Touring nationally, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, The Presets (Kim Moyes and Julian Hamilton) and a sextet of singers presented a brief history of music at the Adelaide Town Hall show, Timeline, directed by Ignatius Jones. Artistic Director Richard Tognetti led the almost seamless journey through time across continents and cultures, with a fascinating exposition of music and society.
The multi-media extravaganza, sourcing 13.8 billion years of music history, included over 230 compositions, with stock footage, stills, paintings and graphics projected to a giant screen. Beginning before subatomic particles, we witnessed the big bang, and then fast-forwarded to the conceptual creation of music, circa 42,000 years ago. Aptly, during National Reconciliation Week, samples of Mark Atkins’ Didgeridoo and music of the Nyangumarta People reminded us of our country’s storied musical beginnings.
Live on stage, Timothy Constable (Synergy Percussion), metered ancient Chinese and Ghanaian drumming, Paul Cutlan (Australian Art Orchestra) produced extraordinary timbre on the rarely-seen zurna, Hamilton passionately sang the traditional Jewish poem, Piyyut, and soprano Alexandra Oomens channelled an ancient Greek goddess with First Delphic Hymn. Tenor Richard Butler, baritone David Greco and bass-baritone Simon Masterton, outstandingly performed the Gregorian chant, Lux fulgebit with a purity matched only by the stunning kaleidoscope of stained glass visuals.
Soprano Anna Sandström shone with Ave Maria by Josquin des Prez as the screen shot of Michelangelo’s fresco The Creation of Adam gave way to Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man. Composed by King-how-did-he-find-the-time-Henry VIII, the delightful Pastime With Good Company was effortlessly uncomplicated. Callum G’Froerer’s trumpet heraldry in Monteverdi’s Vespro della Beata Virgine set to floating Christ crucified visuals segued wonderfully into John Dowland’s Flow My Tears showcasing mezzo-soprano Lotte Betts-Dean’s superb tone.
The journey through the Classical music period gave the ACO the platform on which to show off, amongst compositions written centuries ago specifically for ensembles not unlike themselves, clearly demonstrating why this chamber orchestra is considered amongst the world’s best.
Articles from the 1789 French Revolution document Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen were projected on the screen as the fifth movement, Cavatina from Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 13 was played precisely as indicated “adagio molto espressivo”.
Erik Satie’s Gymnopédie No 1 was delicately and beautifully handled by Benjamin Martin, as was Debussy’s Prélude by flautist Sally Walker. The proverbial slap in the face that was Jelly Roll Morton’s Turtle Tweet indicated we were turning a musical corner into Gershwin, Elvis Presley, Bartók, Shostakovich, Bob Dylan and Miles Davis amongst others. Importantly some non-playing, care of John Cage also added to the show’s dynamism.
Kurt Weil’s Alabama Song with violinist and vocal soloist Satu Vänskä, and Water Boy by violist Christopher Moore playing a Theremin which he learnt specifically for the Timeline tour, stood out amongst splendid highlights.
The Presets, who amusingly describe their music genre as “schadenfreude”, indicated nothing dark in their phenomenal mixing. Sampling approximately one hundred songs including Joy Division, Beastie Boys, Basement Jaxx, Gwen Stefani, Beyoncé, Madonna, Usher, and The Chemical Brothers resulted in the world’s best mashup.
Finally, the world premiere of Continuum by Hamilton/Moyes/Tognetti was a travelling tale that was inspirational and magnificent. Very cleverly in rondo form, it brought the show back to where it began; in bare darkness.
The screen visuals evoked poignant reminders that humanity is possibly not as clever as we think we are, but the extraordinary Timeline convinced me that Richard Tognetti and The Presets most definitely are.
Reviewed by Gordon Forester
Venue: Adelaide Town Hall
Season: 03 June 2014
Duration: 2 hours
Tickets: $45 – $95