Richard Meale’s Coruscations is a cult favourite among Australian pianists. I’ve lost count of how many effusive conversations I’ve had with fellow Meale enthusiasts about this scintillating and elusive tour de force.
Richard Meale’s Coruscations is a cult favourite among Australian pianists. I’ve lost count of how many effusive conversations I’ve had with fellow Meale enthusiasts about this scintillating and elusive tour de force. One pianist likened it to the grandeur of the southern hemisphere night sky, combined with barren red soil and rusted corrugated iron – encapsulating both the roughness and the uncompromising ambitiousness of this Australian masterpiece.
I performed Coruscations at the 2016 Sydney International Piano Competition; I applied at the last minute as a lark, regarding myself as already ‘over the hill’ and too old to compete against a new generation of young hotshots. A month out, I got cold feet, worried that beginning my competition program with Coruscations might be a bit much…but by then it was already too late.
In the end, I’m glad I did it – for every audience member I alienated, there were probably two or three bowled over by Meale’s intensity and audaciousness.
Sibelius’ Violin Concerto never loses its freshness. My ear catches on to something new with every rehearing. It’s not just the composer’s wonderful orchestration and searing lyricism, but also the less pristine, unsettling corners that really give me goosebumps, like the way the concerto seems to start in mid-flow, or how the orchestra creeps in at the end of the violin cadenza, or the punchy, folk-like final movement that violently shatters the sensual beauty of the first two movements. It’s those little ‘imperfections’ that only heighten the intensity of this amazing work, and always leave me thirsty to hear it again.
It’s hard to imagine that Schubert was only 30 years old and already nearing the end of his life when he wrote his Piano Trio No. 2 in E flat. What kind of life experience, what kind of suffering must he have endured to write such a profound and painful work at that age!
I love the wandering, unruly development of the first movement, in which Schubert takes a wisp of a melody and builds it into an earth-shattering climax. The emotional apotheosis for me is when the beautiful, folk-like melody from the Andante slips its way into the grand finale, transforming turbulent uncertainty into a triumphant finish.
Dr Edward Neeman
The CSO piano chair is supported by the Eldon and Anne Foote Trust, a charitable fund account of Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation.