Royal Schools Music Club 75th Anniversary Gala Concert
reviewed by Edmund Percy
In years of concert going, I cannot readily recall an event that so warranted the adjective ‘gala’. How rare it is nowadays to encounter an audience in all its formal finery, a striking departure from conventional concert dress these days where such downmarket apparel as tracksuits and sneakers are far more often encountered than evening suits and evening gowns. Certainly, this sartorial splendour was altogether appropriate at an event marking two important milestones for the Royal Schools Music Club: its 75th anniversary year (no small achievement at a time when many other music societies have either vanished or are withering on the vine) and the launch of the RSMC’s Scholarship Fund. The importance of the latter launched with customary urbane charm by Emeritus Professor David Tunley can hardly be exaggerated. In a legendarily tough profession, practical assistance in the form of monetary grants is important. Professor Tunley pointed out that it is hoped to raise $20,000 in order to make available a sum of some $2,000 in alternate years.
A host of Perth’s leading musicians volunteered their time and expertise to the fundraising initiative. Roger Smalley was in fine form at the piano; his account of Poulenc’s Les Soirees de Nazelles was a model of its kind. From a bracket of lieder by Mahler (settings of poems from Des Knaben Wunderhorn), Elisa Wilson took up an interpretative standpoint at the emotional epicentre of ‘Wer hat dies Liedlein erdawcht?’, singing as if the words really meant something. In the piano accompaniment, though, one felt a need for rather greater clarity of exposition and a closer identification with the mood of the music. Pianist Anna Sleptsova was a stylish and fluent soloist in an Etude Tableau by Rachmaninoff and also offered a performance of Debussy’s ecstatic L’Isle joyeuse. Dunhill’s Suite Op. 93 for flute and piano is typical of the composer’s rather bland style. Flautist Emily Gunson and Lisa Rowntree at the piano did their best to give point and meaning to a less than consistently inspired score. One would have hoped to hear the duo in a work rather worthier of their abilities. Paul Wright and Suzanne Wijsman played Ravel’s Sonata for violin and cello and at evening’s end, Elisa Wilson in ensemble with husband John Kessey (tenor) and with Tim Cunniffe at the piano, seemed positively to relish their presentation of the ‘Drinking Song’ from La Traviata, Romberg’s ‘Wanting You’ and riotously funny versions of ‘Were You Not to Koko Plighted?’ from The Mikado and ‘O soave fanciulla’ from La Boheme.
RSMC President Christine Sanders welcomed the audience that filled Callaway Auditorium to capacity, Club Patron John Winstanley at the piano accompanied the anthems in emphatic style and Co-Patron Margaret Winstanley proposed a gracious vote of thanks for a more than usually worthwhile evening of fine music and congenial company, its organisation a tribute to the dedication and logistical skills of the tireless Judy Thonell.