MENAGE Belgian Beer Cafe, Perth

MENAGE

2.10 and Tetrafide

Belgian Beer Cafe, Perth
11 March 2003

reviewed by Neville Cohn 

It would have been a stressful time for the organisers of this concert. The Belgian Beer Café, tucked away in Perth’s CBD, is not an entirely waterproof venue. True, there was partial protection from the elements in the form of a number of shade sails positioned over the performing area. But it had rained heavily earlier in the day and there were portents that this might happen again, making two very expensive grand pianos, with their lids removed, sitting ducks (no pun intended). In the event, there were only mild spatterings and the concert went ahead, although the very high humidity would have made precise tuning of the instruments a nightmare for the piano technician. In the event, those gentle falls were later in the evening to cause very real problems.

In the second half of the program, devoted to Steve Reich’s Sextet, some rain water made it around the shade sails and on to gadgetry linked to an electronic keyboard played by Cathie Travers. As the water made contact with the equipment, splutters were heard, sparks were seen – a crackling overture to disaster? – but in the best traditions of the show going on, Travers swiftly disconnected the affected machinery, abandoned her electronic keyboard, took her place at one of the adjacent conventional pianos and, with barely a hiccough, played on, a manouvre taking mere seconds and saving the day. This instant adjustment to a different instrument mid-performance was a factor that brought an extra frisson to the listening experience.

Earlier, Travers and Emily Green-Armytage, as piano duo 2.10, essayed the villainously treacherous paramell V by Stephen Montague with the sort of cool efficiency, near-infallible fingers and rock-solid beat that leave one in no doubt that these musicians are on a fast track to the stars. The two were no less impressive in Evan Kennea’s engaging Quaver Trails, leaving one with the abiding impression that 2.10 has something significant to say in musical terms. It ought to be heard far more frequently than is the case now, not least for their imaginative, forward-looking program choices.

It was a good night for Tetrafide, too, an ensemble that impresses more w ith each hearing. Whether in conventionally notated scores or in
demonstrations of tribal drumming, this youthful ensemble seemed positively to relish getting to virtuosic grips with whatever it happened to be performing.


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