Will Yeoman

Will Yeoman

Will Yeoman is Senior Arts Writer at The West Australian. A keen classical guitarist, he reviews regularly for Limelight and Gramophone magazines, and gives pre-concert talks for the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. He is currently director of Perth Festival Writers Week.


Articles by Will Yeoman

20 March, 2013
CD and Other Review

Review: 18th-century Portuguese Love Songs

In his booklet notes to this most bewitching of releases, David Cranmer quotes from a 1787 journal entry by the English traveller William Beckford, in which he refers to modinhas, or Portuguese love songs: “This is an original sort of music different from any I ever heard, the most seducing, the most voluptuous imaginable, the best calculated to throw saints off their guard and to inspire profane deliriums.” Wow. Fans of Portuguese fado
 will find these songs, which effortlessly bridged the gap between the popular and the courtly, immediately attractive, languid and sensual. Just listen to a modinha such as Tempo que breve passaste (“So short a time you passed”) by Antonio da Silva Leite. Then there are those, such as the bright, cheeky Onde vas linda Negrinha (“Where are you going, pretty black girl”) by the same composer, alive with Afro- Brazilian rhythms. L’Avventura London director Zak Ozmo, who also plays Spanish and English guitars, has wisely broken up the songs and instrumental works with more “classical” fare with a Portuguese connection – keyboard pieces by Carlos de Seixas and Domenico Scarlatti. The performances by sopranos Sandra Medeiros and Joana Seeara, violone player Andrew Kerr and guitarists Taro Takeuchi…

30 January, 2013
CD and Other Review

Review: Six Fish (Guitar Trek)

What a journey it’s been. Since 1987, Australian classical group Guitar Trek has been at the forefront of commissioning new works for guitar quartet, as well as working with luthiers to develop different-size guitars to form a true guitar family: treble, standard, baritone and bass (steel as well as nylon string guitars are utilised). This recording, actually made in 2007, has been released to celebrate 25 years of Guitar Trek and features works by some of Australia’s best-known composers for the instrument: Nigel Westlake, Phillip Houghton, Richard Charlton and Martin Wesley-Smith. The Guitar Trek line-up here features Timothy Kain, Minh Le Hoang, Daniel McKay and Harold Gretton (it’s since changed, with Bradley Kunda and Matt Withers replacing McKay and Gretton). If Westlake’s Six Fish scintillates with shimmering water, pointillistic textures and playful melodies, Houghton’s Nocturne, originally for piano, is a study in meditative if occasionally ruffled calm and moonlit passages. Charlton’s Capricorn Skies is “an attempt to capture in sound the mood or resonance of a variety of Australian skies and landscapes”. It’s a tour-de-force of sound-painting that finds Guitar Trek at its most dramatically expansive. The following non-linear Wave Radiance by Houghton, who describes it as a “sonic event”…

2 November, 2012
CD and Other Review

Review: La Compañia: Ay Portugal

Thanks to the wholesale appropriation of popular song by court and church composers, there’s something at once vibrant and austere about the early Baroque music of Spain and Portugal. The program on this new recording by Australian period instrument ensemble La Compañia comprises mostly villancicos (rustic songs) in vocal and instrumental settings by 16th-century Spanish and Portuguese composers such as Pedro de Cristo, Manuel Machado, and Francisco Guerrero. Some travelled to take up positions in churches and cathedrals in the New World, where their music was inflected by indigenous and African rhythms. The anonymous pieces included here are all taken from the Cancioneiro de Paris manuscript of c1523. Under their director Danny Lucin, La Compañia perform these works on period wind instruments such as cornetti, sackbuts and dulcians, as well as the viola da gamba, vihuela, guitar, cavaquinho and percussion. Joining them is young Australian soprano and early music exponent Siobhan Stagg, winner of the 2012 Australian International Opera Award. Throughout, La Compañia’s relaxed and improvisatory yet passionate and precise playing is a delight, recalling the best of Hespèrion XXI, The Harp Consort and L’Arpeggiata in similar repertoire. Listen to the rich textures of De Cristo’s Ay mi Dios, the…

