Monday, February 21, 2011

The Concert

Rehearsal: St Bride's Church

I arrived at St Bride's laden with flowers. All the artists were there, looking superbly relaxed. It was, I guess a 'day at the office' for them. Some last minute rehearsal was under way. Andrew had just arrived and Tamara put him through his paces on a couple of songs. His special tenor voice rang out through the beautiful nave, Christopher Wren designed, ornate and lofty. I was surprised at the volume, and the lovely resonance of the accoustics. Then Simone rehearsed one of her pieces. It was the first time I had heard her soprano voice, and it sounded so lovely.

St Bride's, Ludgate Hill
Kyle was there, both of us dressed up for our Birthday Concert, so long in the planning. The verger was running about, very helpful, shooing away the odd member of the public who wandered in on this cold February evening. The Green Room (aka the church vestry) was hung with a major frock in dark red, scattered with dress shirts and sheet music, and littered with fruit, water, nuts and snacks. Oh, and a cello case. The cameraman arrived and set up his camera and audio recording equipment. Tamara, our Musical Director, shooed us ("The Producers") to the Green Room while the artists ran through the final 'surprise' number. We sat and went over our short speeches. *Excitement building*

Tamara Anna Cislowska
In the foyer, Stephanie from The Press House wine bar had the Veuve Cliquot on ice. Soon she and her helpers appeared with the foie gras and other delectable canapes; and before we knew it the first guests were arriving. Into host and hostess mode, Kyle greeting his friends and I greeting mine. Soon there was a convivial crowd, its conviviality ably assisted by the Veuve. Then the verger rang his big brass handbell, we herded everyone into their seats in the nave, each festooned with a program giving the artists' bios. We promised that the concert would be over by 8.30 pm - hey, it only ran half an hour over time. Kyle and I stood up and introduced ourselves, explained why we were all here, who the artists were, a little about St Brides...then took our seats expectantly. A hush fell...Tamara walked out, introduced herself and sat at the piano...Peter followed with his cello...and this is what we heard:

Bach                Suite No. 1: Prelude        Peter  Hoerr, Cello Solo    
       A 'Prelude' to our concert, the solo cello soaring through the nave...                                  

Mozart             Dies Bildnes          Andrew Goodwin (Tenor), Tamara  
      Andrew' special voice singing Tamino's aria from  'The Magic Flute'. I have heard him sing this (in    full sumptuous costume) in the opera in performance three or four times in Sydney and Melbourne. Tamino has been given Pamina's picture and falls in love with three mintues....     
Andrew Goodwin
Brahms            Unbewegte laue Luft           Simone Riksman (Soprano), Tamara  
      A beautiful Brahm's song about the peace of nature and the storm of internal passions, with the music changing from a wondrous lilt to a stormy and energetic climax...                  

Brahms            Dein blaues Auge                   Peter (Cello), Tamara       
       Because Peter adores Brahms...and shows it in his playing....      
Peter Hoerr

Grainger/Strauss   Ramble on Der Rosenkavalier              Tamara (Piano solo)  
       One of Australian composer Percy Grainger's marvellous "rambles", this one on the love duet from Richard Struass's 'Der Rosenkavalier', possibly the number one favourite opera of both Kyle 
and I...                                 

Tchaikowsky   Lensky's Aria from Eugene Onegin    Andrew (Tenor), Tamara      
      I have heard Andy sing this Russian aria in full production with the Bolshoi at La Scala, Milan, and in Madrid, and he can make me cry. Lensky has been rejected by Olga, has challenged Eugene Onegin to a duel, and is facing his likely death...for love...*wipes eyes*      

Andy singing the Lensky aria in a full production with the Bolshoi.

