First-class performances from Sydney Conservatorium violin and piano duo for IRMT

Institute of Registered Music Teachers

Lilburn: Sonata for violin and piano (1950)
Franck: Sonata for violin and piano in A
Ravel: Tzigane

Goetz Richter (violin), Jeanell Carrigan (piano), from Sydney Conservatorium of Music

St. Andrew’s on The Terrace

Wednesday, 15 April 2015, 12.15pm

These two performers are currently giving master classes in various New Zealand cities, under the auspices of the IRMT; their Wellington master class with ensembles made up of students from the New Zealand School of Music at Victoria University followed the recital.  This may have accounted in part for the excellent attendance.

If Richter and Carrigan are anything to go by, students at the Sydney Conservatorium have the advantage of first-class performers as their teachers.  No biographical notes were given in the printed programme, which was a pity.

The programme comprised one sonata (Lilburn’s) with which I was not familiar, another sonata which I think borders on the ‘warhorse’ description, plus a shorter work that is also close to that category. There are so many sonatas by the great composers that we don’t hear regularly.

Excellent programme notes by Dianne James of the Auckland Branch of IRMT enhanced the
understanding and enjoyment of the works considerably.  Well-written and insightful, they were a
model of their genre.

It was interesting to note that Lilburn wrote his sonata for Ruth Pearl and Frederick Page – two of the most prominent names in music-making in Wellington in the 1950s and 1960s.   The five sections of
the sonata (molto moderato – allegro – tempo primo, largamente – allegro – tempo primo, tranquillamente) were played continuously, as conceived.  The variety of tempi, themes, tessitura and rhythms made this a most enjoyable work.

A very strong attack on the sombre opening was striking, and the whole piece was beautifully played.  I find a lot of similarity in much of Lilburn’s music, especially in rhythmic motifs, but this work did not share that trait, and its range was much greater than that of some of his music.  This was an authoritative and accomplished performance of fine music.

César Franck’s sonata received a splendid interpretation.  A description in the programme notes read ‘Clear evidence of this improvisatory style can be heard in most of Franck’s late works, where much of a work’s thematic material can be traced from germinal ideas present in the opening bars.’  Therein lies its problem for me.  The incessant repetition of the opening motif throughout the four lengthy movements (allegretto ben moderato – allegro – recitative-fantasia: ben moderato – molto lento – allegretto poco mosso) I find tedious, even though the modulations and variations are beautiful in themselves.

‘Succinct’ is not a word to apply to Franck.  Certainly the character of the sonata varies enormously with each movement, and I have to admit that in the hands of Richter and Carrigan, new delights appeared.  The music was played with supreme mastery and subtlety by both performers, with considerable technical difficulties to deal with, particularly in the final movement.

Ravel described his piece as ‘a virtuoso showpiece’, and thus this oft-played piece was, in the hands of Goetz Richter, and later those of Jeanell Carrigan.  Richter gave it more of a gypsy sound and feel than I’ve heard others do.  Exciting music it certainly is.

We heard two very able and experienced musicians, and though the programme was not completely to my taste, I came away knowing I had heard good music well played.


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