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A tropical farewell

MALCOLM TATTERSALL sends a final report
from the Australian Festival of Chamber Music


This final report on the Australian Festival of Chamber Music in Townsville, North Queensland, deals with nine concerts over four days, so some gaps are inevitable. Details of the whole programme are on the AFCM site linked at the end of this article.

Voices of the Disappeared (11.30am Thursday, St James Cathedral) is a daunting title for a concert, but was accurate enough since four of the composers represented (Klein, Krasa, Haas and Schulhoff) died in the prison camps of eastern Europe in World War 2 and some of the pieces were actually written in the camps. That does not mean they were all unremittingly gloomy, of course, but there was no frivolity. The outstanding item was the Schulhoff Sextet for Strings, led by James Buswell. The emotional journey from the chaotic first movement through the eerie second movement and the extraordinary sense of regret in the slow last movement made it the only possible finale to the concert.

Exotic Pleasures in the same time and place next day complemented Voices of the Disappeared so accurately that it might as well have been called Voices of the Survivors. It was full of eastern European dance idioms -- Polish, Armenian and Jewish -- and featured Catherine McCorkill on clarinet in an almost all-Australian line-up. She gave us some delightful pseudo-Klezmer in the Lutoslawski Dance Preludes, but the concert highlight was Khachaturian's Trio in G minor for clarinet, violin (Dimity Hall) and piano (Munro), endlessly melodious and superbly balanced.

Cathy McCorkill
Cathy McCorkill

Gypsies and Fiddlers, back in the drier acoustic of Civic Theatre (twilight Thursday), made up for the melancholy morning concert with high spirits and virtuosity. On either side of Martinu's Three Madrigals for violin and viola we heard Mr Buswell again, with Rogé in Ravel's Tzigane and with Liu in Enescu's Sonata No 3 'in the Romanian style'. The former was brilliant but a little stiff -- but when we remember that a week ago he had not been expecting to play it, all must be forgiven. The Enescu was simply superb, and in any other Western country he would have been given a standing ovation. We Australians, however, will clap till our hands burn but rarely stand up for anyone; I do hope the organisers warned our overseas artists.

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Copyright © 13 July 2005 Malcolm Tattersall, Townsville, Australia


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