Saturday, August 8, 2015


Conducted by Michael Sollis
Greg Stenning (trumpet)
Kiri Sollis, Rena Li, Sian Jackson and Shannon Nutt (flutes)
Holy Covenant Anglican Church, Cook 8 August 2015
St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Cooma 9 August 2015

Review by Len Power 8 August 2015

In the second of their three concerts this year, the Musica da Camera String Orchestra presented an outstanding concert of works by modern American composers, one by an Egyptian composer and 'a taste of the baroque'.  It was confidently conducted by Michael Sollis, who gave interesting background information about each work prior to the orchestra playing it.

This concert also had Greg Stenning, trumpeter and Director of Music Performance at St. Edmunds College and Kiri Sollis, flautist, with three of her students – Rena Li, Sian Jackson and Shannon Nutt.

Written in 1948, George Antheil’s Serenade for string orchestra was a good choice to start the concert.  The two rousing movements bookended a beautiful adagio that, while melodic, had an underlying eerie tension reminiscent of the film music of Bernard Herrmann.

The touch of baroque in the concert was from Heinrich von Biber with the fourth in a series of twelve ‘Sonatas suitable for altar or court’, published in 1676.  This was grand and glorious music with Greg Stenning’s marvellous trumpet playing sailing above the orchestra.

According to the program, Egyptian composer, Halim El-Dabh, is probably the best known composer of Arabic descent.  His short work, Aria for Strings, composed in 1949, was played with great sensitivity, bringing out the melancholy emotion of the work.

Charles Ives’ music can polarize people but his ‘The Unanswered Question’, written in 1906 and revised in 1934, is quite accessible and fascinating.  The combination of the trumpet and the flutes with the orchestra in this piece is unforgettable, creating a haunting soundscape.  It sounds difficult to play but they made it seem effortless.

The concert concluded with another work by an American, Eric Ewazen.  His Concerto For Trumpet and Strings, written in 1990, blazes with colour and the atmosphere of the rolling American countryside.  It brought back memories of film music written for movie Westerns.  The single trumpet part produced a solitary, lonely feeling and was played expertly by Greg Stenning.

The Musica da Camera String Orchestra chooses often unfamiliar works to perform but these works are accessible and enjoyable.  This was another fine concert.

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast in the ‘Artcetera’ program on Artsound FM 92.7 on Saturdays from 9am.