Perth Concert Hall

The billing was solely focused on Spanish saxophonist Manu Brazo, but in reality this Perth Festival online concert, recorded in the cheery resonant acoustics of Perth Concert Hall, was for the most part a trio performance, featuring on roughly equal terms the violinist Claudio Gallardo and pianist Prajna Indrawati. 

There is, of course, little if any repertoire specifically written for such an unorthodox line-up, so arrangements were the order of the day. They ranged from the kind of lollipops once associated with summer seaside orchestras – among them versions of Mascagni’s Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana, Monti’s rip-roaring Czardas, and Kreisler’s sweet-scented arrangement of the Londonderry Air – to more full-blooded adaptations of Manuel de Falla’s Danse Espagnole and a re-crafted selection from Max Bruch’s 8 Pieces, originally for clarinet, viola and piano.

The last of these, said Brazo, provided the central core of a programme he called Revive, alluding to the reawakening of music as Covid restrictions are relaxed. To be honest, such a title could apply to any concert programme at the moment. Its relevance here was neither here nor there.

What did stand out was Brazo’s alert playing, despite on rather too many occasions being mismatched by the less consistent form of his colleagues. He injected both vivacity and sultriness into Gallardo’s fine arrangement of the de Falla, and was the dynamo that took the programme to its conclusion, particularly in Albeniz’s sizzling Sevilla from his Iberia Suite, one of a few numbers in which the ensemble seemed nearest to gelling on equal terms.

Even when working solely with piano, as in François Borne’s Fantasie brilliante sur Carmen, there was erratic imbalance in the presentation, Brazo’s lightning articulation and virtuoso magnetism in its variation segments occasionally undermined by Indrawati’s missed detail and somewhat reserved presence. 

It was in the Bruch that the trio came much more in to its own, thanks to these beautiful, eloquent works. The four selected ranged from the smouldering rusticity of the Rumänische Melodie and woozy calm of Nachtgesang, to the concluding bright and breezy Allegro vivace. Here, at least, the music came alive, even if the odd tuning or ensemble glitch persisted in interrupting the smooth flow and complete enjoyment.

Ken Walton 

Available to view via the Perth Festival website