

By Stella Joseph-Jarecki (Enquiries: stellamusicwriter.wordpress.com)

On a rainy evening in November, down an alleyway off Sydney road, a concert of new Australian music was presented at Tempo Rubato, under the banner of New Music Sounds Good. Tempo Rubato is a new chamber music venue complete with a bar and fabulously industrial, no-frills, appropriately Brunswick vibe.

The concert was organised by composer Chris Healey, who enlisted a team of collaborators: fellow composers Sam Colcheedas and Luke Severn, and the performing talents of Adam McMillan on piano, Andrew Baird on flute, Luke Severn on cello, and the Invictus String Quartet (Rebecca Wang and Nyssa Sanguansri on violin, Jin Long on viola and Annika Cho on cello).

All of the pieces on the program could be described as ‘new’, with most of them written this year. The opening number was Richard Meale’s Melisande for solo flute, written in 1998. This piece was performed with elegant and fluid phrasing by Andrew, who managed to foster moments of dramatic tension amongst the fast-paced melismatic passages.

Flautist Andrew Baird

The second piece was Cello Sonata No. 2 (2019), written by Chris and performed by Adam and Luke. The lyrical melodic lines of the first movement showcased the dark, caramel-y tone and expansive warmth of Luke’s cello. Adam played with agility and nuance on the piano, and there was great communication between the two musicians. The following three movements provided a contrast in mood, with a lush and filmic second movement, a gently undulating third movement (the interplay between the piano and cello reminding me at times of the rocking of sea waves) and a sprightly, energetic fourth movement with a rousing finale.

Next up was Sam Colcheedas’ piece ‘Aromatic Fantasy’ for String Quartet in F Sharp (2019), played by Invictus Quartet. Before the piece was presented, we heard a short summary of its inspiration: memories triggered by scents, which can create a feeling of ‘euphoric nostalgia’. Sam’s bio in the concert program cited musical influences such as Sergei Rachmaninov, Sergei Prokofiev and Erich Korngold. So it made sense that the piece was melodic and stunningly evocative. The quartet produced a wonderful sound and played with disciplined communication.

Invictus Quartet. From left to right: Rebecca Wang, Nyssa Sanguansri, Jin Long, Annika Cho

After a short interval we heard Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano (2019), the second piece composed by Chris (played by Andrew, Luke and Adam). The trio was dedicated to the memory of William Von Witt, a friend of Chris’ who tragically died in an accident. The two movements were entitled The Day’s Long Journey Towards Dusk and Adagio- Towards Peace, with Chris describing the trio as a ‘time-lapse in musical form’. The three musicians were well balanced as they crafted a range of tonal colours and rhythmic shapes. The final movement played with the agile brightness of the flute contrasted against the stormy darkness of the cello.

Pianist Adam McMillan

The concert concluded with Luke Severn’s piece When the World was Young, for piano and cello. There were moments of quiet tenderness in the piece, as well as more tempestuous and extravagant passages, which called to mind a Russian sensibility.

Composer and cellist Luke Severn

It was an exciting experience to see young musicians play new music by emerging Australian composers. When you hear a performer triumph over a particularly virtuosic passage, it’s fabulous to know the composer is in the audience. I hope we are able to witness more of these fresh artistic collaborations in the future.

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