Wild Utopia Callaway Auditorium

Wild Utopia

Callaway Auditorium

 reviewed by Scott Rheede  

Bearing in mind that at the Easter long weekend, many of the members of the Royal Schools Music Club would have been away at holiday destinations around the state, the turnout to hear the recently formed ensemble Wild Utopia was entirely respectable on an otherwise deserted University of W.A. campus.

Wild Utopia is made up of three Perth-based musicians, women who are as versatile as they are gifted. Each, in her own way, has made valuable, varied contributions to the music life of Western Australia, not least cellist Melanie Robinson who has, inter alia, worked for her alma mater, the W.A.Academy of Performing Arts, teaching music to students in the Aboriginal Theatre Course in the remoteness of the Kimberleys.

Cathie Travers (piano accordion) and Jessica Ipkendanz (violin) have such high profiles in music that they don’t need any introduction at all.

Ipkendanz’s Mosquito Dance made intriguing listening, ushered in by a single, high pitched note ending abruptly with a little trill that instantly reminded one of the characteristic sound of one of those kamikaze insects about to strike. From this rather frivolous beginning, the work flowered impressively with rich, minor-mode sonorities and melancholy melody lines that brought Hebraic cantorial singing to mind. On first encounter, though, one sensed the need for some judicious pruning of a piece that sounded a shade long for its material.

I liked Ipkendanz’s reworking of an episode from Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet, with its instantly recognisable, macho, striding motif of proud Veronese nobles. Here was a transcription at a way station well on the way to completion. This is an arrangement I would very much like to listen to again.

A transcription of Delibes’ famous Flower Duet brought freshness to familiar notes in an account that included Ipkendanz and Robinson treating the melody line in vocalise fashion – and very well they sang, too, to a discreet accompaniment on Travers’ accordion and hushed cello pizzicato. And in an arrangement of part of the third movement of Galliano’s Concerto for accordion and strings, Travers came impressively into her own. Spleen, another Galliano composition, had an extemporaneous, intense quality that sounded entirely right. So, too, did Travers’ arrangement of Piazzolla’s Fugata, another delight, with a groove box providing a rhythmic underpinning to music that, with its baroque contrapuntal intricacies, would surely have prompted an approving nod from the great J.S.Bach himself had his shade hovered over the proceedings at Callaway Auditorium. Earlier, we heard Traver’s probing arrangement of Piazzolla’s Preludio 9, one of the Argentinian master’s darker essays with its sombre, sighing theme.

Gypsy Groovebox, based on a remembered fragment of an Hungarian folk melody, provided extrovert, impassioned and eminently danceable music that set the pulse racing.

This presentation bore the stamp of distinction which augurs well for Wild Utopia. Its imaginative treatments of standard repertoire and its own original work make for compelling listening.

Copyright 2004 Scott Rheede


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