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  • Helen Gramotnev


Brisbane Music Festival brings another thoroughly enjoyable performance, featuring music ranging from the Romantic period to hot-off-the-press contemporary pieces in “The Lark Ascending”, the 15th concert in the 2021 series.

Mostly focussed on twentieth century chamber music, the performance included two solo piano pieces: Frederic Chopin’s “Ballade No. 1” (performed by Francis Atkins) and “5 Preludes” — a brand new work by Brazilian composer Leonardo Silva (performed by Alex Raineri). Chopin’s Ballade, potentially influenced by poetic ballads, established him as a serious composer in the eyes of his contemporaries. Atkins’s masterful interpretation of its musical flirtations takes us through an abundance of emotions, ranging from wistful lyricism and playful flurries of trills and interjections. Atkins’s intuitive understanding of Chopin’s dynamic make the melodies breathe, sigh, and exclaim at just the right moments to take our breath away!

At the other end of the spectrum, Silva’s “5 Preludes” invite listeners to remain open to new possibilities and to challenge our acceptance of musical forms. Completed in 2021, and commissioned especially for Raineri, “5 Preludes” re-examines the prelude form: no longer an introductory piece to a larger work, but a unique gesture in itself. Raineri’s passion for contemporary music shines through this composition – both elegant and stirring.

But it is chamber music that forms the main part of this performance. Four young, vibrant, string musicians fearlessly tackle the experimental compositions of Maurice Ravel, Benjamin Britten, and Bohuslav Martinu. Rebecca Hall (violin), Donica Tran (violin), Harrison Swainston (viola) and Shuhei Lawson (cello) show that the future of classical music performance in Brisbane is strong, and the musicians are hungry to explore new musical interpretations.

The show finale is Ravel’s monumental “Piano Trio in A-minor.” Drawing on Basque fold idioms, Malaysian verse forms, as well as Italian techniques from the sixteenth century, this piece reaches both into the past and into the future. Written at the height of Cubism, it seems to dissect the music, feeding on every possible musical contrast that can be found, while still keeping it all on the same ‘canvas’. Simply wonderful!

The cherry on top (as always with BMF concerts) is the eagerness of the artists to introduce their repertoire before plunging their audience into the music. Even seasoned classical music listeners will appreciate the connection it creates with the pieces and the performers.

The next instalment in the 24-concert series for 2021 is “A Poet’s Love” — a collaboration with Opera Queensland at the Opera Queensland Studio, South Bank, which runs from 6–7 August 2021.


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