Saturday, May 14, 2016


Musical director: Rowan Harvey-Martin
Holy Covenant Anglican Church, Cook
Saturday 14 May 2016

Review by Len Power

A concert by local Canberra orchestra, Musica Da Camera, is always something to look forward to.  These talented musicians can be relied upon to produce a program of interesting and varied music by a wide variety of composers.  Each concert has a different musical director which provides a range of repertoire and performance styles.

In her introduction to the concert, musical director, Rowan Harvey-Martin, stated that, when preparing the program, she started out with a theme but, due to the choices that were finally made, the theme fell by the wayside.  With the rich variety of works by Hubert Parry, Nikos Skalkottas, Ottorino Respighi and Ernest Bloch that made up the concert, who cared about a theme?

First up was ‘An English Suite For String Orchestra’ by Hubert Parry who died in 1918.  The work was completed by Emily Daymond and published posthumously in 1921.  The orchestra played the seven greatly contrasting movements very well, bringing out a nice warmth in the Prelude, a good rustic sense in the Pastoral and played the Air movement with a delicacy that was quite moving.  The Saraband movement was the standout with its passion and emotion beautifully realized.

‘Five Greek Dances’ by Nikos Skalkottas was an excellent choice with its driving rhythms and appealing folk themes.  The music doesn’t go where you think it’s going which makes it very exciting and enjoyable.  The final dance, ‘Arkadikos’, was a rousing, fiery and dramatic finale played with great energy and precision by the orchestra.

The second half of the concert began with Respighi’s ‘Ancient Airs and Dances Suite III’, a reflective and wistful work in four movements composed in 1932.  After the passion of the Greek dances, this work showed the orchestra's ability to play in a more restrained manner contrasting with passages of high emotion. 

The final work presented was Ernest Bloch’s ‘Concerto Grosso No. 1 for Strings With Piano Obbligato’.  Written in 1925, emotive Jewish themes are prominent in this work and it ranges from dramatic passages through delicate, moving sections and finishing with a rousing Fugue.  The orchestra responded to the challenges in this work very well and especially notable was the fine piano playing by Laura Tough.

Rowan Harvey-Martin and the orchestra provided an excellent afternoon of greatly varied and entertaining music.  I look forward to their next concert in August.

Note: A second performance of this concert can be heard at St. Paul's Anglican Church, Commissioner Street, Cooma on Sunday 15 May at 2.30pm.

Len Power’s reviews can also be heard on Artsound 92.7 FM’s ‘Artcetera’ program on Saturdays from 9am.