Michael Nyman

Press Coverage

Sydney Opera House concert - review

Australian Stage :  Jul 28th, 2009

Breathtaking, Epic, Nostalgic.

So the giant of music behind the arthouse silver screen has come to Australia. Fresh from the Queensland Music Festival on a stopover in Sydney, Michael Nyman brought excerpts of his life’s soundtrack and band with him. Last night the Concert Hall witnessed the show to shadow all shows, and from that it is easy to see why this contemporary composer has risen to such notorious heights. Michael Nyman is a music composer who disregards convention in favour of the surreal and his band of musicians are a manifestation of that surrealism.

Performing some of Nyman’s most well known pieces, the Michael Nyman Band band captured a moment in time bringing scenes from the past to the Sydney Opera House and adoring music and film buffs alike. Nyman’s discography boasts iconic films such as Jane Campion’s The Piano and Laurence Dunmore’s The Libertine and more… His intimate relationship with film director Peter Greenaway has placed Nyman squarely in the omnipresent Composers Hall of Fame. Bouncing off the walls were sounds from notable Greenaway film scores of which I believe possess the finest soundtracks ever produced.

Nyman’s style of composition is completely cerebral and definitely avant-garde. Charged with the pace of a filmmaker, Nyman writes in technicolour and can only be described as a compositional Dramaturge. The musicians he has chosen to form the Michael Nyman band are something a cut above minstrels. His band is a relatively small troupe for an orchestral ensemble but the size of the sound they produce is without measure. Acting as both conductor and performer from his piano stool last night, Nyman led the band through some of music’s most complex and gripping passages.

I would like to take this moment to give the string section a private applause. Without detracting from the contribution made by the brass section, the string players bore the physical brunt of Nyman’s vision and did so without faltering. I can say with confidence that I have never seen a string player work out so hard onstage. Gabrielle Lester (Violin), Catherine Thompson (Violin), Catherine Musker (Viola) and Anthony Hinnigan (Cello) are musical gladiators. There is an obvious familial relationship between Nyman and the band that acts as a conduit for his vision and the realisation of the idea.

The scope of Nyman’s compositional ability is also limitless, as was unveiled by the introduction of Special Guest William Barton. Barton, Australia’s accomplished Didgeridoo player, added another superb layer to the already exceptional concert. Closing with a collaboration that was only being performed publicly for the second time ever, Michael Nyman was able to showcase his relentlessness as a creative genius. Barton showcased his own artistic spectrum by accompanying the Michael Nyman Band with their newest piece on vocals, electric guitar whilst simultaneously playing the didgeridoo. Such an exposition of classical music I have not seen before.

The Michael Nyman Band
Australian Tour

Venue: Concert Hall | Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney
Date: Sun, 26 Jul 2009

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