It’s not often you hear a concert for solo cello. Even rarer to witness one where the music is drawn entirely from the twentieth century. And German cellist Friedrich Gauwerky raised the stakes higher again for his recital as part of the Totally Huge New Music Festival by limiting his program to Australian and German composers predominantly from the New Complexity school.
Gauwerky, with sonorous tone and inclusive glances at the audience, translated complex musical notation and dissonant sounds into conversational and often dramatic storytelling. The program drew on works from the seventies and eighties with the exception of Hindemith’s early modernist Sonata for Cello (1922) with its echoes of Romantic melodism and Felix Werder’s dissonant Violincello Solo 1 (1993).
The German repertoire included Klaus K. Huebler’s iconic Opus Breve where the score directed physical activity rather than specifying a desired sound, and Stockhausen’s surprisingly lyrical Amour arranged for cello by Gauwerky in cooperation with the Stockhausen estate. Hans Werner Henze’s lively Capriccio was played with theatrical energy although Gauwerky’s quality of tone and pitch accuracy suffered in the upper range of the cello.
The Australian composers included Thomas Reiner, a student of Henze, who’s contrasting Three Sketches included siren effects from slides up and down the cello neck. The concert highlight came from German-Australian Volker Heyn who’s Blues in Bb was an exploration of the eerie harmonics resonating from extremely soft pedal notes.
This bravely executed program was difficult for performer and audience alike. It felt one-dimensional at times – there was a notable absence of multimedia or electronic effects – but that in itself was subversive; just a cello, a man and notes on a page. And there is plenty more on the menu because  THNMF’s’s expansive program continues until May 24th.
This review copyright The West Australian 2015.