As we wait patiently, and with mixed emotions, for lockdown in Victoria to end, we want to celebrate live music and feel the promise and hope that springtime can bring musical fresh fruit and sunshine into our lives. The recommencement of Melbourne Digital Concert Hall’s live-streaming from its home city lifted our spirits greatly after a 57-day period of closed venues and silent stages in a wintry wilderness. Marking the return of live music into the Athenaeum Theatre, this concert celebrated the extraordinary milestone of being the 400th MDCH event. The well-loved energetic and passionate Duo Curro Cassomenos, wearing many talented hats as lustrous performers, composers, festival directors and promoters of Australian contemporary music, certainly brought us the joys of Spring with exciting and relevant new music.
A prolific orchestral composer, Sydney based Jessica Wells provided a refreshing and colourful opening. Sati and Satya: two Movements for Violin and Piano was a thought-provoking and spiritually restorative work. Repeated high rippling patterns and delicate lines brought a sense of light impressionism and a French air to our souls. Sati – in the composer’s words, “refers to mindfulness in the Buddhist sense” and is “pretty and peaceful, contemplative and gentle in mood.” Emotions surged as violin melodies and increased energy came from both instruments, with trills and tremolos aptly reflecting our own recent times of negativity and impatience. A return to the calm and rippling textures of the opening bars restored introspection and content. The piece was delightful – I wanted more – played with sensitivity, clarity and mindfulness.
Satya – Sanskrit for truth, showed a more dissonant, darker mood. A significant opening theme, a single repeated piano note in thoughtful free time, allowed the violin of Curro to freely and sensitively weave through the spaces. So small, so colourful and important, the reappearing minimal phrase was an intriguing link. The contemplative mood first established by the piano preceded fascinating and expressive violin themes where more aggressive motives ranged from wistful sighs expressed in pitch bending and short downward glissandos, to sweetness and sunshine. The Duo responded lustily to the demands for passionate interplay in accelerated conversation leading to the closing fragments of the gentle opening piano tones.
Cassomenos proudly introduced his composition – Sonata No 2 for Violin and Piano – as a continuous six movement work, commissioned as a response to the text: “Across land and sea, the ship of my life has brought me safely to this shore.” A true odyssey, this work described a powerful and scintillating lengthy journey with much colour and contrasts with the piano exploiting lower depths of surging ocean tides and sparkling rippling waters as the violin frequently sustained rich melodic vocal lines and intensely long pitches at celestial heights. Quite buoyant and optimistic, a delightful galloping rhythmic passage reappeared joyfully as a contrast to the many intense and extreme heights of pitch and mountainous activity. Passionate final bars magnified the brilliant musical partnership, enthusiasm, dedication and the commitment of these musicians to Australian music at its best.
For MDCH this was not only a celebration of their 400th concert since March 2020, but also signalled a partnership with the Port Fairy Spring Music Festival, whose unique music event has been – like many boats who sailed there –grounded, but not sunk. Curro and Cassomenos, the present Directors of this unique Music Festival, carefully curated the essential flavours of this program in the spirit of the Port Fairy Festival. Always held on the second weekend of October – the height of springtime – MDCH will also stream a piano recital by Stephen McIntyre on the anniversary date of Saturday October 13. As a past Artistic Director and regular performer at the Festival, the connection is complete.
Julie McErlain reviewed “Duo Curro Cassomenos – Mantra”, live-streamed via Melbourne Digital Concert Hall from the Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne, on September 29, 2021.