Faure               En Priere                                            Simone (Soprano), Tamara 
      A lovely 'prayer' sung in French by Simone's beautiful soprano voice...
Chopin            Nocturne Op.9/No. 1                            Tamara  (Piano solo)  
      A special request from me...I played this Nocturne myself many, many years ago and have always loved it. This morning, post-concert, standing in the shower, I burst into tears remembering Tamara's completely inspired rendition. I thought of my old music teacher Margaret Woolf, struggling to help me learn it; and my Great-Aunt Leila whose copy of the music I inherited. And of Tamara's unique and extraordinary genius in interpreting Chopin's music...                               

Messiaen         Praise to the Eternity of Jesus              Peter (Cello), Tamara 
      Moving to contemporary composers, we heard eight minutes of a remarkable, other-worldly sound which had me for one riveted and transported. Messiaen wrote this while imprisoned in a POW camp in WWII... 

An unidentified player, but this will give you a taste of the Messiaen.

Edwards         The Lost Man       
                        Simone (Soprano), Tamara, Daniel Jones (percussion)
      This was only the third  performance ever of this amazing song,composed by Australian contemporary composer Ross Edwards: its premiere as part of a larger work; a performance by Simone and Tamara at the Canberra International Music Festival last year; and tonight. It is about a man lost in a rain forest, and about having to go through the dark forest to attain the is instantly Australian, evoking space and heat...I was transfixed...and then the wood-block echoed from the minstrel's gallery high up in the nave....*skin tingles*
Staggs             Postcard  [Premiere]     
                        Daniel Jones (Vibraphone), Peter (Cello), Tamara (Piano)                  
Daniel Jones
And then to the composition created especially for this evening by Australian composer (and wonderful friend) Barton Staggs. Extraordinary sounds coaxed from the cello and the vibraphone (very unusually played with two bows - virtuoso work by Daniel), with the piano sitting underneath, moving through unresolved chords...words cannot adequately describe the other-worldly sounds, the musing, nostalgic mood evoked, the leaning forward into the space that the music was taking you...I told you words were inadequate!

Rachmaninov  Spring Waters                                Andrew (Tenor), Tamara  
      Then, as Tamara put it, back to some dead composers! Rachmaninov giving equal time to voice and piano...
Rachmaninov  Vocalise                                           Peter (Cello), Tamara     
      Peter's cello did indeed 'vocalise' a beautiful melody line...                     

Copland          At the River                                       Simone (Soprano), Tamara 
      Because Kyle "is Australian but was born in the USA" (quoting Tamara again), now to some American composers. This lovely song was familiar to all, but had probably never been heard so beautifully evoked by a soprano voice....

Simone singing Copland
Bernstein         One Hand, One Heart         Simone (Soprano), Andrew (Tenor),  Tamara
      The only duet on the program, a love song from Westside Story. The audience going into a new place with the singers as they moved from recital mode, into character and into and embrace....*ahhhh!*
Hanley             Indiana                                  Andrew (Tenor), Tamara  
      Why this song? Because Kyle is a "hoosier" from Indiana -- and because the song is beautiful,  especially given the Andy treatment. There was hardly a dry eye. I almost cried myself, and I'm certainly not from Indiana...
McPherson      Waltzing Matilda                   Simone (Soprano), Tamara    
Simone Riksman
      And this one made everyone cry: there were quite a number of Australians present. But you didn't need to be Australian to get a lump in the throat as Simone sang all the verses of this moving song, going into a hum as "his ghost may be heard'...                  

To riotous applause and cheers, the program regretfully ended (well, we all regretted its ending, though we were half an hour over time and the verger was getting tetchy...don't worry, he got over it). Our marvellous artists came out and took their bows, Simone elegant in her gorgeous red frock, Tamara in a divine long, claret-red velvet coat, the men handsome in their suits. Bouquets of flowers for the ladies, books as gifts all round, calls for an encore (resolutely ignoring the verger's pointed thumping in the vestibule).

Wagner/Liszt/Howard   Abendstern                    Peter (Cello), Tamara  
      This is the baritone aria known as 'The Evening Star', from Wagner's opera 'Tannahuser', arranged for cello and piano originally by the great virtuoso pianist Liszt, and later by Howard.  It is one of those melodies that everyone 'sort of knows', even if they don't know where it is from. It was an exquisite and appropriate finale to a remarkable program.                      