2 November, 2012
CD and Other Review

Review: Dvořák: Silent Woods (Christian Poltéra, Kathryn Stott)

In one of the most singularly gorgeous recordings to have come across my desk in recent months, Zurich-born cellist Christian Poltéra and British pianist Kathryn Stott explore some of Dvořák’s greatest melodies in new transcriptions by Poltéra. Silent Woods was arranged by the composer himself from the original version for piano four hands; in fact, the only compositions originally written for cello here are the Rondo in G Minor and the Polonaise in A. It seems extraordinary now to think that Dvořák wasn’t immediately enamoured of the cello’s sound, finding it “nasal” in the upper register and “grumbling” in the lower, as the booklet notes recall. But how he would have adored the warm, emotionally expansive playing of Poltéra – and Stott for that matter: a superb soloist in her own right and an ever-sensitive accompanist.  The opening Sonatina in G, originally for violin and piano and dedicated to Dvořák’s children, is all brightness shot through with pentatonic flavours; Poltéra and Stott animate the music with the perfect balance of poise and exuberance. And if, in the following Rondo in G, the players seem for the most part simply to be letting their hair down, the emotional intensity returns with…

7 September, 2012
CD and Other Review

Review: TCHAIKOVSKY: The Seasons arr guitar duo (Leonard & Slava Grigoryan)

Tchaikovsky’s The Seasons, a suite of 12 piano miniatures – one for each month – was commissioned in 1875 by the editor of the St Petersburg music magazine Nouvellist and published therein throughout the following year. Each piece bears a subtitle and an epitaph by a Russian poet (all reproduced in the booklet accompanying the present release). The most oft-heard pieces today include June (“Barcarolle”) and November (“In the Troika”). Australian guitar duo Slava and Leonard Grigoryan have always strained against the boundaries of the classical guitar world – witness the brothers’ highly successful forays into world music and jazz. They also perform classical masterworks intended for other instruments. Such was the case with the piano music of Debussy, Falla and Mompou as recorded on their CD Impressions; such is the case here, where they again avail themselves of their father Eduard’s gift for sensitive and imaginative arranging. Just as Grigoryan senior exploits the full technical and colouristic resources of the classical guitar after the manner of an orchestrator, so too do his sons exploit their considerable musicality and obvious rapport to shine a beautifully muted lamp on these relatively modest works. Thus an expanded tonal palette, more intimate sonorities and…

14 June, 2012
CD and Other Review

Review: Rinaldo Alessandrini and his Concerto Italiano: Conductor, harpsichordist and organist with his period-instrument ensemble

Italian conductor, harpsichordist and organist Rinaldo Alessandrini and his versatile period-instrument ensemble Concerto Italiano have for many years possessed a reputation for over-the-top yet technically precise performances of Renaissance and Baroque vocal and instrumental music. Their high-octane recording of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons has to be heard to be believed, while their ability to communicate the eroticism, febrile intensity and innovatory chiaroscuro of the madrigals of Monteverdi and Gesualdo is treasured amongst connoisseurs of that repertoire. Here they apply their considerable interpretative skills to Italian chamber music written at a time of musical transition, when the polyphonic textures of the Renaissance were giving way to a more homophonic language enlivened by soloistic flights of fancy. Using the Italian string quartet format, which would eventually lead to the classical string quartet, aand filling out the harmonies with theorbo, harpsichord and/or organ, Alessandrini and his fellow musicians explore music written by travelling Italian composers including Frescobaldi, Torelli, Bononcini, Marini, Zanetti, Merula and Castello. Here are the dances, canzones and fantasias long favoured by Renaissance composers, streamlined and then re-embellished, the resulting sonatas and sinfonias electric with virtuosic passages and sometimes belligerent “conversations” among the instruments. A good example of the latter is Castello’s…

