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2022 Reviews

Grace & Jen

Virtuosi Tasmania
Grace Thorpe (violin), Jennifer Marten-Smith (piano)
Home Hill Winery
, 28 January

The opportunity to review this concert brought me enormous pleasure and some anxiety.

Pleasure, because I used to teach Grace Thorpe and was happily intrigued to see how she had developed. Anxiety, because I had absolutely no idea whether that development had lived up to her early promise.

I needn’t have worried. Now entering her final year at the Sydney Conservatorium, Grace has become a polished, responsive, and mature young musician. Together, Grace and Jen presented a program that touched my heart and captured my imagination.

Szymanowski’s Violin and Piano Sonata in D minor is a comparatively little-known work that, even on a first hearing, has much to offer — lyricism, passion, humour, and energy combine to create a work that is profound, emotional, and exciting. The morning’s performance was notable for a beautiful array of tonal colours, some breathtaking moments of quiet beauty, and a great depth of understanding from both musicians.

Bach’s unaccompanied sonatas and partitas are notoriously difficult. Their polyphonic nature is a challenge to even the best of bow techniques, and a dearth of dynamic suggestions from the composer leads to a huge variety of interpretations. Grace’s performance was poised, with clarity of voicing and elegant phrasing. She created a beautiful sense of tranquility in the Andante of Sonata in A minor, and the Allegro featured a lovely lively energy and a clear sense of the two voices.

Kreisler’s Caprice Viennois is a gem of a little piece that is playful, romantic, and virtuosic in quick succession. Grace’s rendition had enormous charm and a gorgeous feeling of pre-war Vienna. Her love of the music was apparent, and she brought to it an irresistible lightheartedness and warmth of tone.

Overall, this was a thoroughly enjoyable morning of music. Grace and Jen have an understated rapport that gives the music every opportunity to shine. I hope to hear more from them.

Jo St Leon
1 February 2022

Tasmanian String Quartet

Virtuosi Tasmania
Emma McGrath (Violin), Jennifer Owen (Violin), Douglas Coghill (Viola) and Jonathan Békés (Cello)
Burnie Town Hall, 13 May

It's nice to have LPs, CDs, DVDs and Videos but nothing beats a live concert. Unlike with jazz, where a certain degree of the "maintenance of imperfection" is expected and even required, this concert required a high degree of perfection.

My wife and I were so happy to be there to hear and see the performance. Those four musicians had achieved not only a very high degree of perfection, they demonstrated what "ESP" means. I doubt that I would have experienced, during my long life, many concerts of classical music with such a dynamic range (especially pianissimo!!) supported by instrumental perfection. It was an "ESP In Action". I'm convinced that both Ludwig [van Beethoven] and Benjamin [Britten] would happily agree with me.

What a difference is the state of classical music in Tasmania comparing with its level when we arrived here in 1979. Thanks to your "Virtuosi Tasmania" and ... others, it's even being brought nearly to our doorsteps.

Aren't we lucky here in Tasmania?

Viktor Zappner
Jazz performer and promoter
13 May 2022