Townsville Civic Theatre
7.30pm 28 July 2015
Review by Katy Frewen-Lord, Townsville
The Open Instrumental Finals Concert gave Townsville a chance to hear some of Australia’s finest up-and-coming musicians. Adjudicator Carl Pini had his work cut out for him, given that the standard of this year’s entrants were very high.
Hailing from Melbourne, Cellist Jo Dee Yeoh opened the night with Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor. Immediately, Yeoh proved herself to have complete control over the character and strength of her sound. The second movement provided an opportunity for Yeoh to bewitch the audience with her beautiful, lush low notes and song like phrasing. The third and final movement erased any doubt that the audience could possibly have about Yeoh’s technical prowess, as her fingers flew across all four strings with precision and vigour.
Josephine Chung of Sydney performed Shostakovich’s first Violin Concerto. The instant Chung began playing, she moved as one with the instrument. Her expression exuded far beyond the stage. Chung played remarkably controlled passages of high notes that were executed as delicate whispers, not a hint of shrillness to the tone. The Scherzo that followed was given with fiendish vigour. It was impossible to believe that such a sound was coming from a 16 year old! Precision was never compromised despite the brisk tempo. The Passacaglia allowed Chung to exhibit a more introspective mood with tormented and soulful cries rising from her violin. Following the passacaglia was a simply divine cadenza. Beginning very humbly and taking a long time to build, it was worth the wait as Chung delivered all the anticipated drama and virtuosity. The final movement was the triumphant passage through to the unmistakeable final cadence. There was a breathless pause from the audience followed by an eruption of applause.
There was a guest performance by Andrew Fong as winner of the “2015 Most Outstanding Musician From North Queensland”. He performed a Clarinet Concerto by Francaix. The lively piece was played in a cheeky manner with the smiling performer obviously enjoying himself. The work also allowed Fong to show control in more subdued and emotive passages, but the highlight was the almost cartoonish characters Fong was able to conjure up through his solid technique and confident tone.
The final performer for the evening was Melbourne pianist Arthur Athan. The stage had been filled with an abundance of sound already during the concert but when Athan played the opening chords of Tchaikovsky’s 1st Piano Concerto, it was obvious that the amount of sound able to be produced by a piano is on a completely different playing field to the single line instruments. The rendition was not just faultless, but spellbinding. Athan was literally bouncing out of his seat due to the amount of energy he was giving. There was a time in the third movement when Athan’s hands were moving so fast that it looked like they weren’t moving at all.
At the conclusion of the performances, Arthur Athan was named winner of the Open Instrumental Section, as well as being the recipient of the “Audience Choice” award. Josephine Chung received second place and third place went to Jo Dee Yeoh. All three finalists displayed such great technique and musicality that the evening was a high calibre concert in its own right.