29 February, 2012
CD and Other Review

Review: LOS PARAJOS PERDIDOS (L’Arpeggiata/Christina Pluhar)

For Los párajos perdidos: the South American Project, lutenist, harpist and director of early music band L’Arpeggiata Pluhar takes as her starting point two ideas: that unlike their modern European equivalents, Latin American plucked instruments differ little from their common Baroque ancestors; and that South American dances and songs still exhibit rhythmic and harmonic structures that would have been recognisable to a Baroque musician.  Pluhar thus combines a period ensemble of lutes, harps, guitars, cornett, double bass and percussion with a smaller group comprising instruments still played in Latin America such as the cuatro, charango, arpa llanera and maracas. Her vocalists include classical singers Philippe Jaroussky, Luciana Mancini and Raquel Andueza, as well as Italian folk singer and researcher Lucilla Galeazzi and the extraordinary singer and ballet dancer Vincenzo Capezzuto.  Despite their different performing traditions, all show the same remarkable ability to really loosen up and go with the often sensual, sometimes totally wild rhythms in these traditional and contemporary zambas, golpes, polcas, joropos and boleros from Latin America.  Yes, there’s very little “early music” as such – though there is an arrangement of Soler’s famous Fandago that will really knock your socks off. What you do get is some…

15 December, 2011
CD and Other Review

Review: THE CHRISTMAS STORY (Theatre of Voices; Ars Nova Copenhagen/Hillier)

This new Christmas disc from superb Danish choir Ars Nova Copenhagen and its smaller cousin the Theatre of Voices must surely contain some of the most gorgeous choral singing ever committed to disc. Not only that – by taking the traditional English Nine Lessons and Carols format and adapting it for a continental audience by including chant, motets, dialogues and traditional folk carols, Dorset-born conductor Paul Hillier, who has been resident in Denmark for nearly ten years, creates a “Christmas oratorio” of truly universal and indeed secular appeal. Here are classics known to all – including Veni veni Emmanuel, In dulci Jubilo, We Three Kings and We Wish You a Merry Christmas – some in attractive new arrangements by Hillier – together with lesser-known works and dialogues taken from the early 17th-century Italian oratorio repertoire by Biasio Tomasi, Alessandro Grandi and Giovanni Francesco Anerio.  The narrative structure is further strengthened by the works – all from Italian, German, Danish, English and American sources – being grouped together under headings such as Advent, Annunciation, Nativity and Epiphany. Hillier, himself an accomplished singer, formed the Theatre of Voices in 1990 and has been conducting the Grammy Award-winning chamber choir Ars Nova Copenhagen…

29 November, 2011
CD and Other Review

Review: FANDANGO (guitar: Karin Schaupp; The Flinders Quartet)

It’s fitting that this exciting new release from classical guitarist Karin Schaupp and the Flinders Quartet should end with Australian composer Phillip Houghton’s In Amber. As Houghton writes in his booklet note, “I drew parallels between a fossil ‘frozen/suspended’ in amberstone and the sound frozen/suspended inside the stringed instruments waiting to be brought to life.” One can just as easily talk about music being frozen/suspended inside a score, waiting to be brought to life, as well as living, breathing performances being frozen/suspended inside a shiny CD. Moreover, Houghton’s In Amber – its first movement filled with characterful miniature dances; its second with drones and melodies like “perfumes in a jungle” and its third with a compelling motoric intensity – summarises the whole program’s moods and ideas, bound by the sounds of plucked and bowed strings. Take Máximo Diego Pujol’s Tangata de Agosto (“August Tangata” – the latter word a conflation of “tango” and “sonata”), which recalls Piazzolla in its earthy sophistication; or Boccherini’s Guitar Quintet No 4 Fandango, which fills the Viennese salon with the raucous sounds of guitar and castanets; or the anonymous arrangement of Haydn’s String Quartet No 8 in E for lute (in this case, guitar), violin, viola and cello, which…

