During the 1800s cultural matriarchs in Paris began hosting soirées with live instrumental music. Before this, instrumental music was only heard within royal courts. As exposure to newly composed music and the artists that performed them grew, so did the celebrity of those involved. Aristocracy mingled with intellectuals, writers, artists and musicians in these beautiful rooms surrounded by art and visual stimulation to heighten the experience as they listened to these new compositions. This is the inspiration behind The Sonata Project – watching the works of 21st century Australian composers in a setting inspired by the Romantic period.

Within moments of walking in to the Conservatorium of Music’s foyer I have a glass of wine in my hand and am listening to some very talented musicians playing in the foyer. It’s a excellent start to the evening. AS we enter the Verbrugghen Hall we find the stage dominated by one of the largest floral displays I have ever seen. Myra Perez’s stage floral designs were spectacular. In addition to the floral designs the stage was decorated with immersive paintings by Lara Merrett and artistically displayed Designer Rugs. Bernadette Harvey herself dressed by Romance Was Born. All of these elements were a perfect fit to the project’s  inspiration. It made for a lovely evening but did not quite take us where it intended. It was a great start but to really take us into this multi sensory world and break down the barriers that exist in classical music appreciation, we needed to be taken out of our theatre style seats and immersed in the experience. Wandering through the floral arrangements and art works with a glass of bubbly in our hands while listening to the music and watching it being performed or sitting in cabaret style seating surrounding the piano would have been more successful in achieving these goals. Hopefully the next instalment of this project  in 2018 will take even braver steps in this direction.

Its not all about the environment though – on to the music. It was so exciting to hear the first public performance of these newly commissioned works. Even more exciting that three of the modern Australian composers were women. The first Sonata was composed by Aristea Mellos. Three movements inspired by a roman holiday. The second movement (Cardinal Spada’s Gallery) contained all the atmospheric oppression that Mellos describes of her experience. The second Sonata by Melody Eötvös evoked wonderful drama. Inspired by psychological horror stories, the piece resonated with the dramatic narrative that inspired it.

Act 2 began after a short seated break with Jane Stanley’s Sonata. This was an intriguing piece. The use of gestural form was as important as musical structure in composing it. As a result the appreciation of the piece was intensified. Visually interesting as well as aurally, the piece took on a whole new life. I found this the most enjoyable piece as it stimulated multiple senses. The final piece of the night was composed by Ross Edwards. This piece had inspiration from the Middle Ages’ plainsongs that honoured the Virgin Mary. Of all the pieces this one seemed to carry more gravitas, There was an overwhelming sense of depth to this piece that was entrancing.

Overall this was a very enjoyable and inspiring evening. I look forward to the next instalment in 2018.

Lynden Jones – Theatre Now & On The Town

The night would not have been possible without:

My Violet, (floral arrangements)
Lara Merrett (artist/backdrop works)
Lynne Bradley Interiors (design and styling)
Designer Rugs
Koskela (furniture)
Stylecraft Home (props)