Four months after they relaunched Perth’s live classical music scene under stage-four restrictions, Cygnus Arioso string ensemble closed off the Cappuccino Concerts series at The Grove library on Sunday.
And Cygnus Arioso co-founder Lachlan Skipworth was named the first beneficiary of Cappucino Concerts’ Legacy Fund to support new Australian classical music composition.
The matinee started with a Joke — Haydn’s String Quartet in E flat major “The Joke”.
But the laugh it wasn’t in the elegant simplicity of the opening Allegro moderato, stately tones ringing out across the busy library with capacity restrictions relaxed since the season began.
It wasn’t in the Scherzo despite its name, nor the Largo with its touch of cool ardour in Akiko Miyazawa’s lead violin.
Patience pays in the quest, with the Finale, Presto injecting a sudden change of pace; rising then pausing. And again. And again. And back in broken phrases to the opening theme.
Haydn wanted to bet that audiences would start talking. Instead we applauded, and the players launched the last reprise — the “gotcha” moment.
Koussevitsky’s very Russian Concerto for Double Bass in E minor followed, John Keene joining the group with immediate visual and audio effect.
Sudden dramatic tones of the Allegro opening were answered by a solemn and sonorous cadenza, progressing to a folkloric reworking of the theme in solo, echoed by the quartet.
Up-close the sheer size of the instrument seemed to recalibrate scale, yet its warm reverb proved as nimble as the accompaniment, rhythmic and brisk.
A more meditative Andante movement featured expansive gestures in the left hand to swell the theme, flowing into duet with violin swapping phrases, the booming voice of the bass in the lead before fading out on a harmonic.
The Allegro finale reprised the opening theme and cadenza, with a tango-like accompaniment.
Lines ebbed and flowed between bass and violin before a virtuoso break in the solo, rolling back to violin dialogue and an ensemble climax.
After the interval, deep pedal-like notes in the bass summoned a whimsical melody shared across the ensemble for Dvorak’s String Quintet in G major, another piece reminiscent of a composer’s homeland.
Muscular playing gained extra traction through the medium of the bass, with Sophie Curtis’ cello resonating the rich energy, softening then lifting again, lead violin and cello in constant conversation. Kate Sullivan on second and Elliot O’Brien’s viola joined the dialogue, building vigorously to the climax and cadence.
Folkloric flourishes in the Scherzo rolled into dramatic dance figures, morphing to Allegro vivace — more reflective in the last glimpse of afternoon sun — then returning to Scherzo.
Voices entwined sweetly for the Poco andante in the way only the most homogeneous collective can, swirling like a gentle breeze.
When lead violin cut through in a sweeping lament it opened up the palette, each voice asserting its own timbre. A stirring cello solo thrown to the violins in turn closed the soundscape again, meandering towards a gentle conclusion.
A sudden reawakening in pastoral mode for the Finale, Allegro assai brought a sense of pressing purpose in tone and rhythm. Rondo figures flitted around the ensemble, especially between violin and cello, the final run bursting with energy in every part.
Lachlan Skipworth’s nomination as the first Legacy Fund beneficiary opened an appeal for $20,000, with gifts made tax deductible through the aegis of the Australian Cultural Fund.
Skipworth’s world premiere the previous weekend, Sonata 2020 for flute and piano, was a compelling composition which bodes well for this initiative.
More details from Rob Cowell or Irina Vasilieva on 0415 993 433, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Miyazawa thanked the hosts for “a place to come home with musicians who trust each other, and serious music making, and having people like you to perform for.”
Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride followed as encore — so much more than a Christmas song, and another sign of changing seasons.