Graduates engage the audience by degrees

Music graduates Warburton and Apcar relive their student days. Photo: Rob Kennedy.

Music / “Diary of a Music Student”, Emma Warburton and Ronan Apcar, ANU School of Music, September 29. Reviewed by ROB KENNEDY.

ENGAGING audiences with new music is not an easy task in Australia, but two graduates from the ANU School of Music may have found a way to do that while showcasing their degree years.

Flautist Emma Warburton and pianist and composer Ronan Apcar have created an engaging musical program titled “Diary of a Music Student”. It speaks to an audience through music and monologues. Apcar says: “I like to think of it as a ‘script’ with musical pieces that have been written into the play”.

Ronan began by discussing his degree and the location of the ANU. They then performed the floating tune “Beside the Stream”, by Miriam Hyde, which highlighted the effect that the nearby Sullivans Creek has on students. The playing was suitably fluid from both.

Then Warburton began filling in her diary with what she was doing around Canberra while not studying. Apcar accompanied on piano with suitable background filling chords, then “Wedding Morn”, by Miriam Hyde. This tranquil tune gently rolled by before it became lively, then contemplative, before it moved into a climax. The playing from both showed exceptional quality that fitted the tender music.

Warburton spoke of meeting the composer Elena Kats Chernin before jumping into her “Eliza’s Aria”. It was melodious, slightly quirky, ever-changing, like a lot of Kats Chernin’s music, and it had some beautiful combination work for both players.

Back at his desk, Apcar spoke about the difficulties of student life in a comical and revealing fashion before moving into his work, “Thoughts Before Bed”. This tonal work, written in several parts, showed off the musical thoughts of an exciting performer and composer. The flute part crossed styles and vaulted in dynamics. The flutter tongue particularly effective.

Warburton, now at the desk, spoke of the exhaustion and frustration she felt as a student. Then “phoSpheric Variations”, by Paul Stanhope followed, which sounded just like she did.

The song-like and lonely tune of “Prelude for a Pensive Pupil”, by Peggy Glanville Hicks, for solo piano, is a restless and contemplative work. It too was just like Apcar said he was feeling in his introduction to the piece.

Expressing her fear of performing the “Sonata in D Major”, Op.94, by Sergei Prokofiev, Warburton relayed how difficult the music world was and how she must get this piece right. But she had little to fear. Her performance of the sonata showed a refined and powerful technical command of her instrument. This demanding work flowed from her flute like it was playing itself.

Apcar takes everything in his stride. While playing the Prokofiev and other pieces, he had to deal with recalcitrant sheet music moving around and pages falling to the ground. Nothing phased him, he never missed a beat. “Sunday Morning”, by Ian Clarke followed.

Before Apcar’s piece “Cogs”, Warburton spoke about being in a better place with her schooling, and how her love of music pushed her through. Beginning like an anthem, complexity and crossed hands on the keyboard took over. It showed off the capabilities of both instruments with a technical and musical dynamic.

Slipping on his mortarboard, Apcar told of his excitement about getting his degree and where the future might lead. Then a curious choice of “Irish Tune”, by Carter Pann, arr. Ronan Apcar, which was the tune “Danny Boy”, ended this musical act.

The School of Music is creating extraordinary musicians. It would be no surprise to see these two performing together in a much grander place than the cafe on level 5 of the School of Music.

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