Might and Majesty
The Australian Piano Quartet/ Andrew Goodwin, tenor
June 10, 2017
Utzon Room, Sydney Opera House
Written by Ria Andriani
From the first chord to the last bar there was no half measure from the Australia Piano Quartet’s (APQ) performance of Might and Majesty, which included a world premiere of Your Cruel Melody by Sydney Chamber Opera’s Artistic Director Jack Symonds and Brahms Second Piano Quartet op.26 in A major.
For this concert, the players were joined by Sydney-born tenor Andrew Goodwin in Jack Symonds’ piece which was written for tenor and piano quartet. Commissioned by the APQ, the work reimagined and united the romances of Russian’s five “mighty handful”: Balakirev, Rimsky-Korsakov, Cui, Mussorgsky and Borodin. It was impressive in its wide range of melodic materials as well as use of extended techniques for all instruments and voice. The powerful opening chords from the piano were contrasted with the subtle shifting of harmony by the strings. Your Cruel Melodies made use of Andrew Goodwin’s considerable vocal range: from the chant-like low notes to the delicate high passages. His delivery throughout the performance was no less than outstanding: conveying the emotions of the songs with substance and clear Russian diction – showing just how comfortable Goodwin is with Russian repertoire. There is a personal connection -Goodwin is a graduate of the St Petersburg Conservatoire, which was named after composer Rimsky-Korsakov whose work featured strongly in Symonds’ song cycle.
Goodwin wasn’t the only soloist in Your Cruel Melodies. The work was also complex in other ways: making allusions to the 19th Century works in its instrumental exchanges where ideas appeared and retreated, giving each instrument a moment to stand out. Symonds’ use of extended techniques added to the richness of the texture: featuring frequent glissandi, pizzicato and col legno. Underpinning the whole performance was the piano with its momentum building from sparse to full. The group performed incredibly well in the dry acoustic of the Utzon room despite losing some of the work’s subtler moments.
In contrast to Jack Symonds’ contemporary piece which relied on allusion and texture, Brahms’ Piano Quartet No.2 in A major took the audience back to the heights of 19th Century Romanticism. It gave the group a chance to impress as an ensemble. Having equally challenging individual parts, the group melded into seamless unity from the conversational first movement with coalescing melodic ideas to the rousing ending of the final bars, showing dexterity and gracefulness in between. The key to this piece is the constant symphonic argument which was shared between the piano and stringed instruments. They followed, answered and led, as the music demanded.
There was no doubt that Might and Majesty was a performance worthy of its title, delivered with formidable finesse by this fine chamber music group.
Ria Andriani graduated with Bachelor of Music/ Bachelor of Arts from UNSW in 2015. She now sings as a soprano with various choirs in Sydney, and presents recitals in collaboration with other musicians. Follow Ria on www.facebook.com/RiaAndrianiSoprano
The Australian Piano Quartet returns to the Utzon Room on August 27, 2017 with their next programme, Innocence and Experience.