The Visionaries - Ballet Mécanique • Glam Adelaide

The Visionaries – Ballet Mécanique

The Festival has quickly grown in stature, becoming an important part of the annual music scene in Adelaide, this year going to air nationally on ABC Classic FM.


Visionaries Soundstream FestivalPresented by Soundstream: Adelaide New Music Festival
Reviewed Thurs 26th August 2010

Venue: Studio 520, ABC, Collinswood
Season: to Sat 25th July various days and times, see the BASS web site for details
Duration: 1hr 30min incl interval
Tickets: A Reserve: Full $55/Conc $45/Under 30s $30/Children $15; B Reserve: Full $45/Conc $35/Under 30s $30/Children $15
Bookings: BASS 131 241 or

This was the opening concert in a series of four in this, the third year of the Soundstream Festival. Created in 2008 by pianist, Gabriella Smart, the Festival has quickly grown in stature, becoming an important part of the annual music scene in Adelaide, this year going to air nationally on ABC Classic FM.

There was a strong theatrical element in evidence, as Geoff Cobham had been called in to light this concert and a smoke machine misted the auditorium. This was all new to Auntie and certainly fascinated the ABC presenters, Julie Howard and Julian Day. For the first piece, a blue wash covered the main wall and a simple ‘visualisation’, akin to those found in the various computer sound players, followed the music.

The stage was set up with four pianos, spreading out, tail to tail down stage centre, surrounded upstage by a vast array of percussion instruments, with timpani, tam-tam, gong, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, rain stick, crotales, bongoes, cymbals, an array of assorted drums and more.

Artistic Director, Gabriella Smart, with Anna Goldsworthy, Deborah Ng and Jonathan Heng opened the concert with Russian composer, Rodion Schedrin’s Hommage à Chopin (2005), a work for four pianos. Beginning and ending with thematic material from Chopin’s Prelude No. 20 in C minor, Op. 28, which was the basis for a set of complex variations, it also included other familiar melodic fragments from his other works. The performance made good use of the spatial separation of sound provided by the multiple pianos, with strong chords roving around the playing area and intricate combinations setting up a feeling of movement. This was a fine start to this concert and the four pianists exhibited good ensemble balance as well as solo virtuosity.

Then it was the turn of the Vortex Ensemble, six percussionists led by Andrew Wiering, playing his composition, Vortex (2006). With Wiering were Nick Parnell, Ryan Simm, Paul Bachmann, Ryan Harrison and Edwin Hearn-Suttelle. Wiering’s powerhouse piece built and built in intensity and complexity.

Closing the first half of the programme was Gabriella Smart playing the third movement from Howard Bashaw’s Minimalisms 11 (2005), a solo piano work. This was a marked contrast to the previous work, as introspective as the other had been expansive. Smart gave a sensitive performance of this technically demanding piece.

The second half opened with Sidonie Henbest, accompanied by percussionists Andrew Wiering and Nick Parnell, with Australian composer Katia Tiutiunnik’s To The Enemy (2005), a setting of a poem by Eva Salzman. Henbest is well-known around town for her marvellous cabaret and blues performances so it was a rare treat to see her in such a different setting.

Finally, we reached the main work of the evening, George Antheil’s (1900-1959) Ballet Mécanique (1926/1952-3) for the entire ensemble, with an animated and energetic Roland Peelman conducting. The original scoring, from 1926, was for eight pianos, twelve player pianos, large forces of percussion and even included the sound of an aircraft propeller. It was written to accompany a Dadaist film, but proved impossible to synchronise. He revised the score in 1952-3 for a smaller ensemble, and that is what we heard this evening, although with the aircraft sounds and sirens provided electronically. Thunderous applause followed with the audience swept away by the many varying time signatures and dynamic contrasts in this groundbreaking work.

It was clear to see that this had been an extremely successful start to the concert series. There are three more concerts to come, but book quickly:

THE SPECTRALISTS – 13 colours. Friday 27 august 2010 8:30pm
THE REBELS – Brian Ritchie Trio. Saturday 28 august 2010 7:30pm
THE LARRIKINS – different, unusual, noice? Saturday 28 august 10:00pm

Reviewed by Barry Lenny, Arts Editor Glam Adelaide.

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