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: Bartók: Chamber Works for Violin (James Ehnes)

After the more serious material of the first two volumes, James Ehnes finishes his survey of Bartók’s chamber music for violin on an entertaining note. Here’s the Hungarian master in unbuttoned mood, tapping into the rich folk traditions of his native lands alongside his move to America and his flirtation with jazz. Contrasts was written for Benny Goodman and violinist Joseph Szigeti in 1938. It was one of the first pieces Bartók wrote in America. The music includes complex Bulgarian dance rhythms as well as recognising Goodman’s jazz heritage. The piece features top clarinetist, Michael Collins and pianist Andrew Armstrong. The charming Sonatina, based on Transylvanian folk themes, was originally composed for solo piano until 10 years later a student, Endre Gertler, brought Bartók a solo violin transcription. Bartók told Gertler that he’d wished he written it for fiddle in the first place. For the Forty-Four Duos – bite- sized colourful slices of folk music from the Balkans – Ehnes is joined by Amy Schwartz Moretti. Few of these pieces last a minute, except for the lovely prelude and canon. Some tunes will be familiar in other settings but played by two duelling violins they make for a spicy and entertaining 48 minutes. It’s…

February 19, 2015
CD and Other Review

Review: Brahms: Complete Symphonies (Staatskapelle Dresden)

Christian Thielemann may have attracted some unfavourable headlines in his time – fallings out with big opera companies and run-ins with Simon Rattle and Daniel Barenboim – but there’s no doubting he’s a worthy keeper of the flame when it comes to the core Austro-German repertoire. The boyish-looking 55-year-old’s new “dream job” as chief conductor of Staatskapelle Dresden is already producing treasures with this DVD set of Brahms’s four symphonies. The live performances in Dresden and Tokyo are compelling viewing and listening with the orchestra’s famed soft and burnished sound ideal for this material. Thielemann is authoritative and punctilious throughout, setting excellent tempi and showing us how well he absorbed his work experience jobs with Karajan in Berlin and Barenboim at Bayreuth. An added bonus is a fascinating documentary in which the conductor is a companion on this journey through the symphonies. He shows us each work’s distinctive character and points out pitfalls for the unwary. He says the third symphony is the most enigmatic, mainly because it “implodes” rather than ending in a blaze of triumph. “There’s a kind of archaic violence that emanates from Brahms… if violence can be positive then it is in Brahms,” he concludes. You may not…

January 30, 2015
CD and Other Review

Review: Vibes Virtuoso (Nick Parnell)

“Steel yourself for his mallets of musical mastery”. So runs the spruik in the liner notes of Nick Parnell’s self-published album Vibes Virtuoso. This is no idle boast. Adelaide percussionist Parnell knows his way round the three octaves of metal keys and sustain pedal and his mission is to put this instrument centre stage. Born in the Flinders Ranges town of Orroroo, Parnell taught himself drums in his parents’ sheep shearing shed before studying at Elder Conservatorium. This is his third album, the previous two were under the ABC Classics label, and it covers some familiar classics mixed up with George Gershwin and bravura pieces like Josef Suk’s Burleska No 4 and Vittorio Monti’s Csardas. Parnell’s spectacular playing is matched by his excellent accompanist, Amir Farid. The duo have great musical understanding and chemistry, and while they never quite reach the heights of those two great jazz improvisors Gary Burton and Chick Corea, they are impressive nevertheless. The instrument’s limited expressive range works better for some works. Two of Erik Satie’s Gymnopedies, Handel’s Arrival of the Queen of Sheba and excerpts from Gershwin’s American in Paris all transpose well. Ravel’s Alborada del gracioso and Debussy’s Reverie fall short. This won’t…

October 24, 2014
CD and Other Review

Review: Bartók: Chamber Music for Violin Vol 3 (Ehnes, Armstrong)

