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Richard Meale: a Celebration of a Life in Music


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?

Author: harryfiddler

Harriet Cunningham – aka @harryfiddler — is a freelance writer based in Sydney. Harriet wrote her first novel, about a runaway cat, at the age of 7. In the forty year gap between novel 1 and novel 2 she moved from London to Edinburgh to Sydney, ran an opera company, played violin on the opera house stage and sailed from Gove to Darwin. She is now a music critic and writer, best known as the critic who got banned by Opera Australia. She still hangs out at the Sydney Opera House, is still trying to get that novel published, and still plays the violin.

4 thoughts on “Richard Meale: a Celebration of a Life in Music

  1. “Perhaps it’s time for Voss, on stage once more, and soon?”

    Yes, what a good thought, and are you thinking next year? – White’s centenary? I wish. Barker/Coleman-Wright reprising Richardson/Chard perhaps.

    I’m afraid I can’t remember much about it musically, so to Philips am agoing; thanks for the prompt.

    • Can’t claim it as my own idea. From the subtext at the concert it’s more than an idea but less than official that White’s centenary year will bring a new Voss. Like the casting suggestion. Voss Mk 1 is before my time (only got here in ’92) so it’s time for Philips for me too.

  2. Pingback: Richard Meale: a Celebration of a Life in Music « A Cunning Blog

  3. Good reporting Harry. Let’s hope Jim Sharman is still involved, surely the case. Now to conductors (Stuart Challender led mk1) … a local seems the go – Alexander Briger?

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