CUMS Concerto Competition

Mid-term virtuosity reminds JOHN CLAPHAM why it’s all worth it.

andrew goldman anne denholm concerto competition cums Debussy john clapham joy lisney patrick milne premiere rhapsodie Prokofiev Ravel Shostakovich

West Road Concert Hall, Tuesday 14th February, 1.10pm, Free (Donations to CUMS)


This was the sort of concert that reminds you, half way through the academic year, why it’s all worth it.

Being able to stroll into the fantastic West Road Concert Hall at lunchtime for free and witness such a great display of technicality and musicianship is a great credit to all those performers involved. My initial worry was that all the soloists would be of such a high calibre that all I would be able to write was sycophantic praise. However, it wasn’t all perfect.

The programme kicked off with Cameron Richardson-Eames playing the restless first movement of Saint-Saens’ Second Piano Concerto. The movement begins with a quasi-fantasia passage reminiscent of Bach which was handled well by the soloist, if occasionally a little lacking in lyricism. The technical side of the performance was mostly good, especially the more muscular passages which filled the hall with sonorous vibrations. The fluctuations in tempi were stylish and convincing. There were just a few technical errors and missed notes. Overall it was a very musical performance.

Next came David Mears playing Debussy’s Premiere Rhapsodie pour Clarinette et Orchestre. Debussy described this piece as one of his most ‘easy on the ear’. Unfortunately this was not always the case. The slow, dreamy lines were controlled well although they occasionally become slightly colourless in tone. Some of the more ‘con agilite’ playing was accomplished and pleasing and Mears seemed engaged in the work. The performance was ultimately undermined somewhat by poor tuning, especially at the beginning.

This slight disappointment was followed by the highlight of the concert – Patrick Milne playing the first movement of Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G. The performance was apparently technically flawless and Milne had an excellent rapport with his accompanist, something that was not always the case with some of the weaker performances. The listener was truly able to be swept up by the fun dancing rhythms and jazzy dissonances of the music with full confidence in the ability of the soloist who appeared to be truly living the music.

Joy Lisney’s account of the Cadenza and fourth movement from Shostakovich’s Cello Concerto No. 1 was another highlight in the concert. The Cadenza was punctuated with poignantly played pizzicato chords and the difficulty of the left hand pizzicato accompaniment was made to look simple. Lisney made sense of the difficult harmonic language with an enrapturing performance that saw her take one a skeletal and demonic presence on the stage. Occasional lapses in tuning were the only distractions, which were negated by the excellent portrayal of a great piece of dramatic music – a mature performance of a complex and technically challenging piece.

The final soloist was Andrew Goldman who performed the first movement of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto in C, No. 3. Technically, this appeared to be one of the most challenging pieces on show. However, despite Goldman’s technical capabilities, the endless streams of notes somehow lacked any musical sensibility and seemed to pass by without much attention. Moreover, for a piece so driven by rhythm, the lack of cohesion with the accompanist was all the more jarring – a technically very proficient performance that was disappointingly superficial.

This was a concert that really illustrated the great wealth and depth of musical talent that this city we live and study in possesses. My money on the winner of the competition would be on Patrick Milne for his all-round excellent performance. But that subplot was merely circumstantial as the audience encountered a tour de force of soloistic talent and, most encouragingly, potential that will doubtlessly be unearthed again next year for the same event.

The competition was won by Patrick Milne and Andrew Goldman.