Steve Moffatt

Steve Moffatt

Born within the sound of tennis balls in Wimbledon, Steve Moffatt’s earliest musical memories are of his father’s dubious tenor accompanying 78s of Gigli and Bjorling. As a reporter he covered Jimi Hendrix’s inquest. He now attends concerts and reviews them for NewsLocal newspapers where he is production editor.


Articles by Steve Moffatt

CD and Other Review

Review: Schubert: String Quintet & Lieder

Eight years ago ABC Classic FM listeners voted their top 100 chamber works and Schubert ‘podiumed’ spectacularly, taking four of the top five places, with the Trout Quintet winning gold. Runner-up was the String Quintet, and with so many hundreds of recordings to choose from, what recommends this new release by the French fivesome of the Ébène Quatuor and Gautier Capuçon? Well, if for no other reason than you get a wonderful bonus in five beautifully arranged Schubert Lieder sung by German baritone Matthias Goerne.But at over an hour’s length, the Quintet and its four kaleidoscopic movements are the main course, and what a superb meal the Frenchmen dish up! Schubert’s masterpiece takes no prisoners with its emotional twists and turns, dynamic shifts and roller-coaster mood swings, and this is a very thoughtful and intelligent reading with plenty of Gallic flair and charm. As the quartet says in the liner notes: “It is a quintet reflecting both real life and dreams, the sacred and the profane, joy and mourning, revelry in the open air and monks walking to prayer through the cloisters, jubilation in the tavern, and testament of the soul.” The players are in no hurry – the Adagio comes…

September 15, 2016
CD and Other Review

Review: Ginastera: The Vocal Album (Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra)

Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera’s music is neatly divided into three styles: nationalist folk (or Gaucho); ‘subjective’ nationalism influenced by Stravinsky, and Neoexpressionism, which is infused with Serialism. His vocal pieces reflect those phases. Uruguayan Gisèle Ben-Dor conducts the Santa Barbara Symphony with superb vocalists. Ginastera’s five popular Agentinian songs are here sung delightfully by Puerto Rican soprano Ana Marìa Martìnez. They have a touch of Cantaloube’s Songs of the Auvergne about them, especially the much-loved lullaby Arroro which Ben-Dor, like most South American mothers, sang to her children. Argentinian diva Virginia Tola features in the other two works on this disc. She’s alongside Plácido Domingo for two excerpts from Ginastera’s opera Don Rodrigo. Domingo reprises his role from his 1960s hit at New York City Opera, which was overseen by the composer. Challenging for both singer and listener, Domingo’s radiance and energy here seem undimmed by age. Listen out for The Miracle scene when all the bells of Spain ring out unaided by human intervention in a serialism-meets-Mussorgsky showstopper.  Tola makes superb work of the cantata Milena, based on Franz Kafka’s letters to his lover. This is an interesting tribute to the composer, beautifully produced and vibrantly performed by all.

September 15, 2016
CD and Other Review

Review: Smetana: Dalibor (BBC Symphony Orchestra/Jiri Belohlávek)

Written at the height of his powers, Bedrˇich Smetana’s third opera Dalibor polarised critics and failed to capture the public imagination. What a loss, for as the liner notes to this magnificent BBC recording point out “Dalibor is Smetana’s loveliest operatic score and a great deal subtler than his first two works for stage,” (The Brandenburgers in Bohemia and The Bartered Bride). In fact, Smetana grew resentful of the Bride’s success, dismissing it as a “toy” for those who thought he was incapable of writing a comedy. The tragic chivalric tale of Dalibor with its plot reminiscent of Fidelio is full of superb music, particularly the beautiful duet in Act 2 when Milada, disguised as a minstrel boy, smuggles an old fiddle into Dalibor’s cell. Packed with great solos shared among five major characters, the vibrant score covers a broad canvas and there are some great theatrical moments, including the pompous Judges’ March which almost pre-empts Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet. However, the Prague musical establishment considered Dalibor too Wagnerian for the new national musical movement and it was shelved. Although revived in the 1890s after Smetana’s death, with Mahler conducting a performance in Vienna, it has remained neglected. The excellent…

August 19, 2016
CD and Other Review

Review: Bruch: Piano Quintet (Goldner String Quartet, Piers Lane)

For their eighth outing with the British Hyperion label Australia’s finest, the Goldner String Quartet and pianist Piers Lane, transport the listener to the richly romantic sound world of Max Bruch. Famed for his first violin concerto – his other two remain relatively rare curiosities – the German composer wrote very few chamber works, and those that survive come from the beginning and end of his career. He composed two string quartets, the one on this terrific album is his first, from his student days. The influence of Brahms is all pervasive, but there’s no harm in that and the work, performed with great expressive beauty here by the double husband and wife team led by Sydney Symphony co-concertmaster Dene Olding, shows that the 18 year-old already had a good grip on development and technique, with strong melodies and some interesting dynamic shifts. Olding and Dimity Hall, second violin, combine beautifully while violist Irina Morozova and cellist Julian Smiles lend impeccable support. Lane, who was born in London but brought up in Brisbane, joins them for the best work on the programme, the thoroughly engaging piano quintet, which Bruch slaved over for seven years before finally delivering to his dedicatees…

August 5, 2016
CD and Other Review

Review: Brahms: Piano Concerto No 1 & Ballades Op. 10 (Paul Lewis)

The English pianist Paul Lewis continues to stamp his considerable imprimatur on some of the world’s best-loved repertoire with another impeccable release through the Harmonia Mundi label. The Liverpool docker’s son from a non-musical family turns now from late Schubert and Mussorgsky to Brahms for his latest foray, combining the mighty Piano Concerto No 1 with a lovely reading of the Four Ballades, Op. 10. The Concerto started out as a double piano sonata, but then Brahms realised that was too limiting so he considered it for a symphony. Lacking confidence in his orchestral writing, however – and with the “footsteps of Beethoven” always behind him – he put that aside until, he confided to Clara Schumann, the idea of making it into a concerto came to him in a dream. It didn’t materialise for a year or so and because he obsessively destroyed material that didn’t meet his perfectionist standards, it’s impossible to know how much of the original concept remains. The premiere in Hanover was successful but at Leipzig it was hissed. “I am plainly experimenting and still groping,” the poor 23-year-old Brahms wrote to his friend and confidant Joseph Joachim. It was only after a Berlin…Continue reading Get unlimited…

August 4, 2016
CD and Other Review

Review: Handel: Acis and Galatea (Boston Early Music Festival)

Boston Early Music Festival singers and period instrument players, co-directed by lutenists Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs, are in cracking form on this studio recording of Handel’s buoyant pastoral. The vocal ensemble are exceptional, especially in their opening number O the Pleasure of the Plains (which always reminds me of For unto us a Child is born from Messiah).  Handel wrote Acis and Galatea for the Duke of Chandos to celebrate his marriage and the building of his lavish mansion, the Cannons, in Middlesex. The house had its own orchestra as well as extensive gardens with the latest water features. It didn’t survive for long, however, for within 20 years it was demolished and its features sold off when Chandos’s fortune took a dive in the South Sea Bubble. In Ovid’s tale, the shepherd Acis is metamorphosed into a fountain by his lover Galatea after the jealous cyclops Polyphemus launches a boulder which crushes him. Thus the gardens of Cannons made the perfect setting for this pastoral tale. Handel was briefly the Duke’s resident composer while things were quiet in London (and where he was having trouble managing to stage his Italian operas). Hats off to the excellent soloists, tenor…

June 2, 2016