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Well, to say I was ‘over the moon’ with Neville Cohn’s review of Incense & Arabie, would be a dramatic understatement! I admire Neville’s work and know his exceedingly good taste in music, so it was even more of an honour to have him say the following words about my album:

Excellent diction and a plaintive melody line from Lucinda Rae with steady guitar chords and Louise McKay’s gentle  cello musings make Gardiner’s Incense and Arabie a splendid opening track.


An arrangement of Greensleeves, that timeless Tudor evergreen, is given most sensitive treatment, too, in a performance blissfully free of the extraneous noises – squeaks, clanks, creaks – that so often bedevil the playing of lesser musicians. And in My Song (for you), composer/guitarist Gardiner gives us a gently melancholy, restful utterance.

Gardiner’s Peridot Suite for piano is played, beautifully, by FaithDuncanGardiner2

Maydwell in a performance which comes across in turn wistful, yearning and melancholy as if heard, rather delightfully, on a fine quality musical box.

Gardiner also plays his Tears All Around, music that’s informed by a gentle sadness.

Cradled in Time and Space places violinist Lena Bennett firmly in the spotlight. She  plays most expressively in synchronisation with Gardiner’s perfectly pitched, arpeggionated accompaniment.

In And so the Peacock Cried, we listen to the versatile Gardiner playing on recorder; it has a haunting quality.

There is much else in a delightfully laidback presentation. Bravo


 You can read more of Neville Cohn’s reviews here:

WAAPA's Defying Gravity Percussion Ensemble will be playing two incredible FREE concerts this Saturday and Sunday in GinGin and ON the Leaning Tower of Gingin and in the town centre for the Gingin Science Festival. 

The program also features THE PLANETS, with acclaimed pianists David Wickham and Irina Vasilieva performing together with the Defying Gravity Ensemble for this incredible concerts. Whatever you do don't miss out : )



Billed as a program of music from the age of Jane Austen, two leading Perth musicians took an attentive audience on a journey back in time. Jonathan Paget played a Bauer guitar manufactured around 1840 in Vienna – and Stewart Smith was at the keyboard of a Clementi square piano built in London around 1830.

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Credit : Grant Hall

This was fascinating fare.

Dutch composer Karel Craeyvanger’s Introduction and Variations on a Theme from Weber’s Der Freischutz was played as if to the manner born by Paget. Blissfully free of the creaks, squeaks and clanks that bedevil the playing of so many guitarists, we were here able to savour the work as it unfolded – beautifully. I particularly admired the pianissimi which Paget conjured from the instrument – and the library’s pleasing acoustics came up trumps, too.

Fernando Sor’s Sonata No 1 was no less satisfying. Here, Paget gave us a most expressive interpretation with stylistically impeccable rubato.

Hummel’s tongue-in-cheek Pot-Pourri with its gentle obeisance to composers from Paisiello and Mozart to Spontini and Gretry was a highlight of the afternoon.

In Carulli’s Petit Concerto opus 140, both musicians succeeded, admirably, in revealing the gentle, intimate nature of much of the writing with ensemble throughout a model of refinement.  There was also a piano solo: Beethoven’s Fur Elise. Here, subtle rubato transformed this oh-so-familiar miniature into a listening experience of high order. Bravo!

Not the least of the pleasures of this presentation was the fine balance of tone between the two instruments. Each has a gentle voice. Together, their tonal manners were impeccable.

Celebrity Soft Spot - Irina Vasilieva


Five years ago Irina Vasilieva dreamed up the Cappuccino Concerts series, a brainwave that has since become an integral part of the Perth concert scene. What began as an opportunity to give performers a professional platform has been embraced by Perth audiences. The concerts are set in intimate venues like bookstores, cafes, music shops and invariably sell out.This week Cappuccino Concerts presents a unique Mother's Day concert featuring music from Women of Note.  I thought it was time to get to know the Russian pianist who is recreating the tradition of chamber music in Perth.

What music gets your heart racing?
Oh, it depends on the mood I am in! Most of the time it is the music I am preparing for my recital. So usually I am getting obsessed with it as I fall in love more and more with what I am about to play. If it is in between recitals and just ordinary day then it can be Rachmaninov concerto quite often or something jazzy that's on radio playing at the moment. When in doubt -  Russian rock always wins too :)

What calms you down?
Reading bedtime stories to my children and holding my daughter's foot as she falls asleep. 

