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Contra Schubert

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Close your eyes and be transported

Spoiler alert this is going to be an enthusiastically appreciative review even though your aged reviewer had approached the idea of several Sculthorpe items with "modified rapture".

Holy Trinity Hall is a simple yet elegant venue, showing its heritage as a former church and it was ideal to showcase the subtleties of tone and range of piano and flute. It was also helpful to have comprehensive program notes, which perhaps made the lengthy verbal introductions a little more than we needed. But their pleasant and erudite manner made the embarrassment of riches no great hardship.

The opening Schubert's Introduction and variations on "Trockne Blumen" fitted the acoustically excellent surroundings well. This was a challenging piece for both instruments, as variation after variation offered different textures and emotions. Always engaging, Jonathon Henderson displayed seemingly effortless virtuosity ably supported by Vatche Jambazian. An impressive and moving opening choice.

Sculthorpe's "Mountains for Solo Piano" changed the mood somewhat dark, meditative and haunting. But also magical. Many of the audience were listening with closed eyes, being taken to secret spaces. And the rapturous applause at the end of the performance suggested that they appreciated where it had taken them.

Shakira Ringdahl has an undoubted stage presence and one of the most beautiful mezzo soprano voices I have heard in a very long time. Shakira's magnificent technique meant that she shone when almost whispering and when opening up into powerful operatic volume. Enhanced by the wonderful and intimate acoustic Ravel's two Hebrew melodies were highlights of the evening particularly the sublime Kaddish, sung in a style that made one think of a cantor and of the Middle East. Just wonderful.

Voice cello and piano worked well together in "The Stars Turn" evoking sounds of the sea and of wind and with a stunning cello and piano interlude.

"Night pieces", also by Sculthorpe, showcased Jambazian's delicacy and precision as he wove webs of wonder around the themes of night.

The closing choice involved all three musicians, beginning with a delicate song celebrating the sweet pain of love. It began with a delicate cello introduction in which Hyung Suk Bae achieved a beauty of tone which brought us to that "good silence" as cello and audience became one and nothing else mattered.

The next and last piece began with a startling and passionate opening from piano and voice.

"Beware of white men"

While not written with Australia and our less than creditable treatment of First Nation peoples in mind, the parallels were hard to escape. A song both of tragedy and hope it gave us a powerful passionate ending to a memorable evening.

Three excellent musicians. A challenging choice of music. And the hope that we will hear more from all three.

Contra Schubert

Presented by Contra Concerts in association with Southern Cross Soloists

Musicians: Shikara Ringdahl, Jonathan Henderson, Hyung Suk Bae, Vatche Jambazian
Holy Trinity Hall, Fortitude Valley, Brisbane

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Why? Superb musicianship, delightful venue
When: 7th October
Where: Hol.y Trinity, Fortitude Valley
Cost: $90 - $110
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