Skip to main content

ACO: Tour Four (Trout Quintet & Quartet For The End Of Time)

Guest Pianist Saleem Abboud Ashkar

Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) presents Tour Four, TROUT QUINTET and QUARTET FOR THE END OF TIME in the Concert Hall at the Sydney Opera House.

The Australian Chamber Orchestra (ACO) presented Franz Schubert’s Piano Quintet in A major, ‘Trout” Op.114,D.667 (Composed1819, published 1829) and Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time (1941).

Helena Rathbone (Violin), Christopher Moore (Viola), Timo-Veikko Valve (Cello), Maxime Bibeau (Double Bass) were joined by guest artist Saleem Abboud Ashkar (Piano) for the five movement “Trout” Quintet. This is a piece of some familiarity for me. It was a joy to hear and watch the quintet play. Pleasures reawakened and enhanced.

What was especially enjoyable was to have, in the Schubert, such exquisite comfort in the intricate interaction of these five musicians in a piece I love and, then, have such a remarkably contrasting experience in the other half of the program with the Messiaen QUARTET FOR THE END OF TIME. In this work, another guest, Paul Dean played the clarinet (Mr Bibeau and Moore were not required). This work was new to me, and although challenging, was completely involving.

Extrapolated from the concert program notes by Robert Murray:

Composition QUARTET FOR THE END OF TIME began whilst Olivier Messiaen was a prisoner of war in a German camp, in 1941, Stalag VIIIA at Gorlitz. The German authorities were empathetic to the composer and provided him with tools to compose. By this time Messiaen as a composer had developed a discipline of musical ‘rhythm and mode’ (part of an avantgarde group called Le Jeune France – Young France) that distinguished his compositional work from other artists of the time (e.g. Les Six and their ringleader Poulenc), but, in addition to these restraints Messiaen ” … found himself having to work with the instruments and musicians available to him in the camp: violinist Jean Le Boulaire, Henri Akoka, clarinetist, and Etienne Pasquier, a cellist.. … In the confines of a war camp in the depths of the winter of 1941, Messiaen might well have believed that the end of time – and indeed his own time – were imminent.” The fourth movement,”Interlude” for piano, clarinet and violin was the first of eight movements created. .

Mr Ashkar, on piano, was a sensitive and delicate, integrated, member of the orchestra (in both pieces). In this latter work, Paul Dean, as the clarinetist was especially impressive. The’ bird’ like orchestrations of Messiaen are fiendishly dense and, to my ear difficult – the clarinet solo, Abyss of the Birds, the third movement, had Mr Dean in a mesmeric possession of concentration which signified to us listeners and watchers to a special need and appreciation of the compelling and gripping performance that he coaxed from his instrument with, often, barely audible sounds to ringing volume intensities, aesthetically arresting us, with these brilliant changes in swoops of ‘noise’ and startling, contrasting tempo. The duet in section five: Paean to the Eternity of Jesus, between Mr Ashkar (Piano) and Mr Valve, (Cello) was also glorious, as was the final duet between Ms Rathbone (Violin) and Mr Ashkar (Piano), Paean to the Immortality of Jesus. This was a new work for me and I found it a profoundly moving experience.

The programming of the Schubert and the Messiaen is in the experience of it, a disparately brave one. Two more contrasted pieces could not, necessarily, be placed in such challenging juxtaposition. It is this very set of choices that make the Australian Chamber Orchestra such an unmissable appointment for me. It is what makes me regard the ACO as the jewel in the crown of my theatre going experiences in Sydney. Stimulating, shocking and exquisitely, always, remarkable in its standard of ensemble and solo performing.

Full of wonder.

Indeed, wonderful.

P.S. Interesting to have a ‘live’ broadcast of the players on a screen behind them. I loved to be able to watch the playing so closely. I loved to watch it unedited as myself, and, then, to see the director/live editor choices and focused interests. Did I like It ? Do I believe it a permanent necessity? I’ll wait and see when the whole orchestra is on the stage. The orchestra may demand professional make up as well!!!, if it continues.