After the more serious material of the first two volumes, James Ehnes finishes his survey of Bartók’s chamber music for violin on an entertaining note. Here’s the Hungarian master in unbuttoned mood, tapping into the rich folk traditions of his native lands alongside his move to America and his flirtation with jazz. Contrasts was written for Benny Goodman and violinist Joseph Szigeti in 1938. It was one of the first pieces Bartók wrote in America. The music includes complex Bulgarian dance rhythms as well as recognising Goodman’s jazz heritage. The piece features top clarinetist, Michael Collins and pianist Andrew Armstrong. The charming Sonatina, based on Transylvanian folk themes, was originally composed for solo piano until 10 years later a student, Endre Gertler, brought Bartók a solo violin transcription. Bartók told Gertler that he’d wished he written it for fiddle in the first place.  For the Forty-Four Duos – bite-sized colourful slices of folk music from the Balkans – Ehnes is joined by Amy Schwartz Moretti. Few of these pieces last a minute, except for the lovely prelude and canon. Some tunes will be familiar in other settings but played by two duelling violins they make for a spicy and entertaining…

October 9, 2014
CD and Other Review

Review: Mendelssohn: String Quartets (Artemis Quartet)

Mendelssohn’s six string quartets don’t get the airplay they deserve, being overshadowed by Beethoven and Schubert’s. There are plenty of recordings out there, but few to rival this new double disc from Berlin’s Artemis Quartet, which has established itself as a leader among the new generation of ensembles. Formed 18 years ago, they have built a strong following wherever they’ve played – including tours here with Musica Viva. Natalia Prischepenko left last year and this is our first chance to hear the Artemis with their new leader, Latvian violinist Vineta Sareika. I can tell you that this stunningly good band – Gregor Sigl, violin, Friedemann Weigle, viola, and Eckart Runge, cello – has lost nothing in the transition. Their authority and musicality are intact and they still have that chemistry that makes them so special. They’ve chosen works from three periods of Mendelssohn’s short career. The Op 13, his second quartet, was written in 1827 when he was 18 and is a memorial to Beethoven, being inspired by the great Op 135 “muss es sein? (must it be?)”. Mendelssohn’s third quartet, is the composer at his sunniest and its blue skies first movement makes the perfect opening. The final quartet is a grief-stricken…

September 1, 2014
CD and Other Review

Review: Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov (Bavarian Opera)

That enfant terrible of the opera stage Calixto Bieito must be mellowing in his middle age – either that or we have become numbed to the edgy Spanish director’s naughty ways. How else to explain why his take on Mussorgsky’s masterpiece Boris Godunov has less shock value than your average episode of Midsomer Murders? True he does have the Simpleton shot by a teenage girl, not to mention one of the crowd beaten to a pulp – oh and in Boris’s great death scene the pretender Dmitri strangles Xenia and suffocates the Tsarevich Fyodor.   This Bayerische Staatsoper production is set in recent times. We know this because the chorus hold up posters of Putin, Bush, Sarkozy and Berlusconi. Bieito ditches the third act but strangely this causes little collateral damage. That’s because Bieito has a trump card in 38-year-old Ukrainian bass Alexander Tsymbalyuk, who is undoubtedly on the verge of a stellar career. He has everything – good looks, dramatic nous and a gorgeous voice that has delicacy as well as power. He’s backed by a first-class cast including Anatoli Kotscherga as Pimen and Vladimir Matorin who makes a good Varlaam, looking uncannily like the famous portrait of the…

July 21, 2014
CD and Other Review

Review: Opera arias and ballet music (Vienna Philharmonic)

The latest batch of re-releases from Eloquence includes two Deutsche Grammophon double sets from the 1950s and 60s and some of Mozart’s dance music from the Decca archives. The Rita Streich double set showcases the Russian-born soprano’s versatility by combining her 1950s Waltzes and Arias recordings (some of the tracks in mono), with her Folk Songs and Lullabies collection recorded in 1962 when the doyenne of the Vienna State Opera was still at the height of her powers. Much of the material is lighter fare – Johann rather than Richard Strauss – but we also get a sense of her expressive power in Dvorˇák’s Song to the Moon from Rusalka and her consummate control and technique in Saint-Saëns’ wordless The Nightingale and The Rose, with its seemingly endless trill. The spiritual Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen shows off her rich and mellow chest voice.   While we’re all excited by Jonas Kaufmann’s stellar versatility in both Italian and German roles, there was another tenor who was equally at home with Verdi and Wagner but whose voice is seldom heard these days. Hungarian Sándor Kónya trained in Germany and Italy where he developed the thrilling open voiced high notes which…

July 16, 2014