Review: Back to grace, style and beauty

ST John's Wodonga witnessed an important event in Australian music when the harpsichord and shakuhachi duo of Peter Hagen and Anne Norman lead a recital entitled Questing Spirit on Saturday night.

Joined by Ursula Genaehr on recorders and narrator Rosemary Farrell, their respect for past traditions looked to a new model where silence, poetry, spirituality and melody all share - a serene alternative to the banal amplified incompetence of so much of our society's music.

These instruments echo a time when musicians were dedicated to grace, style, beauty and in the case of the shakuhachi, profound meditation.

Four new works displaying the unique colours and techniques of these uncommon instruments were most rewarding.

Melbourne composers Le Huan Hung and Dindy Vaughan combined the sounds in surprising and unconventional ways, while allowing each player to express strong solo ideas.


I very much enjoyed Vaughan's Lacrymae, a lament for our lost wild rivers that featured some exquisitely gentle playing.

A tribute to Japanese dancer Machiko Kaneko by Norman added Juergen Lett's lovely wind chimes (all gardens should have a set), tuned power pole caps and recorders in a sincere and deeply felt homage to a lost friend.

Also played were delightful recorder sonatas by Handel and Telemann, presented by Genaehr with her usual infectious enthusiasm, flawless control and impeccable sense of style.

The shakuhachi has no connections with Baroque music but Norman took the plunge, presenting a Handel flute sonata and a duet with recorder by Couperin.

While not wholly convincing, it was a tour-de-force of virtuoso technique and also a taste of future possibilities if Australian composers are to continue to support Anne Norman's remarkable talent.

Gregory Lewis

Border Mail, Mon, Aug 27, 2001