What do you sing along to?
I'm old fashioned and love old fashioned love songs. Sorry for being cheesy but I do love Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole, Armstrong

What inspired you to start the Cappuccino concert series?
Lack of opportunities for high standard classical musicians here in Perth was the main reason. Also my background and upbringing I suppose. When I came to Australia it was disappointing to see extremely talented, gifted musicians go interstate or abroad to perform. I come from Moscow, a city that has internationally acclaimed and also local amazing musicians giving recitals so often – it is normal to have a few concerts in oneday and go from one to another. 
Here I feel (forgive me for being snobby) that there is not muchjoy and excitement of listening to  classical music. The cost and to a lesser extent the programming has detracted from the music being available to the broader community. It seemed to me that here in Perth attending a concert was only a privilege and an elitist’spastime.So, I love coffee and I love classical music – it was suggested by my then-husband to call our series Cappuccino Concerts. Why not? :) Here we go – celebrating 5 years of bringing classical music to people of all walks of life and it is very rewarding. Every time I see people smiling and their happy faces I know I will keep going.
There are very few female artistic directors in Perth. You have a unique voice as a woman and with an international perspective. What do you think the people of Perth are looking for in a concert experience?
I think they need more exposure and opportunity to enjoy talented Australian musicians performing at various venues.

What type of artists do you have performing?
I give the priority to local performers, usually Perth-based but also performers from other states.
You have a soft spot for chamber music– what is the appeal of this repertoire?
I love chamber music. As a performer I learn a lot when playing with other musicians in an ensemble. An intimate setting for both musicians and the audience brings people together. Johann Wolfgang von Goethedescribed chamber music (specifically string quartet music) as "four rational people conversing". It is something that we are losing – communication. The idea of composing music that could be played at home has been largely abandoned. What do we usually have at home? TV, iPads, all takes away from humans interacting with each other even in a home setting. The role of chamber music in society has changed profoundly in the last 50 years. So the idea is to bring people together in an intimate setting and encourage them to interact with each other. Chamber music can do that with a little bit of wine added to the mix :)
You grew up in Russia; are opportunities for women musicians greater there than in Australia?
I left Russia many years ago so I can't say what the situation is like thereat the moment. I can only judge from how I grew up. And I was brought up mainly among remarkable women who inspired me – they were scientists, musicians, physicists. There were politics of course but I grew up with womenbeing equally important in their profession as men.
At what age did you start learning piano? When did you decide you wanted to pursue a career with the piano?
Piano was always there. I remember my mother playing piano. So probably naturally I asked to learn that instrument and haven't regretted it since. 

 Irina Vasilieva performing Shchedrin's Basso Continuo at WA Academy of Performing Arts
What brought you to Australia?
My parents. They've made a decision and moved first but I refused being a stubborn teenager. It took me five years to catch up and join them later :)
You have two young children (see photo right). What do you suggest is a good way to introduce children to classical music?
Sing, play along, play games, create stories at the piano. Be silly :)
I have two preschool children myself and know how hard it is to juggle work and family. How do you manage the work/life balance?
I have no idea :)
Do you have a soft spot for anything else in life or is it all about the music and the family?
To me it is all about music and family
You have a very unique concert planned for Mother’s Day at Snaden's Pianos featuring music from my book Women of Note. What can audiences expect?
It is going to be a fantastic opportunity to hear inspiring stories and music from Australian women composers and to enjoy a very nicehigh tea in a good company.
More about Rosalind Appleby: Music journalist in Perth, Western Australia. Classical music critic for The West Australian newspaper. Author of Women of Note.

Stefan Cassomenos has been tickling the ivories since the age of four. Here he tells Neos Kosmos his story of living behind the keys of a piano

