Chopin Sonatas: Duo and Solo

Daniel Herscovitch (piano); Elizabeth Neville (cello)

Wirr 048

Shopin Sonatas webProducing a disc of Chopin music is perhaps a radical departure for Wirripang, which unashamedly promotes Australian composition, but it is a very worthwhile departure.

Capturing the remarkable pianistic skills of Daniel Herscovitch in two Piano Sonatas (Op 35 No 2 and Op 58 No 3), as well as his ensemble playing with British-born cellist Elizabeth Neville in the rarely heard Cello and Piano Sonata (Op 65) was a welcome addition to the catalogue. This alone, fills an immense gap in the recording world.

Recorded at the Sydney Conservatorium, where Herscovitch is a lecturer in Piano, the sound is clean and exquisite. The Cello Sonata was totally captivating for its construction and interplay between two demanding parts.

Too often Chopin is considered to be a composer of piano compositions alone, but as Herscovitch cites in his well-written notes, “British pianist and writer Paul Hamburger surmised that he (Chopin) would have undertaken more large-scale chamber music works. One inevitably speculates what Chopin’s further development would have been had he been granted more time”.

As well, the B flat minor Piano Sonata suffered from not being amongst many of the recordings available today. Even the great Arrau and Richter chose never to record this work.

Along with the B flat minor Piano Sonata is the well-known B minor Sonata, both given the dramatic, anxious, sensitive and reflective qualities required for their contrasting sections and moods.

If this recording is anything to go by, there should be more interest and hopefully more performances now of these great works from those who genuinely love the music of Chopin.

Kaleidoscope – in verse, by Patrick Thomas (Wirripang 2011) ISBN 978-1-876829-24-7

Patrick Thomas MBE has been a conductor of international repute, but many do not know him as a writer. Several books have been authored by this great maestro showing an intellect of great capacity and a spirit of true imagination.

In this publication, Thomas reveals himself as a consumate poet with 71 poems ranging on subjects from the everyday to those with more profundity. He is enamoured by the world around us, seen in poems about flora and fauna, and further, makes comment on the sustainability of the Earth with its ever-expanding population.

Some poems have even been set to music, such as “Centaur” – an Australian hospital ship which was sunk by the Japanese in 1943 killing 268 people.

Many are imbued with thoughts of great depth about life (Reverie, Mortality, A Garden’s Never Finished, Bernie Banton – An Epitaph) whilst others have comic twists (The Local Butcher).

There are poems about Brisbane and his early life (Childhood Retrospective, Brisbane Trams, My Father’s Workshop, Towser) as well as other places. This poet’s strong fascination for flowers (Australia’s Floral Symphony, A World in One Country, English Wild Flowers, Nature’s Garden, and Transvaal’s Floral Carpet), as well as birds and dogs, has produced work of very pleasurable reading, filled with metaphor and at times luscious vocabulary and turns of phrase.

Behind the Scenes: A Conductor’s Anecdotes (Part 1), and A Visit to Russia – 1990 (Part 2), by Patrick Thomas MBE (Wirripang, 2011) ISBN 978-1-876829-25-4

The author, known to many as one of Australia’s finest conductors, can really tell a story, not only through music-making with orchestras on a stage, but in written form.

This book is in two parts: the first comprising the bulk of the book with recollections of his life and career dating back to the mid-1940s in Brisbane amidst war-time.  Thomas writes that the book of recollections is “unashamedly anecdotal and includes career experiences, stories of people who influenced me, backstage dramas, the perils of travel, and a range of incidents which occurred along the way.”

He reveals how as a young boy of 10 or 11, he was cpativated by music; a passion which would shape his whole life to come. How did this young Brisbane boy become a world recognised conductor? This account is full of stories which show a rich life, filled with extraordinary and contrasted episodes. There are moments of spectacular grandeur juxtaposed with the simplicity of concerts in the Australian outback, from monumental concerts with international orchestras through to humble childrens’ concerts.

Broken into small, very readable sections with titles like “ Mini Scores, Page Turns and Panic Attacks” and “ Christianity, Chalis and Cricket”, to “Conductros Rarely Win”, Patrick Thomas has had an amazing life, filled to the brim with events, people and music of such diversity. He expresses all this in this short addictive collection of stories in a way which is heart-felt, intimate and generous.

The second part of the book is an engaging diary account a a trip taken with pianist Geoofrey Tozer between 14-25 January in 1990 to Gorbachov’s Russia. At first this trip sounds like a disaster with poor air travel, hotel accommodation and not so pleasant food. There is sufficient detail as one might expect in a diary, from what one ate, heard in rehearsal, non-functioning bathrooms right through to the exchange of gifts. The contrasts were made well though between the first place visited, Voronezh and the second, Moscow.

There were comments also about the music performed the orchestras themselves and the success of the concerts, but it was the human glimpses of this great conductor as he went through his daily life in a foreign country that were illuminating.