Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 33 No. 4. 7 April 1970
Music Dept. Concert, April 2nd. Reviewed by Fiona Wylie
Don Banks' Sequence for Solo Cello is one of those directionless pieces that crowd the end of the Romantic era—an exploitation of the cello's possibilities. Exploitations deserve and generally get righteous indignation. Marie Vandewart, however, played warmly and sympathetically managing to obscure some of the tedium.
Richard Giese was more fortunate in his choice of Debussy's Syrinx for flute and Berio's Sequenza for flute. The Sequenza is another of these works that make the flute do all kind of things it has not done before; in this case mainly flutter-tongueing superbly executed over extended passages but hardly new; every standard book on orchestration mentions it. Unfortunately all music except Debussy's seems to sound like Peter and the Wolf; the Sequenza beginning with a very Peter and the Wolf-like passage couldn't quite dispel the 'chirp chirp' associations.
I find Richard Giese's vibrato obnoxious and this was especially noticeable in the Debussy. There were runs where one note suddenly throbbed, not to mention the distant pile-driving effect of the long notes. Apart from this, however, both were well played, especially one controlled barely audible pianissimo in the Sequenza.
In contrast to the diet of contemporary music was the Bach Sonata for Cello and Keyboard. Marie Vandewart (cello) and Gwynneth Brown (piano) played conscientiously and carefully but Gwynneth Brown succumbed to the fallacy that if Bach had had a piano he would have written for it. It seems, in fact, that Bach was shown a piano on two occasions in his lifetime: on the first he disliked it and on the second he admitted that it had improved. If he wrote all musical offerings for Frederik the Great would he not have written for Frederik the Great's piano? It would appear that the new instrument was not to Bach's taste and he realised that the music that he wrote for it was not suited to it, this being even more so with today's Stein way grands. The piano does not suit Bach's contrapunctal textures and is quite unsuitable as a continue instrument. Marie Vandewart had to play heroically to be heard above the piano's over-rich sonorities, wihle [unclear: Gwynneth] Brown was unable to resist the temptation of keeping her foot on the sustaining pedal during embarrassed trills.
It was an unfortunate choice, not helped by the way Marie Vandewart liked a little pause between phrases every now and then while Gwynneth Brown preferred to plough on implacably. The whole performance sounded uncomfortable. Although the third movement started well it soon subsided into heavy heroic grinding like the rest of the work.
Nevertheless, an interesting programme with the contemporary music well played because contemporary music demands rethinking about traditional ways of playing. Unfortunately the approach to older composers is often unintelligent and uniformed. We expect the Music Department to have more sense than to promote Bach played on the piano.