Alex Raineri, the artistic director of the Brisbane Music Festival, favours diverse programming. From bloodpaths, a collaboration between Raineri and dancer Katina Olsen which involved new contributions by 25 Australian composers, to an art song recital featuring soprano Sara Macliver, the bold mix appears to be much appreciated. There was something for all tastes in this year’s program with events pointedly celebrating a variety of Brisbane’s intimate performance spaces.
The Trout for instance was presented in the gracious setting of the Old Museum Building, and the performers and audience were gifted with a rewarding acoustic, an ideal soundstage for Jonathan Henderson’s fluid and assured performance of Bach’s Partita in A Minor for solo flute, BWV 1013. Bach’s moniker for this work in four movements was merely ‘Flute Solo’ but editors eventually defined the work as a ‘Partita’ presumably because of its four stylised movements that include an Allemande and Sarabande which are commonly associated with this form.
After greeting the audience, Henderson commanded silence as he retreated inside himself to prepare to play the challenging Allemande. His eloquence in exploring Bach’s syntax, swift fingering shifts, wide leaps with scarcely time to breathe, and, how he navigated the expansive tonal register which ends on a high A in the first movement was impressive. Animated phrasing and lively representation of the buoyant rhythmical stretches delighted the crowd and his tone gathered even more lustre and depth as he journeyed through the expressive, sighing Sarabande.
Alfred Einstein deemed the Trout Quintet music “we cannot help but love.” Schubert’s appealing Quintet, replete with gorgeous lyricism particularly in the first movement, was written for piano, violin, viola, cello and double bass. Paumgartner commissioned the work for performance in a series of intimate musical gatherings he curated. Supposedly, he insisted on the aforementioned instrumentation which was first trialled by the composer Hummel. His other requirement was the inclusion of his favourite melody from Schubert’s song, Die Forelle, which comprises the ‘Trout’ theme. Schubert obliged. The ensemble’s expression of the variations of this tune was enjoyable as the individual voices briefly soloed before merging as an instrumental strand within Schubert’s imaginative harmonisations.
The ensemble’s balance, enhanced by the double bass’ resonance, was rewarding, and there’s something luxurious about the inclusion of its soulful voice and its capacity to generate a richly punctuated foundation. Cellist Oliver Scott contributed an elegant tone in underscoring the upper strings and sparring with the piano’s outpourings. With such a distinctive voice, Scott could afford to be more extroverted.
Yoko Okayasu’s viola was urgent and convincingly eloquent while violinist Anne Horton’s execution of the melodic material had clarity and precision, efficiently intertwining with Raineri’s pliant, sparkling pianism. Piano players like performing the Trout because its rippling arpeggiated calls and swirling passages are ingeniously idiomatic for the instrument and suggestive of water. Raineri’s spinning commentary fired the ensemble into a stunning momentum in the last movement.
This compact recital of an ideal one hour of focussed listening was followed by a spread of gourmet delicacies and, more importantly, an opportunity to talk to the artists.