A musical hug

3 July 2020

Local chamber collective Cygnus Arioso lifted Bourby Webster’s spirits with their first post-lockdown performance.

Live Music!, Cygnus Arioso ·
North Perth Town Hall, 28 June 2020 ·

It was with utter joy in my heart that I entered the beautiful North Perth Town Hall for my first live music experience in months. Cygnus Arioso, the brainchild of husband-wife team comprising West Australian Symphony Orchestra violinist Akiko Miyazawa and West Australian composer Lachlan Skipworth, has stayed busy during lockdown, however, for this performance it was a relief to see musicians live in concert.

The program fascinated me: four musicians, four works – from baroque to romantic, one musician increasing piece by piece to four. Miyazawa stepped out alone to commence the concert and she tackled the stunning but mammoth Chaconne by Bach from the floor. From the moment her bow struck (yes, struck!) the string, I was stunned. The sheer power of sound coming from this diminutive violinist was remarkable. Maybe I just haven’t experienced that wonderful feeling of live music vibrating every cell of my body in too long, but I doubt it. This was a musician in control of every note, every phrase and – wow – it seriously reached out and enveloped you. Bach, depending on your preference, can be performed in a myriad of ways and this interpretation was not for the purists, but I loved it. I needed the intense quadruple stopping passages (where all four strings are played at once) and the virtuoso runs to wrap me in the most delicious of musical hugs and, with this pristine performance of sheer power and virtuosity, Miyazawa did just this. The thundering rain, a few minutes in, only added to the wonderful drama.

I needed the intense quadruple stopping passages … and the virtuoso runs to wrap me in the most delicious of musical hugs and, with this pristine performance of sheer power and virtuosity, Miyazawa did just this.

It was going to be a tough call for anything to follow suit, but out came young violist Elliot O’Brien to perform Haydn’s delightful Duo Sonata. As a violist I was amazed I’ve neither heard nor played this gorgeous, fun piece. The ensemble playing here was wonderful – bows moving in complete synchronicity and a lovely blend between the two instruments.

Next out was violinist Kate Sullivan joining the duo for two movements of Dvorak’s Terzetto. Having performed this work recently I can attest to the challenge of adhering to the detailed dynamics that give the work its character, and the second movement will test the intonation of the most experienced of ensembles. Both were made to sound easy as this sublime piece worked a treat in the extremely resonant acoustic of the North Perth Town Hall. Sullivan was a delicate and sensitive addition, and her warm sound ensured this trio never lost its fullness.

Lastly cellist Sophie Curtis joined the ensemble to conclude with a quartet performing the second movement Nocturne from Borodin’s string quartet No. 2. This piece opens with the most glorious cello solo that showcased Curtis’s sonorous playing. Slightly slower than I’d expect, any faster and the detail would have been lost in the reverberant acoustic.

The quartet stayed in place for an encore – the first movement of Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nacht Musik (possibly the most famous string quartet ever written) with several famous Irish, Scottish and English folk music pieces replacing key passages, making this a fun, uplifting way to end the concert.

Miyazawa noted in her commentary between pieces “the biggest part of live music is that it’s not the same in an empty hall”. I left not just with joy in my heart but a genuine smile on my face from being privileged to hear these gifted WA musicians do what they do best. I am looking forward to the next one, this time with no gaps among the seats, ensuring Cygnus Arioso has the audience they deserve.

Pictured top are Cygnus Arioso, L-R: Akiko Miyazawa, Kate Sullivan, Elliot O’Brien and Sophie Curtis. Photo: Lachlan Skipworth

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Author —
Bourby Webster

Bourby Webster is the Founder and CEO of Perth Symphony Orchestra one of WA’s newest and fastest growing arts companies. She is a graduate of Oxford University in Music and the Royal College of Music and is a professional violist, lecturer, presenter, and producer. She can’t even look at a playground as she suffers chronic motion sickness.

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