Cygnus Arioso String Quartet bring live classical music back to Perth audience

David CusworthThe West Australian
Akiko Miyazawa, Kate Sullivan, Elliot O’Brien and Sophie Curtis brought classical music back to a live audience at North Perth Town Hall on Saturday.
Camera IconAkiko Miyazawa, Kate Sullivan, Elliot O’Brien and Sophie Curtis brought classical music back to a live audience at North Perth Town Hall on Saturday. Credit: Jackson Flindell

A single violin on a suburban stage brought classical music back to a live audience on Saturday, with a crowd just a tick over 50.

Akiko Miyazawa rent the air at North Perth Town Hall with Bach’s solo Chaconne, as the Cygnus Arioso String Quartet presented works spanning centuries from Baroque to Borodin.

“It’s so good to see you again,” Miyazawa said, recalling her last performance with WA Symphony Orchestra at Perth Concert Hall on March 13, before COVID-19 restrictions closed the venue.

“I will never forget how sad it was ... It’s never the same if you’re playing in empty halls.”

The program was a showcase of melody and harmony as the group built gradually from one to four voices.

After three months of shutdowns the unfiltered glory of Bach was a sudden awakening, the polished boards and pressed-tin ceilings of the venue a crisp, frugal setting.

Sonorous in the lower register, Miyazawa wrung every nuance from stark chords in a reading somehow out of time and place, as if 300 years had passed in the lockdown.

The odd spot of rust merely broke open the sheer audacity of live music, its intimacy and thrill, with a tone in the cadence as rich as the purple velvet backdrop, fading to a tender silence and warm applause.

Elliot O’Brien’s viola joined the party for Haydn’s Duo Sonata, the players interweaving dance-like figures, all balance and crystalline structure.

Kate Sullivan’s violin chimed in for Dvorak’s folk-inspired Terzetto, harmonies growing in depth and texture, overlaying rivulets of sound.

Finally, the deep timbre of Sophie Curtis’ cello completed the foursome for the Nocturne from Borodin’s 2nd String Quartet; a yearning quality in the air as if reflecting on past joys, or the rolling hills of a long unvisited homeland.

As encore, McMozart’s Eine Kleine Bricht Moonlicht Nicht Musik mashed Viennese classics with Scottish folk in comic relief.

Tickets were advertised under Phase 3 social distancing rules, but Phase 4 promises bigger venues and audiences in the weeks ahead.

The live show follows weeks of online presentations, which continue today with composer Kathy Potter performing original works for viola and pre-recorded audio, followed in two weeks by a Paganini Caprice Relay with 15 violinists from WA and NSW, one trombone player, and WASO’s associate principal double bass, John Keene, playing all 24 Paganini Caprices on Zoom.

Access is by donation through eventbrite.com.au.

Perth’s Government House has become a satellite venue for the Melbourne Digital Concert Hall platform. On Wednesday, July 1, at 5pm, singing duo Gina Williams and Guy Ghouse are joined by pianist Russell Holmes for a program of children’s songs and lullabies in Noongar.

Then at 6.30pm, soprano Sara Macliver and pianist Caroline Badnall present a varied recital from Bach to Mitchell.

Each concert lasts 60 minutes, with tickets at $24 through melbournedigitalconcerthall.com.

On Friday, July 3, WASO is going American on the eve of Independence Day with the latest of its Ensemble Edition series streamed live from the Perth Concert Hall stage.

Dvorak’s String Quartet No.12, The American, features violinists Kathryn Lee and Kate Sullivan, Alex Brogan on viola and Eve Silver on cello.

The theme continues with Bartók’s Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet and Piano, which was written for the great jazz clarinettist Benny Goodman.

Allan Meyer on clarinet, Semra Lee-Smith on violin and pianist Gladys Chua will explore the contrasts.

The live stream is at 7.30pm on Friday via waso.com.au, with the option to make a donation.

WASO has cancelled or postponed live performance through to September but will relaunch its season in July, with programming through to the year’s end.

Also on Friday, Melbourne Digital Concert Hall celebrates its 100th livestream with Schubert’s Winterreise and Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time.

The series is streamed from the stage at Melbourne’s Athenaeum and has raised $400,000 for srtists since the shutdown. Tickets from melbournedigitalconcerthall.com.

And at 7.30pm on Saturday, WA Opera will continue its Ghost Light series with soprano Emma Matthews, mezzo soprano Fiona Campbell, tenor Paul O’Neill and baritone James Clayton taking turns to present a single aria each week, accompanied by Tommaso Pollio.

Visit www.waopera.asn.au/show/ghost-light-opera/.

Government House has also been offered to Perth artists who have lost work and rehearsal space during the pandemic, with DivaLicious-Opera Rock taking the stage to a live audience on July 18 at 7.30pm, and July 19 at 4pm. Tickets are $45 and $35 concession from www.trybooking.com/BKABA. For more information: www.divalicious.net.au.

And on August 1, at 7pm, and August 2, at 2.30pm, Freeze Frame Opera presents Handel in the House, an exquisite curation of Baroque opera, featuring Macliver and fellow soprano Bonnie de la Hunty, accompanied by Stewart Smith (harpsichord), Sarah Papadopoulos (violin) and Krista Low (cello). Tickets from $70 (child $35) at www.trybooking.com/book/event?eid=633948&

Then from August 7 to 15, Freeze Frame presents Opera Truck-O-Rama from Claremont Showground, sharing music from across Europe featuring the Bedford truck the group has used as a stage for Street Serenades during the shutdown. Tickets $65 (child/student $25, seniors $60) at www.trybooking.com/book/sessions?eid=633906&ses=1911930

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