The Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) presented, A FRENCH CELEBRATION, with Susan Graham. This was a concert of a true chamber size: six instruments
What was revelatory, for me, was the beauty of the music of Maurice Ravel, especially, as revealed in the PIANO TRIO IN A MINOR (1914-15). Composed while working in the ambulance corps of the French army at the beginning of World War I, the Program Notes by Martin Buzacott, tells us;
It is easy to assume that the work reflects the anxieties of the loyal patriot on the eve of battle, but it is not specifically programmatic. Besides representing the full maturity of Ravel's 'impressionist' period (influenced by the formal clarity of Mozart, the rhythms and dissonances of modern jazz), the trio also reflects its composer's fascination with the music of Asia. ... Ravel assimilated all these influences into a distinctive, exotic musical language ...On the piano guest artist, Christian Ihle Hadland, from Norway, was accompanied in this four-movement work by Timo-Veikko Valve, on cello, and Christopher Moore on his viola. The gentle diaphanous sounds, the Asian influences, were delicately transcendant. Contrarily, the Ravel work, with guest American soprano, Susan Graham: Trois Poemes de Stephane Mallarme (1913), was neither arresting or interesting enough, for a musical philistine, such as myself.
Likewise the Ottorino Respighi , IL TRAMONTO (1913), held no transfixing concentration for myself. Says Natalie Shea:
il tramonto is what is called a poemetto lyric, a 'little lyric poem', a setting of Roberto Ascoli's translation into Italian of Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem The Sunset.I have never engaged with the work of Respighi comfortably: THE PINES OF ROME, THE FOUNTAINS OF ROME etc. never really, holding my attention.
To follow was a work by Cesar Franck, PIANO QUINTET IN F MINOR (1879). A three movement work, the sounds were of a very unfamiliar kind. Franck was an organist and the music for the piano here is organ-like. Mr Hadland again took charge of what, for some, is a very formidable piece to play (with an added difficulty of the huge range of the hand span required to solve the work). The 'weirdness' of sound (or was it the unfamiliarity of Franck?), and the actual piece, held one in a state of concentration and mesmerism to its end. I was fascinated by it.
I had taken as a guest, a friend for whom classical concert is a rarity. I had warned that the program might be a little difficult (esoteric) for a beginner to appreciate, but I was relieved to know at the concert end at how suspended in time my guest had been. She had no idea of the passing of the time and was surprised at how much time had passed, and of the joy that she had had in listening and watching this true chamber orchestra - she was keen to follow the experience up. Victory, once again, to the brilliance of the ACO and its programming..