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Inner Western Courier Thursday Not Used Anymore : November 12th 2008
MB INNER-WEST WEEKLY, Thursday, November 13, 2008 49 ARTS They will be missed CONCERT: Grainger Quartet WHERE: City Recital Hall WHEN: Tuesday, November 4 REVIEWER: Steve Moffatt The Graingers in action (from left) Natsuko Yashimoto, James Cuddeford, Patrick Murphy and Jeremy Williams. BORN out of the controversy surrounding the rebranding of the Australian String Quartet in 2006, the Graingers quickly established themselves as coming close to their own claim of being ''Australia's pre-eminent string quartet of international stature''. After one hastily but skilfully cobbled recital in that first year and with two full seasons in their present line-up, the wife-and- husband team of Natsuko Yoshimoto and James Cuddeford on violins, Jeremy Robinson, viola, and cellist Patrick Murphy built up a strong and loyal following here with some interesting programs mixing newly-commissioned Australian works with the more standard repertoire. Sadly, with strong competition for tickets from the new ASQ and the current hard economic times, the ensemble is no longer ''sustainable'' and this concert marked their last appearance in the city. And they went out on a strong note, and with an encore by their namesake Percy Grainger which was where they came in back in November 2006. Billed a night at the opera, the program opened with Berg's Op 3 quartet, dedicated to his wife-to-be and his first experiment with atonality taught to him by Schoenberg. With its rich chordal progressions and rhapsodic outbursts, punctuated by ghostly ponticello bowing, this is a passionate work which still retains a freshness. Yashimoto as always led with no fuss and with deceptive ease. Mozart's K428 followed, the third in the ''Haydn'' set of six which he took such pains over. Here the adagio second movement was quite beautifully shaped, and the playful menuetto and vivacious allegro finale left the audience leaving for the bar in good humour. The second half featured two giants of Italian opera, Puccini and Verdi, in unfamiliar territory. Crisantemi, an elegaic 10-minute piece, was written by Puccini in one sitting on hearing of the death of the Duke of Savoy. As you would expect it's strong on melodic line with some ''dying'', descending chords and the composer thought enough of it to recycle the tunes when he wrote Manon Lescaut. Verdi's lone string quartet is also strong on melody but this is a far more substantial work than the Puccini, running to four movements including fugal finale. Much as I love the operas, I find this work rather banal at times, especially the cello solo in the andantino second movement, and I would far rather listen to the quartet from Rigoletto. However, the Graingers handled it all with great aplomb and the lively fugue did make for a triumphant ending. Violist Williams then said a few words of thanks and farewell before the group launched into their signature tune, Molly On The Shore, Grainger's arrangement of two Irish jigs -- the perfect bitter- sweet ending for an evening tinged with sadness. Sydney chamber music fans at least have the consolation that the foursome will be appearing under a different guise in next year's Sydney Soloists' concerts. An added bonus is the news that the Melbourne-based ensemble Flinders Quartet are starting a Sydney series which is being launched next Monday at 7pm at the Verbrugghen Hall in the Conservatorium. They will be playing Haydn's Op 76 No 5, Webern's Langsamer Satz and Schubert's Death and the Maiden. Bookings at City Recital Hall box office on 8256 2222 or 1300 797 118, or on wwww.cityrecitalhall.com Looking back to the USSR EVENT: New Babylon WHERE: City Recital Hall WHEN: Sunday, November 9 REVIEWER: Steve Moffatt Still from the Soviet silent classic New Babylon. THIS year's Russian Resurrection Film Festival came to a climax in a stunning way with a showing of the 1929 Soviet silent classic New Babylon, complete with a live performance of Shostakovich's original score. The SBS Youth Orchestra, conducted by artistic director and founding conductor Matthew Krel, performed the soundtrack in what is only the sixth or seventh showing of the film with the original live music. Co-directors Gregoriy Kozintsev and Leonid Trauberg's expressionist movie is set in Paris at the time of the siege by the Prussians in 1870-1. Shopgirl Louise (Elena Kuzmina) works in the New Babylon department store and, invited to a ball by her boss David Guffman, looking the archetypical capitalist with his top hat and cigar and glass of fine wine, she sees the decadence of the city before it comes under siege. Louise becomes politicised and joins and the local communards on the barricades and is ultimately executed. The film offers a fascinating mixture of satire and pathos, sometimes bordering on caricature, and the message just 12 years after Lenin's revolution is crystal clear. But this isn't mere propaganda -- the makers and composer all believed that they could change the world before the terror of Stalin's purges snuffed out their idealism. Kuzmina burns with intensity, hyperventilating and with hair flying in the wind and rain. The camerawork is ground- breaking and multi-layered. Cinematographer Andrei Moskvin foreshadows hand-held techniques, getting right into the thick of the action while there is sometimes more happening in the background than in the foreground. Moskvin went on to work on Sergei Eisenstein's masterpiece Ivan The Terrible. His painterly eye captures rainswept cobblestones on Paris, the snow- covered hills where a mounted Prussian soldier sits framed by a setting sun. 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