It was another fortuitous free ticket that got Justina and I into the third concert of MSO’s Metropolis series, Music of Amber, featuring works by two of my all time favourites of contemporary music, Toru Takemitsu and György Ligetti. I was also looking forward to hearing, in keeping with my present enquiries into traditional Turkish music, Dances for String Quartet by Turkish born composer, Sidika Özdil.
I’ve not been to the Malthouse Theatre for some 10 years or more. Quite a disgrace given theatre has such a rich history in Melbourne and there’s a lot to see. So being at the Malthouse twice in two weeks was quite unique and becoming rather familiar… it’s one of many Melbourne cultural institutions that I had hoped to inhabit with my own works over a good many years.
The opening piece was Takemitsu’s Towards the Sea III, a work that would be as comfortable in the clouds as it would in a slow moving sea, the first couple of minutes perhaps the most thrilling for my ears. The moment at which the harp opened up in harmony with the flute, Takemitsu’s signature harmonies enveloped me whole, comforting me, so much so that for the remainder of the performance I drifted from sleep to that half-awake feeling one has in public spaces, careful not to drop one’s head too steeply.
Having spent much of the piece fighting sleep, being as I was still to overcome jet lag, it was the applause at the end of it that brought me back to the Malthouse and alert for Marcello Panni’s composition, Short.
Introduced by one of the two percussionists, Short fell short of interest for me. It did capture well the concept it had set out to attend, that of movements representing an imaginary film, and it was certainly brilliantly performed, but it was to be Ligeti’s Trio for violin, horn and piano, that would be the land-mark performance of the evening.
French horn player, Geoff Lierse, took the floor and led the audience into a light hearted introduction to what was to be a most exacting, strenuous work out for this brave trio.
Featuring Michael Fowler on piano, who added balls to an already pounding performance, each movement had me on the edge, alert, being surprised, charged, enlightened… brilliant!
I’m going to by pass Joseph Schwantner’s Music of Amber and discuss Dances for String Quartet by Sidika Özdil. But before I do, I must commend the violin and whistling parts, both performed by the violinists, which came across as eerie at times and enlivening at others. Certainly a unique technique that made Joseph’s work some how more linked to the traditional motifs I was expecting from Sidika’s composition.
Sidika was introduced to the audience by violinist, Isin Camakçioglu, who was clearly proud of not only being in her company, being of Turkish origin himself, I felt he was particularly wrapped to be performing in this piece.
Describing herself as a composer that stands between two cultures, adored by avant garde heavy weights, Sidika went on to describe each movement of Dances, pointing to a traditional fishing song from the Black Sea coast and how the 3rd movement, Dervish Dance, unpacked through a circular arrangement. However, I found her work entirely Western in harmony and form. I couldn’t make out any Turkish influences in any of the four movements. In that sense, she perhaps represents the Turkey, as Kudsi Erguner details in his autobiography, Journeys of a Sufi Musician, that denied its traditional roots in it’s quest for modernity.
I was entertained by Sidika’s composition and did want to talk to her about it and what it is she meant by standing in the middle of two cultures and how she sees this reflected in her music. But alas it was not to be… Maybe it was the second wine, or that I’d talked myself through all my questions and concerns about her work with Justina and just wanted to get back in front of a sound system and listen to the likes of the Taksim Trio or Selim Sesler, immerse myself again and again in the music that is carrying me to where I know not where yet…