23 November, 2011
CD and Other Review

Review: O GUIDING NIGHT: The Spanish Mystics (The Sixteen)

What happens when three very different contemporary composers set the same texts from two of the Catholic Church’s most controversial saints? A striking musical chiaroscuro born in part out of the agony and the ecstasy of profound spiritual experience.  Following on from their disc Padre Pio: Prayer, which contains works by James MacMillan, Roxanna Panufnik and Will Todd (commissioned by The Genesis Foundation), The Sixteen perform settings of texts by St Teresa of Ávila (1515-1582) and St John of the Cross (1542-1591) by contemporary British composers Tarik O’Regan, Roderick Williams and Ruth Byrchmore.  Each composer has set the same two texts: St Teresa’s prayer Nada te turbe (“Let Nothing Trouble You”) and St John’s poem En una noche oscura (“In a Dark Night”). All six works were again commissioned by The Genesis Foundation, a UK-based charity dedicated to helping emerging artists. The other works on the disc were the result of commissions from other organisations.  It’s no surprise that St John’s more sensual poem should elicit more passionate, if not fraught, responses from O’Regan, Byrchmore and Williams – a gifted baritone, who has recorded extensively for Naxos. But St Teresa was and is (in) famous for having experienced episodes of religious ecstasy…

8 November, 2011
CD and Other Review

Review: PALESTRINA: Masses; motets Vol 1 (The Sixteen/Christophers)

Palestrina’s name was synonymous with musical perfection even before his death in 1594, and his reputation as one of the great masters of late-Renaissance, post-Tridentine church polyphony is still as great as it ever was. The Sixteen’s name could equally be said to be synonymous with musical perfection, and the UK choir’s recordings of English, Spanish and Italian Renaissance masterpieces are prized for their combination of passion and precision. This first volume in a projected series dedicated to a selection of Palestrina’s 104 masses and great motet cycle of the biblical Song of Songs takes as its theme the Assumption of the Virgin Mary into heaven. The centrepiece is the Missa Assumpta Est Maria; also included are a selection of shorter works such as the motet on which the mass is based and three of the Song of Songs most closely associated with Marian devotion. The performances are, as one would expect, first-rate, and an antidote to the sometimes bloodless approach to this music by The Tallis Scholars. Palestrina’s music moves swiftly and seamlessly between densely woven yet sharply delineated polyphony and rich homophony; furthermore, each part hovers or trembles, drops in or out, plunges or soars according to the…

8 September, 2011
CD and Other Review

Review: THE GUITAR (Milos Karadaglic)

“The music on this recording reflects my character. It tells the listener who I am,” writes classical guitar sensation Miloš Karadaglic, 27, in the booklet notes to The Guitar, his debut recording for Deutsche Grammophon. Indeed, the album reflects not only Montenegro-born Miloš’s love affair with the sea but the Spanish, Greek, Italian and Turkish origins of the music. Youthful exuberance may be what first springs to mind when listening to the explosive energy of Albéniz’s Asturias, the bustling cheerfulness of the same composer’s Sevilla and the Presto movement of Domeniconi’s Koyunbaba, but there’s also a mature lyricism in those works which invite it, such as Tárrega’s Recuerdos de la Alhambra, Llobet’s El testament de n’Amelia and Granados’s exquisite Oriental. There are also fine accounts of student favourites such as Tárrega’s Lágrima, Adelita and Capricho árabe, as well as delicate renderings of Theodorakis’s Epitáphios Nos 3 and 4. The only misstep is a cheesy beefing-up of the Spanish Romance, with the English Chamber Orchestra providing gratuitous accompaniment to a warhorse that should have been consigned to the knacker’s yard many years ago. Miloš may well be the classical guitar world’s new pin-up boy, but the playing’s the thing. The Guitar is a…