Home Latest News Apcar's Holland (Canberra Sinfonia) - CXCnews

Apcar’s Holland (Canberra Sinfonia) – CXCnews

Established in 2019, the Canberra Sinfonia began as a joint venture with the Wesley Music Centre. Led by artistic director and conductor Leonard Weiss, the repertoire focuses on early classical and late baroque works. But in this concert, titled Apcar’s HollandThe Sinfonia ventured into the musical realm of the 2nd and 21st century with two world premieres and an Australian premiere in a program featuring music by the Chinese-American composer Bobby Ge and the Australian composers Dulcie Holland and Christopher Gordon.

Canberra Sinfonia with Ronan Apcar on piano, Apcar’s Holland, 2022. Photo © Peter Hislop.

The concert started with Ge’s The light that breaks through for piano and strings, which seems to capture the way sunlight filters through intersecting branches. It came to the composer during one of his forest walks. The title is somewhat at odds with the music, which is full of tension and mystery, but the way the composer has interpreted the essence of the breaking sunlight is an emotional and powerful achievement.

With Ronan Apcar on piano and 10 strings, the piece starts with a few thin notes on the piano. As the strings come in, it starts to take shape. Its form wanders around a musical center that phases in and out, as the title suggests. The playing of Apcar and the strings was clear, profound and moving. This mysterious, swelling, tonal composition pushes the boundaries of emotional music. Cascading walks on the piano and melts into one thick fortissimo sound. It breaks into a light chorus on the piano as harmonics flutter on the strings, then becomes melancholic, sadder and decidedly sweet. There is an overall warmth and complexity to this music. It rushes at a listener; it glows.

Apcar is tuned to contemporary music. His expression and ease with new music make him the perfect soloist for this concert. Under the direction of Weiss, the game was executed with precision.

Christopher Gordon’s Music from the 2020 Movie June weather, is just as wonderful and sad as the movie it comes from. Weiss was so impressed with the score that he asked Gordon to arrange it for the concert stage. This was the world premiere of the concert.

Performed in two movements – Second chance and cathartic – for piano, strings and harp, this music warms the heart. The moving style reflects the joy and poignancy experienced by the film’s main character, June, in her momentary lucid moments during a break from dementia.

Gordon’s music won Best Feature Score at the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards 2021. His tender style tells a heartfelt story. Thick luscious chords under a soaring harp melody and a soaring violin, beautifully performed by concertmaster Helena Popovic, while the piano leaps with joy and life, are just some of the hallmarks of this film score. The performance was equally delightful. This small group created a full, warm sound that was beyond their number.

Dulcie Holland’s Piano Concertino has never been performed. Written in 1983, it’s a crime we’ve never heard of until now. It is also a crime that most of the Dutch music has never been published. Holland, written for strings and piano, dedicated this concertino to Selma Epstein, the American concert pianist who championed contemporary music by women and African-American composers.

Apcar, specialized in contemporary compositions, loves Dutch music. “I just get it. Dutch style, her harmonic language, it fits what I understand and like about music,” says Apcar, who released a Dulcie Holland recording in 2021 that is free on streaming services.

Dutch music sounds fresh, lively with a distinctly personal language. It is searching music with moments of great piano work. It has a full sound, its tonal and harmonic qualities are tuned to the music of the 20th century.

Apcar can make most music look effortless. His laid-back style is a tribute to someone so young, and playing unperformed and unknown music with authority, passion and calmness in his body shows a talent far beyond his age.

The slow movement was brought to life expressively as James Monro and Gabriel Frømyhr came in on their cellos with the piano seated below. It is not a sad, slow movement, but one with depth and breadth. It continues to search but never reaches a place that indicates its intention. The solo part for piano adds to that penetrating, mysterious statement.

The fast third movement brings the dynamism and complexity to a crescendo, with a tumultuous, invigorating combination of growling piano and highly rhythmic strings springing up in a listener’s final moments.

You wonder why incredible music like this has been hidden for so long. We need to hear more about it. And Canberra deserves a decent mid-sized music space to perform beautiful Australian compositions like this, but when is that going to happen?

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