Review: Voyage of Musical Discovery, Cultural Narratives – City Recital Hall (NSW)

Presented by Nicole van Bruggen and Julia Russoniello, featuring the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra, William Barton and Véronique Serret

Review by Charlotte Smee

Voyage of Musical Discovery, a series established and designed by the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra, is part lecture, part demonstration and part concert. This iteration, entitled Cultural Narratives, finds connections across time from the well-known and loved music of Schubert, to Australian classical improvisers and composers William Barton and Véronique Serret. Aimed at audiences from high school students to composers looking for inspiration, this performance brings a little something extra for your brain to chew on as you listen.

The first half of the concert featured violinist Julia Russoniello explaining key concepts, as the players of the Australian Romantic & Classical Orchestra demonstrated alongside her. Using Schubert’s Octet in F Major, D803 (1824), we heard Hungarian influences, Schubert’s feelings of being an outsider, and the theme and variations of the Andante being “lively conversations in a grand old house”. At times, the explanations felt somewhat disconnected to the expert and informed playing, perhaps assuming a less musically literate audience. A highlight of this section was Nicole van Bruggen’s mastery of the period-accurate Agnes Geroult clarinet, and the sheer joy that Daniel Yeadon and Simon Oswell (cello, double bass) showed when deepening those “lively conversations”. Jenna Sherry’s 1705 Stradivarius violin soared with the help of her deft hand, and her chemistry with Peter Clark and the rest of the ensemble was superb to witness.

Barton and Serret then proceeded to sweep the audience off their feet with a charming and generous demonstration of their compositional process. Their unique combination of violin, vocals, didgeridoo, percussion and electronics resulted in two droning,  dense soundscapes. Kalkani was a modern interpretation of the spirit eagle, beginning with various earthly sounds from Barton and screeching from Serret’s violin. Barton’s voice is a wonder to say the least, with a resonance as if it had come from the ancestors themselves.

As part of their demonstration, Barton and Serret used audience participation to great effect by involving us in the creation of a new work. This was a real highlight, with a welcoming approach that explained how didgeridoos get their tone/key and showed how versatile a voice can be in creating music and sound. Followed by the pulsing Heartland, featuring harmonics and double, triple stops from Serret and more enchanting vocals from Barton, this section of the concert was an absolute delight.

If you don’t know much about music, and you wish you did, or you know a lot about music and you’re looking for something new – this concert series is perfect for you. Don’t let the thought of a bunch of school students attending stop you from seeing some truly excellent musicians; in fact, it’s a joy to have so much energy and knowledge being shared in the City Recital Hall. 

Reviewer rating

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Images: Robert Catto

The next Voyage of Musical Discovery, “Musical Identities”, is at the City Recital Hall on 23 August. It features guest performers Kerryn Joyce, Ryuji Hamada and Ian Cleworth and music from Mozart. Tickets can be booked here.


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