And here I pause, as the guests gather their coats, the vibraphone is ensconced in the vestry for pick up later on, thoughts are turning to the loos and some food, and the delightful sancerre that Stephanie is even now setting out in The Press House. The party went on, folks, but that report will have to wait for another day. I must end with heartfelt thanks to the extraordinary artists who brought us this concert which Kyle and I will NEVER forget. Peter Hoerr , one of (if not the) best cellist playing in Europe today. Simone Riksman, an extraordinary young soprano who can melt your heart. Andrew Goodwin, a young Australian tenor I have sponsored for several years, with a wonderful quality in his voice. Daniel Jones, a young British percussionist with skill and dexterity to amaze. 

Barton Staggs
And many, many thanks to composer extraordinare, Barton Staggs, whose piece 'Postcard' was utterly moving and unforgettable. I cannot do better than to pause here to quote a little Schopenhauer (indulge me):
The inexpressible depth of all music, by virtue of which it floats past us as a paradise quite familiar and yet eternally remote, and is so easy to understand and yet so inexplicable, is due to the fact that it reproduces all the emotions of our innermost being, but entirely without reality and remote from its pain.

And now it is time to honour the STAR of this show: the title 'Musical Director' is too mundane to describe what Tamara Anna Cislowska put in to this concert: the creative skill with which the program was selected, matched to the artists, rehearsed, interpreted -- and accompanying everyone throughout a marathon evening -- pausing only to deliver two astonishing solos herself! I cannot thank you enough, Tamara, I am overwhelmed with delight, and will never forget the Birthday Concert. xxx

Tell you what - how about we do it all again sometime?

Tamara Ann Cislowska

Tamara Anna Cislowska is the most acclaimed and awarded Australian pianist of her gene-ration. She has performed as soloist with the London Phil and Romanian Phil O., the NHK and New Zealand Symphony O. and the six major Australian orchestras.  As a guest performer and chamber musician she has appeared at the Barossa and Huntington Festivals, the Mostly Mozart Series and Sydney Spring International Festival of New Music, and  festivals in Germany, Italy and the U.K.  As a recitalist she has performed at the Purcell Room in London and at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam.  In the USA she has appeared at the Frick Collection, in Chicago and Los Angeles.  In addition, she has toured Japan, performed in Poland, Italy and  Greece.
Tamara began her career early, gave her first public performance at two, playing Bartok, and recorded several pieces for ABC Radio at three. She began studies at the Sydney Conservatory at 6, and 2 years later gave her first performance with an orchestra.  At 14, she was the youngest pianist ever to win Australia's most prestigious classical music award, the ABC 'Young Perfomers' Award'.  Soon after, she was named Sydney's Finest Performer, resulting in a tour of Japan and the United States as a cultural ambassador.  She has been a major prizewinner at international competitions, including the Maria Calls, National World Power and Rovere d'Oro.  In 2003 she was awarded the Music Council of Australia/Freedman Foundation Fellowship in Classical Music.  In addition, she has been nominated for 3 ARIAs (Australian Recording Industry Award) for Best Classical Release.  Her wide repertoire includes 40 piano concertos and she has given 15 world premieres of new works.  In 2003, her performance of Rachmaninov's 2nd Piano Concerto was named as one of the year's ten best performances in Australia.
She has performed regularly with the Mozart Piano Quartet and has recorded the Brahms and Mozart quartets for Arte Nova, the Dvorak piano quartets for MDG and the complete chamber music of Gustav Jenner for German Radio.
Tamara has also recorded 5 solo albums for Artworks - including Liszt, Scriabin, Tchaikovsky, Grieg, Hovhannes, Berio and Grainger.  In addition, she has joined the Sydney Symphony, New Zealand Symphony and the London Philharmonic on recordings for ABC Classics, Chandos and Naxos.

Tamara works her magic with Tenor Kenneth Tarver:

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