MUSIC REVIEW: Opening Night Concert Melbourne Recital Centre

Musicians and concert-goers are rejoicing to at last have a venue designed for the performance of chamber music, while the general public is still gasping at its daring facade.
MUSIC REVIEW: Opening Night Concert Melbourne Recital Centre
Musicians and concert-goers are rejoicing to at last have a venue designed for the performance of chamber music, while the general public is still gasping at its daring facade. But on the first night of the Melbourne Recital Centre’s “official” concerts there were only two questions that mattered: how did the interior look and, above all, how good were the acoustics? Well before reaching their seats, patrons had been won over by the light, bright interior space, the pale yellow stairs giving way to the warm brown sculpted wood walls that give Elisabeth Murdoch Hall its signature look. There were bound to be shortcomings. Disappointingly, patrons found even less space between rows than at the Concert Hall – and, after pushing their way through to their attractive-looking seats, were to find them less than comfortable after an hour or two. But we were there for the performance – and it was a triumph. A large screen displayed an Indigenous smoking ceremony at the Yarra, before Boonwurrung and Wurundjeri people entered for the welcome to the Centre. As the large screen behind the performers homed in on the fire used at the Yarra for the smoking ceremony there was a hush over the audience, suddenly reminded of the horrific fires that had brought death and destruction to the State that weekend. Peter Sculthorpe’s commissioned Song of the Yarra for violin, soprano, cello, basses, percussion and choir captured the “beauty and the terror” of the land and was a memorable opening work, with iconic violinist Gidon Kremer as soloist. The Goldner Quartet was joined by clarinettist Michael Collins to reveal the Hall’s perfect acoustics for a very different kind of music – Mozart’s Quintet in A major. You know all is well when you can easily follow the viola and second violin while enjoying the overall effect. Delicate phrasing lifted the interpretation beyond the mellow and respectful to the simply beautiful. The Recital Centre was built as a venue for exactly this kind of music – and this level of performance. In the final, Schubertiade, pianist Piers Lane and tenor Markus Schafer joined members of the Goldner, drawing on Schubert’s varied repertoire to further demonstrate the fine acoustics of the Hall. By then, there was nothing that needing proving. The audience was convinced – and just settled back to enjoy the concert, the first of many in Melbourne’s long-awaited, magnificent performance space.

Suzanne Yanko

Monday 9 February, 2009

About the author

Suzanne Yanko is the editor of www.classicmelbourne.com.au. She has worked as a reviewer, writer, broadcaster and editor for Fairfax Digital, the Herald-Sun, the South China Morning Post, Radio 4 Hong Kong, HMV VOICE - and, for six years, ArtsHub.   Email: syanko@artshub.com.au