Saturday, 2 August 2014

WAAPA review: Defying Gravity with piano students




Tim White, director Defying Gravity
 This is the sixth year that piano and percussion students from the WA Academy of Performing Arts have collaborated in concert. Defying Gravity percussion ensemble director Tim White introduced the intriguing program with his indefatigable enthusiasm and lecturer David Wickham directed from piano. A brooding percussion piece by Serbian composer Nebojsa Zivkovic was the concert opener. It segued with a long crescendo into O Fortuna from Orff’s Carmina Burana, with two pianists joining the seven-piece percussion ensemble to build the roaring climax.

Defying Gravity presented The Whistler by George Hamilton Green and The Ragtime Drummer by James Lent, two pieces of ragti-
me that had a happy combination of lightness and comic swagger. The minimalist electronic sounds of The Shins’ Sleeping Lessons translated brilliantly to percussion in an arrangement by Imogen Thomson. Marimba arpeggios underpinned the piece with a glockenspiel picking out the song line augmented by drum kit for the surges into heavy rock.

Defying Gravity percussion ensemble
Excerpts from two piano concertos brought the piano players to the fore. Second year student Hannah Th’ng performed the third movement from Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No 3. Th’ng’s emotional intensity was impressive with thundering opening chords and a euphoric ending, despite some memory slips along the way. The orchestral accompaniment was reduced to piano (Rachmaninov’s arrangement) performed by Simon Frosi with percussion section provided by Defying Gravity.

Luke Diebold was soloist in the first movement of Ravel’s Concerto in G andWickham and Defying Gravity delivered Ravel’s colourful orchestral parts – no mean feat­ - in an arrangement by Lucien Garban. Diebold expressed the sprightly and the gargantuan elements of Ravel’s writing with crisp technique and assertive shaping.

Any unsteady rhythmic moments from the piano soloists were thrown into sharp relief against the mathematical precision being hammered out by Defying Gravity – the down-side to collaborating with percussionists!

David Wickham
But there was no hint of rhythmic waywardness in the highlight for the night: Stravinsky’s Petrushka performed by Defying Gravity with pianists Wickham and Irina Vasileva, a post-graduate student at WAAPA. Wickham directed from piano and his immaculate finger work and tonal palette generated a fascinating version of the ballet. Wickham and Vasileva’s accounts of ribald street performers, a naive ballerina and the ominous tension between Petrushka and the Moor were made complete by glittering contributions from the percussionists.



This review copyright The West Australian 2014.

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