Verbrugghen Hall, February 14
Reviewed by Harriet Cunningham for Sydney Morning Herald, 15 Feb 2010
It felt like the entire cast for the story of Australian music was assembled at the Verbrugghen Hall last Sunday. Old friends greeted each other, broadcasters, writers, directors, philosophers and musicians young and old gathered to pay homage to a man whose musical and intellectual imprint extended into almost every corner of cultural life in Australia over his long life.
Richard Meale was not there in person, of course, but he was everywhere, in the collected memories of the great and good of Australian music. He beamed out craggily from recent photos, and shone Adonis-like in photos from younger days, assembled from his papers, now safely lodged at the National Library. Most of all, he was there in his music.
His Intrada (2002) for brass ensemble and his trumpet solo Arabesque (2000), brilliantly performed by Matt Bailey, were a vivid illustration of a musical imagination vital and inquiring to the last. It was, however, Coruscations and Sonata for Flute and Piano which provided the most pungent memories for many. Pianist Clemens Leske is a fine heir to Meale’s virtuosic showpiece, flashing and burning and exploding little clusters of sound. Geoff Collins is one of the few flutists who can play the screaming climax to the flute and piano sonata. It still sounds thrilling, and it still has the sense of the danger about it which so shocked 1960s Sydney.
Meale’s first opera, Voss, was represented in a short documentary from last year’s symposium in Canberra and the Goldner Quartet brought the concert to a close with Meale’s Cantilena Pacifica. The undulating harmonies created one of those magical moments of communal contemplation and peace. A gentle farewell.
Andrew Ford, speaking at Richard Meale’s funeral, puts it most eloquently: “It’s up to us to honour Richard Meale’s work. We do this, very simply, by playing his music. As well as we can. Again and again.”
Yes. Perhaps it’s time for Voss, on stage once more, and soon?