"It's like an extension of myself," says pianist, conductor and composer Stefan Cassomenos of the piano. The keys of a piano are, to Stefan, another part of him, another way to express himself. He speaks another language - a musical language - that allows him to talk of love, loss, fear and joy.
And that's what it's been like since the age of four for this Greek Australian prodigy.
Stefan remembers at an early age his father Nicholas' electric keyboard. The self-taught musician would play his favourite music by ear and when he and his wife Jenny - Stefan's mum - noticed their young son's interest, they encouraged his interest and sent him off to Yamaha Music School.
I was lucky to go to Yamaha Music School, and have some wonderful tutors who helped me develop my interest in writing my own music," says Stefan of his introduction to the world of music.
But at the same time, he says he was just like every other kid at school - he played with his mates but confesses he was "probably a bit of a music nerd".
A bit may be a slight understatement; he has been composing since the age of seven, and his compositions have been played by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.
He has performed internationally since the age of 10, and performed the premiere of his own first piano concerto with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra at the age of 16. His London performance in 2007 was reviewed as 'a prodigious London debut by a formidable talent' (Musical Opinion, April 2007). His recent performance of Beethoven's Sonata Op 110 was acclaimed as 'a model of clarity, depth of expression and irrefutable musical logic' (West Australian, April 2013).
"It was awesome fun - I've always loved travelling, and it was a particularly great feeling to share my own compositions with audiences in another country," says Stefan of his early travels.
"And this recognition of my piano-playing and composing was encouraging and inspiring - it really inspired me to continue doing it, to strive to play better, and to explore new territory as a composer."
As well as having compositions played by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, Stefan was Composer-in-Residence at Creative Universe's Creative Innovation Conference from 2010-2012. In 2010, as part of his role as Composer-in-Residence, he was commissioned to write his Third Piano Concerto which he led and directed from the keyboard at its Melbourne Recital Centre premiere with musicians from the Australian National Academy of Music. In 2012, he was awarded the Lyrebird Music Society's Annual Commission, and had his works premiered by the Curro Quartet, Orchestra 21, and the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir. His Double Violin Concerto was recently performed at Federation Square by an orchestra of musicians from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and Orchestra Victoria, soloists Monica and Sarah Curro, and conducted by Fabian Russell.
But with so many accolades and achievements, I had to ask Stefan, what's been the highlight of his career for him thus far.
"Performing Prokofiev's Third Piano Concerto with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra - as part of the finals of the Vlassenko competition - is definitely a professional highlight.
"I'm 28-years-old, and I have to say that thinking back, there are occasionally performances that are very special, where the audience is totally synchronised emotionally with the music I'm performing - it's like the stars align, and everything seems to be perfect. It doesn't happen all that often, but for me, those are the best highlights. The Prokofiev Concerto with Queensland Symphony Orchestra was one of them, but there have been others, some at festivals, some at performances in private homes."
Stefan draws on many famous composers for inspiration. He loves the symphonies of Mahler, Brahms and Beethoven, the solo piano music of Rachmaninoff, the choral music of Bach and Faure, and virtually everything by Prokofiev, Adams, Ligeti and Schubert. Yet he also listens to several Greek composers, as well as Greek Americans and Greek Australians.
"Nikos Skalkottas is one of Greece's most interesting composers, I am very drawn to his work. I also love the music of Zambetas very much, his music always puts a smile on my face."
As a young man he grew up listening to Greek music alongside his parents, and he says that the music of his heritage has affected his tastes and influenced his understanding of music.
"Greek music is strongly bound to the folk tradition, and classical music from all over Europe has its origins in folk music, particularly the spirit of the dance.
"As a performer, I am grateful for having Greek music early in my life - it was somewhat like a window into the European psyche. It also influenced the music that I've written - not necessarily by choice, but certainly you can hear in my music that my harmonic and rhythmic language is often driven by the memory of the music I grew up listening to."
"I've performed in Greece a couple of times," he says. "I gave a concert in Athens at the University when I was on tour with the Chamber Strings of Melbourne. I also played several times in Rhodes when I went there for the Arte con Anima Rhodes International Piano Competition - and I was lucky enough to be a finalist.
"It is wonderful to perform in a country that you love, and I would be so excited to play there again."
Yet what is life like for this professional musician? He says a top priority for him is practicing; which can range to a few hours each day to more if preparing for a big performance. The rest of the time is preparing for the future, "making sure there is a healthy balance between performances and preparation, selecting the pieces that one is going to play, and writing lots and lots of emails".
For this year, Stefan has been selected for a few more competitions including the Young Performer Awards, to be held in Melbourne in October, and then in December he's headed off to Germany to compete in the International Telekom Beethoven Competition Bonn.
"I feel very lucky to be in the Beethoven competition - following auditions, they only took 28 pianists from around the world, and I am the only Australian."
Just last month, Stefan came runner up in the Lev Vlassenko Piano Competition.
"It was a very exciting competition, and I was thrilled to be involved," says the pianist.
"The Vlassenko is a major national piano competition, and every two years invites pianists from Australia and New Zealand to audition to participate. The last time I was involved was eight years ago, when I was a semi-finalist and prize-winner.
"It was a huge thrill performing with the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, they are wonderful musicians, and the conductor Nicholas Braithwaite was a joy to work with."
As a composer, conductor and pianist, one must ask, which does he prefer?
"Difficult to say," he answers diplomatically, "probably the piano at the moment, although composing is also very important to me. I only compose occasionally, and it only ever comes from a deep need to express my own musical ideas.
"I love the piano very much, because I feel really comfortable with it.
"It's a very flexible instrument - I love that one can play almost anything on the piano, unlike most other instruments where you can only play a single line.