live music is back on a Melbourne stage
DUO CURRO CASSOMENOS – MANTRA
Melbourne Digital Concert Hall, September 29
There was no doubt the feeling of triumph as the Melbourne musicians returned to the Athenaeum Theater for the Melbourne Digital Concert Hall after a long absence of 57 nights.
Thankfully, this drought-breaking occasion was MDCH’s 400th concert: a reminder not only of how long the pandemic has lasted so far, but also how the platform has become part of the musical bedrock of the Australia.
COVID’s strict filming protocols were a reminder of the austerity of the start of the pandemic, but a brilliant technical demonstration by the scorching Monica Curro and Stefan Cassomenos ensured an optimistic mood. In their usual, fearless yet engaging manner, the beloved duo presented contemporary Australian works for violin and piano: Sati and Satya by Jessica Wells, followed by Cassomenos Violin Sonata No.2.
By exploring Buddhist concepts of mindfulness and then truth, Wells cleverly creates accessible and stimulating soundscapes that, like these performers, are without pretense. In Satya, the piano’s insistence on a series of “true” notes against Curro’s skillfully but deliberately curved violin tones may well be a pithy musical parable for our era of “fake news.”
Epic in length and design, the six cyclic movements of Cassomenos Violin Sonata No.2 of 2013 is inspired by the text “Across land and sea, the ship of my life brought me safely to this shore”. Here, a large musical web communicates a passionate and expansive vision, teeming with rhythmic and motivational ideas, brought together in intense climaxes.
By writing a piano piece of titanic proportions himself, Cassomenos set out a challenge which was thankfully met with equal measures of bravery and endurance. Curro, both fiery and eloquent as the music demanded, was sensitive to the flexibility of tone, especially in some of the more haunting and quiet moments.
Celebrating a fittingly exulting homecoming in the finale, we’ve been given hope that from now on we’ll be counting artistic successes, not lockdown days.