beyond easy

keith gallasch: david chesworth ensemble in sydney

THE DAVID CHESWORTH ENSEMBLE’S DISTINCTIVE SOUND WAS HEARD RECENTLY IN ONE OF ITS RARE SYDNEY OUTINGS. THE GROUP PLAYED COMPOSITIONS FROM CHESWORTH’S MUSIC TO SEE THROUGH (AVAILABLE ON CD, WWW.MINC.COM.AU) WHICH RECEIVED THREE NOMINATIONS FOR INSTRUMENTAL WORK OF THE YEAR AT THE CLASSICAL MUSIC AWARDS AND OPENED AT THE SYDNEY CONSERVATORIUM WITH ONE OF THE WORK’S MOST ENGAGING PIECES, THE SET THEORY-INSPIRED PANOPTICON.

Panopticon’s gentle pulse of thrust and relax, ascent and float, established the character of the concert—semi-meditative, lyrical and with a sense of time that allows for attention to instrumental texturings and juxtapositions. But there were plenty of exceptions. Such apparently simple music (Chesworth in his introduction spoke of it as “laidback, kind of easy listening”) certainly keeps the musicians busy—a virtue of seeing the work in concert and getting that little extra aural insight into its construction. The breaks in the patterning in such works, a kind of suspension, has quite an impact, with passages from violin or cello or any of the instruments followed by a return deep into the primary pattern (which has stayed gently vibrating in our bodies).

But not everything’s meditative; ensuing pieces variously march or dance out of the frame and suggest movie suspense or grand macabre moments. Floating World, rising out of a supple piano ostinato picked up by the violin is sad in a curiously sunny way (a definition of melancholy?), soaring before returning to the piano. Perpetual Presence opens dramatically with drums and vibraphone, moving on to trombone growls and string glides and then into something almost cartoony, almost jazz and in a mad rush. Blind Forever is jauntily folk-ish, awash with liquid sounds this time. A Chesworth composition from 25 years ago, Shady Elements, recalls French movie scores and is aptly charming, ever flying.

For a complete change of pace a very dynamic, side drum driven Heaps with warbling trombone and tinkling piano, escalates into mad big band sound. Bongo had Chesworth on whistle and ocarina and FX as this movie music-ish piece launched into a trombone led riff against chugging strings and onto another powerful surge into a sound that suggested a far larger ensemble. In a less formal venue we might have danced.

The top line players were all in fine form and the concert’s trajectory from measured emotional intensity to skilfully excecuted, brash playfulness made for a satisfying experience, superficially ‘easy’ but always diverting in the details and often surprising in the many departures from the composer’s fundamental idiom.

New Music Network, David Chesworth Ensemble, electronics David Chesworth, piano John McAll, violin Andrea Keeble, cello Helen Mountfort, percussion Eugene Ughetti, percussion Peter Neville, trombone Simon Myers, bass Jeremy Alsop; Sydney Conservatorium of Music, Sept 14

RealTime issue #87 Oct-Nov 2008 pg. 47

© Keith Gallasch; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

1 October 2008
Close

Join our e-dition list

Sign up for free online e-ditions offering occasional reviews and commentary and curated selections from and response to the RealTime archive 1994-2017.