Inventi Ensemble: Nat Bartsch – The Glasshouse

Whereas many musicians felt as if their lifeblood had been drained from them throughout Melbourne’s seemingly countless pandemic lockdowns, others had been onerous at work guaranteeing an injection of latest vitality into the reopening of live performance areas. Pianist and composer Nat Bartsch was one such. Because the recipient of the Merlyn Myer Music Fee 2021, she was supported in creating The Glasshouse, premiered this week by the award-winning chamber group, Inventi Ensemble within the Primrose Potter Salon.

The Glasshouse was not solely the centerpiece of this system; the ideas and visible inspiration underlying the work permeated surrounding items, offering a way of unity. Photographic pictures performed a basic position from the second the viewers entered the venue, with Suzie Blake’s arresting images of the performers projected onto the Salon partitions. Colored or black and white, they complemented the six sepia prints by Julia Margaret Cameron (1815-1879) that fashioned related visible backgrounds as The Glasshouse was carried out.

The opposite three works on this system comprised Bartsch’s preparations of earlier works designed for various ensemble forces. On this iteration, microphones hooked up to or positioned close to all devices meant that stability could possibly be manipulated and sampling integrated into a spread of digital results.

Starting with an association of Lights and Shadows for viola and piano, we noticed an appropriately glowing chiaroscuro portrait of Katie Yap as she performed a heat, wispy-sounding lullaby to Bartsch’s gently rocking accompaniment.

A robust sense of the non-public was a function of the presentation, starting with Marshall McGuire’s enthusiastic introduction. Though Nat Bartsch was typically surprisingly self-deprecating as she described her development in confidence as a composer, her descriptions of the way in which she developed her concepts was illuminating. As an illustration, Homecoming discovered its impetus in reflecting on her luck in residing in a spot the place simply what she does is widely known. As with most of Bartsch’s works on this system, Homecoming started with solo piano, very quiet, minimalist-style chords quickly joined by sighing then plucked strings. The piece gained momentum because the violin dominated Paul Zabrowarny’s cello and a rippling piano ostinato in a passionate celebratory outburst. Kyla Matsuura-Miller’s background portrait might need been the visible focus, however the compelling vitality of her enjoying equipped the aural pleasure on this and each piece through which she featured.

Making a full complement of six gamers, the core members of Inventi Ensemble, oboist Ben Opie and flautist Melissa Doecke, joined the others for the six actions of The Glasshouse. The title refers to Cameron’s pictures studio on the Isle of Wight, the place sitters had been requested to sit down completely nonetheless for 3 minutes. The boredom entailed is clearly seen on the face of a younger lady dressed as a cherub – the topic of the three-minute second motion of the suite, I Wait… Though the size of the motion is designed to mirror the publicity time, there was no hint of boredom for listeners as Opie’s oboe sang above textured held chords and the insistent ticking of the piano and plucked strings.

With out being fairly as literal as for I Wait…, Bartsch’s imaginative musical responses referenced important traits of all portraits. The Echo started on a questioning observe, fragments of sentimental voices billowing to crescendos then fading away – Greek fantasy connecting with what Bartsch describes as “girls of Afghanistan, in search of to flee the Taliban, with their voices metaphorically and actually taken away from them”. Up to date expertise was additionally alluded to in La Madonna Aspettante (The Ready Madonna), the mom and little one reflecting “the deeply intimate and quiet expertise of lockdown parenting”. Lengthy, slowly transferring chords resulting in a rhythmic rocking from the strings had been interspersed with interleaving solo passages from flute and oboe.

The third motion, primarily based on the portrait of astronomer JFW Herschel, started with an digital overlay and viola solo. This was adopted by a violin melody using above a pulsating background, then an assertive flute solo taken up by the oboe, culminating in a passage of digital sampling.

It was not at all times simple to discern which instrument was purported to be the featured one for every motion as a number of devices had vital moments in lots of. Melodic improvisation, a key ingredient in Bartsch’s fusion of the classical and jazz components in her musical language, was convincingly built-in into the musical cloth by these expert artists. The jazz dimension was most clearly evident within the fifth motion, depicting A Group of Kalutara Peasants. Trilling winds, pounding, dance-like rhythms underpinning an exuberant violin and snatches of melody from the cello made for an thrilling expertise.

The ultimate motion, Aged 94, taken on the anniversary of her 72nd marriage ceremony day, Bartsch calls “a meditation on survival” as we face the twin threats of pandemic and local weather change. A gradual, heavy piano assertion was interspersed with flashes of nimble thought. As different devices joined in, the portrait of Sarah Groves was changed by a black and white {photograph} of the musicians, the pastoral nature of the setting emphasised by an interesting oboe melody that slowly transmuted into an digital echo.

Premiered by PLEXUS and organized for Inventi Ensemble, Into the Mild is devoted to the nurses who served in World Battle I. Bartsch defined that this work seeks “to seize the butterflies … [they] … will need to have felt as they launched into their journey”. An preliminary repetitive piano observe tolled like an apprehensive heartbeat. Virtuosic enjoying by the flute, then oboe, string trio and a passage of jazzy violin culminated in a mild closing.

Extra private recollections and an encore efficiency of her common composition for solo piano, The Finish of the Decade, was a becoming conclusion to what was a celebration of her achievements and people of different girls. Hopefully, The Glasshouse will likely be accorded longevity in a filmed recording and lots of reside performances in areas that may additional improve the digital and visible content material.

Picture credit score: Suzie Blake.


Heather Leviston reviewed “The Glasshouse”, carried out by its composer, Nat Bartsch, and Inventi Ensemble within the Primrose Potter Salon of the Melbourne Recital Centre on November 23, 2021.


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